Jackson, Miss., is home to hundreds of artists creating works across disciplines that are often overlooked and lack mainstream recognition or publicity despite their quality. Vicksburg, Miss., native and fellow creative Alexis Noble determined that Mississippi artists may simply need the right platform to present their creations. In 2022, she founded The Mash Up to be that solution.
The Mash Up encompasses multiple iterations: Verbal Verses, a pre-registered open-mic showcase; The Creative Sessions, a moderated panel where creative professionals perform and share their experiences and knowledge regarding their respective industries; and The Supermarket, a large vendor market.
“The (Mash Up’s) format is to showcase Mississippians and different mediums of art,” Noble told the Mississippi Free Press during a September 2022 interview. She described it as both “an art exhibit and a mixer.” The name itself describes the experience: a mash-up of well-styled individuals mingling and indulging in the visual and auditory cornucopia taking place around them.
Vibe Studio 601: ‘An Incubator’
In 2018, Noble and Antwone Hatfield co-founded Vibe Studio 601, which quickly became a hangout hub for models, photographers, videographers, painters, musicians, thrift-store lovers, DJs and poets—a place to support natural artistic talent found in the streets of Jackson, on the campus of Jackson State University, and in other surrounding cities throughout Mississippi and beyond.
“Vibe Studio was kind of like an incubator because it provided a space for these creatives to work and collaborate, and it was my first seed into the creative scene,” Noble recounted. “The Mash Up is a brand that grew from what Vibe Studio offered in a smaller realm. My friend Courtney Jones came up with the name based on how I described my vision to him for the event format.”
Since its inception in August 2022, Noble has produced 27 events under The Mash Up umbrella, closing out the last five months of 2023 with nine events at Duling Hall. Each edition is anchored with its own theme and may include an art exhibition, a concert or a panel discussion.
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This malleable approach to presentation makes The Mash Up feel fresh and exciting each time, Noble explained, allowing the event to be an “elevated experience” whether guests are first-time attendees or returning patrons. Noble hosted her very first one at a friend’s space on Foley Street in Jackson.
“The very first Mash Up was stressful and tedious,” Noble said. “We didn’t have a blueprint in place; I was just working off of what I felt was right.”
The organizer has both poured into the local artistic community at large and invested personally into cultivating a new generation of visual artists in the state.
“My cousin was one of the featured artists at the first Mash Up, and I had the opportunity to act as a patron and invest in her development as a creative,” Noble said. “I could see that she had a spark of deep interest for painting, so I bought her all of the supplies she would need to get started and let her take time to discover the path and style she wanted to take.”
Briana Hoye, Noble’s 13-year-old cousin, ended up making her first art sale that day. “I always wanted to be a source of advice for her during this time, but I didn’t want to drown out her input,” Noble said. “I wanted her to know the business aspect, but also keep the raw passion for art that she already had.”
Showcasing a Variety of Mississippi Talent
At the February 2023 edition of The Mash Up, security vigilantly watched over the parking lots and areas around the venue. Wherever cars were parked, security patrolled the area. The scent of catered cuisine greeted patrons as they walked through the entrance of The Hangar in Midtown. Paintings, photography and sculpted pieces lined the walls of the designated visual-art space.
Accompanying many of the pieces were the beaming artists excitedly talking with viewers about their creations. Qin Mobley, one visual artist in attendance hailing from Moss Point, Miss., had paintings on display. He is also a graphic designer, illustrator and clothing-line operator.
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Jackson native Rashad Harris showcased his photography and introduced his zine, Vocal Eyes, which featured images of nature with experimental style edits and colors. “I wanted to give my photography and audio accompaniment based on the energy that I felt was represented in the image,” Harris told the Mississippi Free Press.
Akeem Ali stood on stage performing his latest releases, freestyling and rapping along with the crowd to his viral hit, “Keemy Casanova.” The main floor featured a tangerine Chevy El Camino and a pearlescent pink Cadillac parked behind the crowd as Ali performed his ’70s-laced flow.
Beyond serving as the main curating force behind the Mash Up, Alexis Noble has worked with Hulu as a set designer for the docuseries, “The 1619 Project.” The show is drawn from Nikole Hannah-Jones’ novel and “seeks to reframe the country’s history by placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of Black Americans at the very center of our national narrative.”
Noble also had the opportunity to style New Orleans rapper Curren$y for Nike during the release of the company’s Crescent City-inspired Air Force One variant.
Rooted In Mississippi Culture
The Art Mash Up has curated indie creatives such as Vitamin Cea, Akeem Ali, Destiney Williams, Amanda Furdge, ELABS, Justin Hardiman, David Horton, DevMaccc, Vae and Ray Kincaid. These established names provided a strong foundation to introduce a new crop of wordsmiths, painters, filmmakers and fashion designers that Mississippi is consistently producing.
The program is also a networking opportunity that could lead to mentorship, collaboration and possible apprenticeships for artists looking to expand their knowledge and working experience in their discipline. “We provide a platform for artists that are taking steps towards the right path to success and also representing Mississippi,” Noble said.
For many of the featured artists who participated in the inaugural Mash Up last year, the event was their first opportunity to present their works in a showcase.
“Being from Vicksburg, Miss., I know that there aren’t many (creative) outlets here, but I know there were other creatives out there that felt like me and could utilize the platform in some way,” Noble explained. “It’s easy to pack up and move somewhere where those outlets are, but in reality, it starts here and starts with bringing those things we see in other cities. We can fly; we don’t have to be last when it comes to creating these outlets.”
“It’s also a community service that helps to provide a new cultural perspective that can be passed down,” she added.
Noble’s immediate focus, though, is fundraising to assist the featured artists in The Mash Up, which she hopes to pitch to other galleries across the nation to familiarize outsiders who are not tapped into what Mississippi has to offer. She believes the state’s rich culture has roots everywhere in the U.S and abroad. “Believe it or not, some of your culture is rooted in Mississippi culture—you just don’t know it,” Noble said, emphatically. “You can’t escape it.”
To support Alexis Noble and The Mash Up team in raising money to secure a permanent venue to host future events and artists, click here.
Know a Mississippian you believe deserves some public recognition? Nominate them for a potential Person of the Day article at mfp.ms/pod.