After gaining national attention, the artist finally gets his due at home
As a kid growing up on the east side of Cleveland, artist Bryant “Bee1ne” Anthony was inspired to make an impact on his environment.
“There weren't a lot of pretty visuals,” he said in a recent interview. “I grew up painting in the streets, putting little hearts and patterns and installations in places that you typically wouldn't see beauty.”
Anthony also developed a love of roller skating and soon founded “Trendsettas,” a creative group that functioned as a mentoring program, of sorts, while also producing skating apparel.
“A lot of the guys in my group grew up without fathers or brothers, or [came from] broken homes,” Anthony said. “So it was my way of giving direction because I really didn't have too much of it, and the skating rink saved me.”
Anthony continued to build on those early creative and entrepreneurial efforts, and today he is a nationally known artist and accomplished business owner. Those hearts he painted in the Cleveland streets can now be found in a mural in the Short North and on paintings in places like the Madison-USA boutique on North High Street.
And on Saturday, July 6, his second solo exhibition, “Spread More Love,” will open at Denmark on High. The artist talk will take place at 7 p.m.
“The concept is, ‘Spread more love in a world that shows so little,’” explained Anthony, who specializes in aerosol, acrylics and ink. He described his style as a street art aesthetic, and said he is often inspired to paint pop-culture figures, from singer Erykah Badu to the late rapper Nipsey Hussle.
“He has … [an] elegant presence about him,” artist Robert “Mr. Robot Geek” Williams said of Anthony. “He skates, so his paintings kind of remind me of his fluidity.”
But five years ago, Anthony had a difficult time getting noticed in Columbus.
“They would not let me in,” said Anthony, who relocated to the city to study illustration, marketing and branding at CCAD. “I had so many doors shut in my face.”
Anthony took matters into his own hands. In 2014, he used his own money to rent space at Wild Goose Creative for his first solo show, “I Am.”
“It wasn't really a set theme,” Anthony said of the exhibition, which included everything from painted Timberlands to standard paintings to a custom baseball bat. “I was really finding myself as an artist. I just wanted to create dope stuff.”
Showcasing his work on Instagram, Anthony caught the attention of an art gallery in New York.
“They called me and said, ‘Hey, can you get to Miami? We want to represent you at Art Basel.’ I didn't even know what Art Basel was.”
Anthony soon discovered the significance of being a featured artist at the international art fair, where he displayed a couple of paintings and showcased his live body-painting work. The opportunity led to more gigs in Miami, Las Vegas and other large cities.
“That's when things started really changing and opening up,” Anthony said. “I'm like, ‘Alright, I could do this full-time.’”
Anthony recently stepped down as president of Trendsettas, which celebrated its 13th anniversary this year. He also operates his own marketing and branding company, Dolphin Black Studios. And he remains immersed in skating culture, hosting the long-running “Icy Hot Skate Jam” at Skate Zone 71 on the North Side each February.
“I've done political campaigns,” he said. “I've done design work for the government. … It’s stuff I don’t put out there. I just work.”
“Work ethic definitely plays a part [in his success],” Williams said. “It's always a continuation, a drive to do some better artwork.”
Though it took a while for Columbus to catch up, Anthony is committed to serving the local arts community.
“Emotionally and spiritually, I'm invested here,” Anthony said. “I worked so hard and made so many sacrifices to get to where I am.”
And other artists have said he inspired them to either start creating or to return to artistic passions they’d abandoned.
“Those types of comments feel good,” Anthony said. “I want to invest back into the youth, into the city with that same passion and that creativity.”
With his paintings increasing in value, Anthony also has plans to sell 100 of his paintings for $100 as one way of contributing to the community.
“He’s a good dude,” Williams said. “He’s very humble and has a lot to give. He has a really good heart.”