December 8-9th, 2017, Salute Life creators Kevin Nixon and Atibia Williams launched their inaugural Art Exhibit entitled Unplug. These historic events took place at WeWork South Beach on Lincoln Road and the highly exclusive Miami Supercar Rooms, in Wynwood Miami. To provide an accurate recap of Unplug, we have to revisit the promise Kevin made to himself that he would honor the late Jamel Houseworth by launching the Salute Life Platform. Salute Life is a lifestyle platform envisioned by Jamel and communicated to Kevin before his passing. Jamel was looking to build a team to help launch the platform that would be unrestricted and undefined by labels. They initiated their first professional visual when they reached out to Atibia who knew about a hat shop in Harlem called Flame Keepers to do an on-camera interview with the owner of the shop.
The Flame Keepers interview lit the match that sparked Salute Life. But that fire would soon dissipate on a fateful September evening in 2015 when Jamel passed away in a motorcycle accident. The devastation of Jamel’s death left Kevin with grief not knowing if he could even continue Jamel’s vision. Then Kevin had gotten an idea to connect with Jamel’s best friend from H.S. artist/painter Todd “Bourn Rich” Ingram at Art Basel. Jamel acquired a true appreciation for the arts and Jamel took it upon himself to assist Todd in enhancing the “Bourn Rich” art movement. Miami Art Basel is the perfect place filled with a current of electrical energy from artist, creatives, and game changers from all over the world. Jamel planned on attending Art Basel in 2015 for the first time. Due to Jamel’s early transition, Kevin, Bourn, Atibia and his friend Brian decided to attend Art Basel and Salute the memory of a great brother/friend.
With their first visit to Art Basel in 2015, Todd serendipitously ran into Swizz Beatz who Jamel and Todd attended High School with in Georgia. They would reminisce for a few, and Swizz graciously invited Todd and company to his first NO COMMISSION Art Exhibit partnered with Bacardi. The combination of artistic production and hip-hop culture has been synonymous, since the days of the 70’s and 80’s. Swizz being a student and a true pioneer of the culture had merged these two platforms on a large scale for a well-known and unknown artist from everywhere. The experience at NO COMMISSION left an everlasting impact on what was soon to be the Salute Life team. Inspired and full of ideas, their first thought was how do we get Artist Bourn Rich to exhibit for NO-COMMISSION? Instead of attempting to get into NO COMMISSION they envisioned an art platform that can be a stepping-stone for young, talented known and unknown artist needing a quality platform to showcase their talent. They felt they needed to create an event that can seize the attention of galleries and creatives such as Swizz Beatz.
After their second trip to Art Basel in 2016, Kevin intended to honor Jamel’s dream, therefore he reached out to Atibia to build the SALUTE.LIFE platform. While building out the platform, Kevin and Atibia deliberated for months whether or not to host an art show. In mid-August 2017 Kevin called Atibia, and said let us do the art show at Art Basel and make it a two-day event. The goal was to have leveled up from Basel attendees to contributors within the culture. Their focus was to fall in line with the creative vitality that flowed throughout Basel. They became enamored with artist works at the exhibits they attended. The atmosphere of hustle, and creativity of artist renting U-Haul trucks and setting up art pop up shops on the street, to graffiti artist and muralist creating masterpieces overnight on the walls around the city of Wynwood. That energy vibrated through their creative epicenter, understanding there’s a multitude of platforms at Art Basel, there’s was a lot more talent, and they both saw the opportunity they could create for that talent.
How could Salute Life bring something different to an established marketplace? So Kevin charged Atibia to tap into his creativity, knowing his fondness for sci-fi and comic books, one of his favorite movies is the Matrix. The premise behind the critically acclaimed film was humans unknowingly plugged into a system; Atibia was then hit with an epiphany. He thought about the social dynamics of society regarding ideologies and how that shapes us globally. Not only globally but domestically the U.S. volatile state of government due to the current administration’s messaging lead by the presidency. Messages positive and negative shape Ideologies and infiltrate individuals psyche unannounced to them which in result can contribute to misogyny, racism, xenophobia, homophobia, is all plugged into a system. So why not create an artistic platform to unplug from that system even for a moment? So hence the Unplug art-show was born, and a symbolic Robot named after Jamel called “Mel the Robot” was created as the logo. The robot representing humans being plugged into a system creating conditional robotic ideologies and Salute Life provides a safe space to be unplugged from those robotic ideologies.
Now that the idea is created, the next step was to craft the vision despite an uphill battle to execute the event in a short time period. The task was daunting, but the frame of mind was fearless in pursuit of achieving a goal. To add more fuel to the fire, they took on the task of launching an H.S. scholarship entitled “Shoot For The Stars” the first recipient being Jamel’s daughter Braxton. They partnered with apparel brands to become product sponsor for hurricane relief with funding going to the Miami Foundation. The team was blessed to receive the support of product sponsors Utility Made, Timberland, and Steve Madden with an online raffle that ends January 30, 2018.
