MLK 50: Brandan Odums conceptualizes the Civil Rights movement at Studio BE

NEW ORLEANS - Brandan Odums' vision has progressed through the years.

The visionary artist has carefully created Studio BE, a universe inside the mind of the multi-faceted story teller.

"There s a lot of therapy in being vulnerable enough to create and expose yourself or your fears or your hopes,” Odums said. “It's almost like peering into someone's brain. When people walk through this space, I don't ever explain it, but it's almost like walking inside my head.”

It’s a place where art immortalizes the movement.

"I'm a big fan of the black arts movement, Civil Rights,” he said. “The struggle for black liberation is so poetic and beautiful.”

Odums’ story is one of several Civil Rights Movement stories News with a Twist is telling as part of MLK 50, the yearlong commemoration of the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination.

Odums said he was always sketching, drawing, and coloring in school. His friends would build up his confidence and make him feel like he was creating something special

“It was just something that I would love to do, but then when I would show it to my peers, they would flip out and say ‘can I have it?’ and that confirmed in me that there was some value in this ability,” he said.

As adept with a paintbrush as he is with a camera, Odums’ success with art studios stemmed from his work in film.

"I caught myself doing a lot of music videos in appreciation of the culture in New Orleans and that led me to these abandoned spaces in the middle of the city where it was attractive for backdrops for music videos in these forgotten abandoned properties,” he said.

His first art show exploded as an international phenomena entitled Project BE.

"The very first project, Project BE, that was in 2013, that was illegal in the Florida Housing projects,” he said. “As it got shut down, we starting painting another project on the Westbank. I moved into here about a year and a half ago. Studio BE. It was just this empty warehouse that I was given the opportunity to transform."

Now imagination takes flight off press street in a 35,000 square foot building. Each piece of art is a reflection on the experience of black existence.

His most recent accomplishment is a six-story mural of Dizzy Gillespie in the Harlem, and his next venture is to illuminate unsung heroes and celebrate the tricentennial anniversary of New Orleans.

"Things that happened in the past can teach us about today,” Odums said. “I'm a huge fan of the legacies of these individuals, whom I would never get a chance to meet. I'd never get the chance to meet Dr. King or Malcolm X or Fannie Lou Hamer. Because of the scale that I love to paint in, it immediately stops and people ask, ‘well who is that?’ That gives an opportunity. There's so much potential in that moment."