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2017 NBA All-Star Game

Studio Be: the cultural heartbeat of NBA All-Star Weekend

Nike collaborates with the local NOLA artistic and athletic community

A secret that isn’t that much of a secret: Locals despise it when big sporting events come to town. Yes, there’s often a difficult to measure yet positive economic impact, but tourists, horrible traffic and, importantly, higher prices at the bar, are cumbersome and unwelcome for most people just trying to get on with their daily lives. For events such as All-Star Weekend, corporate brands tend to try to reshape entire cities with new billboards and events. New Orleans — a city that apparently benefited to the tune of $106 million in 2014 — is particularly sensitive to these encroachments as it is dealing with otherworldly gentrification and attempts to erase its culture ever since Hurricane Katrina huffed and puffed the levees down in 2005.

New Orleans-based artist Brandan “BMIKE” Odums poses for a portrait in his gallery showing in partnership with Nike at STUDIO BE in New Orleans.

New Orleans-based artist Brandan “B Mike” Odums poses for a portrait in his gallery showing in partnership with Nike at Studio Be in New Orleans.

Brett Carlsen for The Undefeated

Culture. New Orleans. Athleticism. That’s where Studio Be comes in. The art studio, located in New Orleans’ Bywater area, is the brainchild of visual artist Brandan “B Mike” Odums, who has created an evolving art exhibit of historical figures, messages and empowerment throughout New Orleans over the last few years. On one day a wall may feature local civil rights artists, and on another the same wall may have been painted over with an image of Muhammad Ali. The studio embodies so much of New Orleans culture with its homages to jazz, and the city’s natural and vivid palettes. So when Nike was looking for a place to bring its message of #Equality and to give back to the community — there was really no better place than Studio Be.

There’s a whole basketball court in the middle of the exhibit space, the floor of which is gloriously painted by Odums himself, of course. There are communal yoga classes, free haircuts, mind-body-soul workshops and competitions between New Orleans-area basketball stars. Local high school students have been bused in and out of the space and have gotten to play basketball and meet NBA ballers along the way.

But before the NBA players meet students, they generally insist on a tour of Studio Be. One by one — from DeMarcus Cousins to Anthony Davis — players walked through the exhibit, mostly muttering “wow” as they absorb New Orleans culture via raw and unfiltered art. Even non-baller — but someone known for creating transcendent art — Dave Chappelle visited the athletic and exhibit space to watch the people play shootaround.

Studio Be is one of those places that maintains the heartbeat of New Orleans, pumping its lifeblood into the weekend’s festivities where not everyone is always concerned with maintaining the city’s culture. This is where the city breathes. This is where the city comes together and this is where the city loves.

Looking to see more of Studio Be? Check out our gallery.

David Dennis Jr. is a senior writer at Andscape and an American Mosaic Journalism Prize recipient. His book, The Movement Made Us, will be released in 2022. David is a graduate of Davidson College.