Trust the process a phrase used to motivate the 76ers basketball team. Salute Life mantra was “If You Build It They Will Come,” a phrase coined by the 1989 film “Field Of Dreams.” They never adhered to what they lacked, but capitalized on what they had, to create something special for artist and attendees. What they had in the Salute Life family was artist Phree and Bourn Rich, who helped us acquire artists such as Amerrikaz Most, Captain Casual, and several others. Kevin and Atibia worked hard to build a diverse platform of all ethnicities, but focus heavily on people of color. Artist from all over the world came including Salute Life photographer Owen Rogers, who currently lives in Japan. Coincidently when Salute Life acquired several female artists, Kevin and Atibia noticed although from different regions, they shared similar stories, Kevin and Atibia found out there’s a lack of notoriety and appreciation of women artist in the industry. When we speak of household names in the art world names such as a Davinci, Basquiat, etc. may come up, but unless you’re familiar with the industry, rarely a woman’s name is ever mentioned. So they acquired French female artist Nicholle Kobi, Tiffani Glen, Aramis Hamer, Vanessa Ayalla, Autumn Lundberg, Sara Jean Baptiste, Tiffany Skyers, Tatiana Camice and many more talented artist to intentionally concentrate on equal representation to add to the 27 artist roster.
The event started with the Unplug Kickoff located at WeWork on South Beach, 350 Lincoln Road. We had wine and spirit product partners such as Ron Barceló Dominican Rum, Lord Hobo Beers, Emerald Hare Wine, and BKLYN Blue Rum set the tone for the Bohemian atmosphere. Unplug Kick Off was designed to be more intimate where artists gathered together, to build, connect and celebrate artistic creations. The vibe was set with DJ ReRe and artist performers Shah and Jean-Marie. Additional activations included the “ Disruptive Art Panel” hosted by Atibia Williams. The panelist consisted of several artists Bourn Rich, Fabian Williams, Autumn Lundberg, Hunter Slade, Aramis Hamer, Nicholle Kobi, and Captain Casual. Everything was discussed from telling their journey and philosophy into how art has impacted them and how they made their mark in the art world. The panel shifted to more provocative questions, such as is their lack of acknowledgment of women in the art world. The responses from the women and men on the panel were as intended to be disruptive and more importantly informative. The second day of Unplug was at the highly exclusive world-renowned Miami Supercar Rooms. A unique space that combines gourmet dining experience with unique and rare cars from around the world and from your favorite movies.
The event was set to be a smash with 2 ½ months of rigorous schedules and sacrifice. The day had finally come with anticipated RSVPs of 1300 guests. Despite forecasts showing otherwise, mother nature decided to bless the earth with a torrential downpour of rain. Kevin and Atibia thought they anticipated this by renting from a tent company since the majority of the venue was outside. Unfortunately, the measurements were incorrect, and the tent company quickly realized they couldn’t set the tents up and ended up leaving.
Monsoon rain began to come down for three hours, what could have been a turn for the worst ended up being a moment where the artist took the situation into their own hands by remaining calm and jumping into action from helping curate space. The spirit of Jamel powered through us all because everyone from artists such as Aramis Hamer, Atibia’s family and friends, and the owner Elo and his team took accountability to guarantee the event would operate as expected. Overcoming the two-hour rain delay to start the event, DJ slick 305 knew exactly had to revive the spirit of artist and attendees to set the mood for a great time. Atibia “Broadway” Williams surprised everyone by doing a verse of a song created by Brooklyn Rapper Caez Leone, called “Before The Success” to kick off the festivities. Enhancing the energy Vanessa Ayala painter, singer and clothing designer ignited the flame with musical performance, and dancers choreographed by dancer Maria Garcia. The bartenders had the drinks flowing from BKLYN Blue rum, Ron Barceló Dominican Rum, and Lord Hobo Beers.
Throughout Unplug, a fashion show was added with Artist such as Phree, Tyler from Canvas Raw Apparel, Ashley Kay, Dizzuane,Phree, Owen Rogers, Aramis, Sara Jean Baptiste, Captain Casual, and Jmitchell showed us the versatility of their art through clothing design and customizations. DJ’s Slick turned the rainy vibe bright when he played musical mixes throughout the event. DJ L’duke from Boston closed out the night, ending with a glow in the dark fashion show provided by artist/ clothing designer Phree.
The platform was created, the event was a hit, and Salute Life Legacy has just started, all in all, a promise was kept to the late Jamel Houseworth.