When life gives you lemons, you make… an art show? That’s exactly what Jabari Graham did after he left a circus job during his mid-20s. Graham, who’s 40 now, is the founder of Jack Honey Art, Beats & Lyrics — a traveling urban art and music exhibition supporting emerging artists and musicians.
The Atlanta native saw an opportunity to fill a void in the art world during the early 2000s that spoke to a younger demographic and was less stuffy than traditional galleries and museums. Using the marketing skills he learned from his stint at the circus, in 2004 he and curator Dwayne “Dubelyoo” Wright produced and curated the first Art, Beats & Lyrics show in Atlanta.
Having just celebrated the show’s 15th anniversary last year, we caught up with Graham to talk about AB&L’s genesis, what it’s like working with Jack Daniel’s as a business and creative partner, and his advice for aspiring artists. Check out our interview below, and learn more about Jack Honey Art, Beats & Lyrics.
Can you talk about how Art, Beats & Lyrics was created?
I had a strong passion for art/music and noticed around Atlanta during the early 2000s there weren’t any art shows or events geared towards reaching a younger crowd (20-35) — just more so the typical gallery or museum, wine-and-cheese type of vibe.
I saw that opportunity to create a lane and produce a different kind of art show. From working at the circus I learned how to promote, write my own press release and put together a show. I applied everything I've learned from the circus for myself to create Art, Beats & Lyrics. So I took a risk which worked out — I've now been producing and touring AB&L for 15 years.
Jack Daniel’s has been a big supporter of the show for years, what’s it like working with them?
It's been awesome! Working with Jack Daniel's gave me a front row seat of learning business from a Fortune 500 company at a high level. I understand their culture and I've learned a lot about the spirits business to the point where I can have conversations with bartenders or distributor reps about moving product. AB&L has become an experiential tool to help introduce Jack Daniel's products to various consumers who attend the show, while at the same time expanding AB&L's footprint to different cities. So it's been a win-win on both ends.
Jack Honey Art, Beats & Lyrics just celebrated its 15th anniversary last year, what’s in store for the future of the show?
We always want to carry on doing good business and finding dope artists to showcase. Aside from that we're looking to add an e-commerce component to AB&L, continuing our partnership with Jack Daniel's and hopefully expand to take AB&L to another country.
What’s been the most memorable aspect of your career so far?
I'll say doing AB&L at the [new Atlanta football stadium]. That was a major achievement from doing the first AB&L (at a 200 person bar) to a major stadium. I had to take a step back to let it soak in for a sec. AB&L was one of the first events to christen the [stadium] even before any sporting events.
Also being able to book musicians who I grew up listening to. When initially booking a musician for AB&L they instantly think it’s for a typical show but when they see the art installations that [we] showcase they immediately see this is something different. From this I'm able to keep in touch with them and do repeat business with them.
Do you have any advice for aspiring artists?
Don't be afraid to take risks and to invest in yourself.
How can artists get involved with Art, Beats & Lyrics?
Artists can get involved with AB&L by tagging their artwork to @artbeatsandlyrics on Instagram for consideration.