Abstract Nola co-founders Antarah Leilani Hasan-Spears and Kenneth "Kulture" Spears

Abstract Nola Is Incubating A Black Arts Renaissance In New Orleans

Abstract Nola is a full-service operation for the creative community in New Orleans. Launched in 2016 by a husband-and-wife team comprised of Kenneth “Kulture” Spears and Antarah Leilani Hasan-Spears, it’s become an invaluable resource for artists looking to amplify their talents in the local arts community. On paper, they are a self-described “creative collective committed to creating platforms for artists in all mediums develop, promote and sell their products and services,” but in reality they serve a purpose well beyond the realm of professional services. At Abstract Nola, artists—primarily those of color—are given a platform on which they can cultivate sustainable careers in an environment where they’re told to be themselves and love themselves.

Photo courtesy of Abstract Nola.

Photo courtesy of Abstract Nola.

On Saturday, June 23, the Spears will host its monthly Abstract Nola Concert & Market Series, on ongoing arts incubator where musicians, comedians, visual artists, poets and other creatives are enmeshed. The Spears are both creatives themselves, with Antarah serving as Creative Director and spearheading all the graphic and web design. Kenneth comes from a musical and business background. As such, their mutual interests presented an opportunity.”One thing we wanted to do with starting Abstract was create something that we’d enjoy going to,” Kenneth tells me. “Something beyond the regular club environment, where you’re paying money to see a DJ and buy drinks. We wanted to create an atmosphere that was relaxed and easy to network in. By us being lovers of art and music, it was a natural thing to say ‘OK, let’s see how we can increase the platform for local artists and provide more structure for them and what they’re doing down here in New Orleans.'”

Antarah echoes his sentiment, emphasizing their desire to create a safe, fruitful space for other creatives. “We wanted to create a space where they could come in and share things with us, but also create an atmosphere where they could be completely expressive and also make a little bit of money.” For Black creatives specifically, that vision took on a new dimension. As Kenneth explains, “Abstract Nola is providing an environment and an opportunity that’s not normally provided in our community. When I was in school, I didn’t know about jobs outside of just being an actor or a rapper or a lawyer or a doctor…I didn’t realize that, at some of the events I was seeing, there were all these these behind-the-scenes people. There are a lot of contributions to the operation and I think one of the many things we can provide is not only a place to be creative but also a way to let people know the operation of being creative has many different facets. Our goal is to create structure along the lines of what Cash Money’s done but from a deeper standpoint where we’re not just doing music or creative stuff but where we’re actually providing resources to the community.”

abstractnolaAt June 23’s Concert & Market event, attendees will be treated to musical performances from the Cool Nasty Band, Pro$per Jones, Dappa, DJ Mushatt and more. It wouldn’t be an Abstract Nola event without vendors, live art, food and drinks—all of which will be on hand. They describe this particular event series as highlighting “the city’s budding brands, entrepreneurs, and creatives. The layout features a main stage, where live musical performances will take place throughout the night. Each of the lot’s eight pods will be transformed into brick-and-mortar storefronts featuring boutiques, brand launches and live-art installations occupied by the featured artists/brands.”

“If you want to get a good taste of local New Orleans from a bunch of different communities, especially the urban community, this is the event to come to,” Kenneth tells me.

The event takes place at Lot 1701 (1701 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd) from 6-10 p.m. and is free with RSVP at Abstract’s official website.

Abstract Nola is also responsible for Art Madness, an outdoor arts festival which celebrated its inauguration earlier this year. That event is produced in tandem with Axiom Fine Art Gallery.