Welcome to Jenkintown, Art of MBB

Many in our area are already familiar with the work of Jenkintown resident M. Brian Bowens, especially if you’ve ever driven through Jenkintown Borough. His ubiquitous Solidarity Mural appears on yard signs, stickers, store windows, and, of course, the actual mural on Johnson Ave. In fact, a documentary directed by his lifelong friend, Esteban Serrano, about the arduous but rewarding process of putting up said mural, recently premiered at the Hiway Theater in Jenkintown. Not one to rest on past accolades, Brian isn’t done. Together, with his business partner and wife LaToya, he will open a new business venture this Sunday – The Art of MBB Multimedia Creative Space + Art Gallery in Jenkintown.

Since he was a child, Brian wanted to design sneakers for Nike. His mother had a background in fine art and his father doodled all the time and Brian sites both as inspiration for his artistic affinity. He studied Illustration and Graphic Design at Delaware College of Art and Design and then at Full Sail University. He has done freelance work for major league sports teams, MTV and more and he cites Instagram as the catalyst for his career. Brian explained:

“Between 2011-2012, I was working as a group home supervisor and that job was just taking up too much of my time with regards to my family. I was thinking about just leaving that job and pursuing more art. I would be sitting at my office desk and just drawing and then from that I would just come up with these different projects in my head.

“Like when Nike was launching a pink foamposite sneaker… I’m like, ‘OK, what do I associate with the pink foamposites,’ and I thought about cartoons like Pinky and the Brain. So, I drew something like Pinky and the Brain, holding the shoe, posted it on Instagram and then before I knew it, it’s getting reposted by different sneaker blogs and different websites…I’m gaining a following from creating this content just based around me being creative and doing doodles.

I started to be more consistent with creating content on Instagram and then before I know it, the following has grown and grown to the point where I’m getting the attention of some key people. From that, I started getting opportunities to create content and to pitch different ideas and network.”

Philadelphia Eagle Brandon Graham’s Cleats as designed by M. Brian Bowens

Brian turned those pitches and networking into contracts with EA Sports, Footlocker and Champs sporting goods. Creating content for sneaker companies, Brian had come full circle from the dreams of his youth. He even has done cleats for the Eagles’ Brandon Graham, which incidentally, Graham will be wearing at this Sunday’s game. With all the orders coming in for art, sneakers and more, the next logical step was a physical space where people can see Brian’s art and also a place where Brian has room to be Brian.

“I’m multidisciplined… I can paint, I can do illustrations, I can do digital artwork…I needed a place to do cleats, to sell merch, podcasting, my wife needed an office…now there’s all these different areas that are designated for me to exercise these different skill sets,” Brian told us.

Brian’s wife and business partner LaToya added, “I like to call it his work playground”.

Speaking of LaToya, while Brian is doing his art, LaToya will manage the marketing and business end of the gallery. LaToya has an extensive marketing background and an entrepreneurial bloodline:

“When I was young, I used to live with my grandparents in Philly. I never saw my Grandfather work for anybody; he always worked for himself. He had flower shops, he had markets, ice cream stores, all in Philly. He was a successful businessman. I saw entrepreneurial success…he modeled that very well.”

LaToya went to Penn State for Advertising and Public Relations and started out in corporate America. Although she learned a lot from her experiences, she always knew in the back of her mind that corporate working wasn’t for her. And now, as part of the Art of MBB, she is leaving it behind for good.

“Brian and I were able to merge our skillsets to the point where now we are sitting in the Art of MBB which still blows my mind. The sky’s the limit. There’s so much still that’s untapped. I’m excited and I just can’t wait to take over the business world with my husband.”

Besides a place for Brian to showcase, produce and sell his art, eventually Brian and LaToya will be offering art classes as well as doing a podcast from their new space. As LaToya said, “the sky’s the limit” for Jenkintown’s newest addition. You can see their vision beginning this Sunday during the Jenkintown Arts Festival.

The Art of MBB is located at 315 Old York Road in Jenkintown and will be open this Sunday, September 19th, from 1pm to 6pm.

Interview edited for clarity and conciseness