Visual arts, dance, music, and fashion are just some of the myriad art forms that Phyre Arts & Entertainment founder Brandon Bell mesh together to not only entertain, but empower his community in the DMV area. I sit down with Brandon to get the inside scoop on the fire that drives Phyre Arts, as well as upcoming ventures of the company.
Dey A: So, how did you come up with Phyre Arts & Entertainment?
Brandon Bell: I started as a visual artist (drawing, painting, etc.) Always was interested in performing and acting and I got into that and I found that I had talents there as well. I was kind of, I guess, not satisfied with the current state of entertainment and the arts. There was always some trend to follow rather than somebody doing their own thing…and I also didn’t want to be part of some bigger corporation and become some art-working slave to them [laughs].
So I started Phyre Arts for it to be like a canvas for all artists. If you’re multitalented or just have one talent it’s a canvas for your painting. Where we don’t control what your thing is. We just try to fine-tune your skills, bring it on board with us, or also give you an avenue where you can branch off and do your own thing.
DA: There’s so much that Phyre Arts does from visual arts and music to dance and fashion. How did you find a way to cohesively put these elements into one company?
BB: I would say I’m not totally there yet the way I’d like it to be, but I guess we have a mission statement, an initial brand for the company and a feel. No matter what avenue of the arts that you’re coming in with, we have this feel and this look and that’s the first cohesive thing. Then we always trying to do something better, like when we’re performing we always have a message or a mission. It’s not just to sell; it’s not just to gain popularity. No matter if you’re doing fashion, if you’re a dancer, if you’re a singer, you come in with that mindset and then I can just branch off from there, you’re still becoming you.
DA: You just recently had a dance performance at the Creative Arts Youth Enrichment Center (CAYEC) for their showcase?
BB: Yes, it’s basically a non-profit youth organization in D.C., and they try to get kids who are underprivileged to give them an avenue to voice themselves if they may be talented or maybe just something to do so they won’t get into mischief or in any trouble. And from that [Jessica] wanted to bring in other artists to show an example and she had this showcase just for all these people to network and understand that we’re kind of role models for these kids and show them what we could do.
DA: How do you usually get inspiration for the choreography and the dance pieces?
BB: I have a choreographer who started out as one of our dancers, but I was having problems with one of the choreographers we had before because I usually come up with the concept and what I’m trying to say, and the choreographer has to be able to be there with me, and I was having problems with that. So he stepped up after one of the shows in 2005 or 2006 and said, “I would like to try to and be your choreographer.” So I gave him the opportunity and from there he’s matched steps in the way that we think. As far as inspiration it’s usually comes from either personal things that I’ve been through or experienced or just comes from a worldview of what’s going on. In our mission statement, it says, ‘we take things that are within us or we take social stands in what’s going on in the world.’ It can be something as big as human rights or something as simple as what we may go through personally that someone may go through the same thing.
DA: So not only does Phyre Arts & Entertainment perform for the community, but I see you also do community service as well. What is one of the most memorable charity events that you’ve ever participated in?
BB: AIDS Walk New York. That was our first one we did in 2002, and it was also memorable because everyone in our company then all showed up. We don’t mandate any of those things to any of our company members, but they showed up because they cared, and I felt like ‘ok these people understand what we’re trying to represent. It was that whole feeling of love and coming together for a bigger cause, for something bigger than us.
DA: From what I understand, you’re a clothing designer as well. What are some of the challenges you face when coming up with new pieces for your line?
BB: Well first off, this might sound kind of funny, but the way I think on paper it works, in my head it works, and then when I put it together it doesn’t work at all. Some of the materials are heavier than others, some materials don’t sew together well with other pieces, so that’s a challenge for me. Ideally, I’m never short of new ideas and hopefully it doesn’t leave me.
DA: You were looking for venues here in New York, what’s the next project you have coming up and can you tell me a little more about it?
BB: It’s actually one of my best events; we were going to do it annually. It’s called The Tux, we did it in DC in 2010 and it was a great turn out. What it basically is it’s a networking event for artists and vendors, so we have small businesses or people who work out of home that can come and buy vendor space. Usually, we open it up as people come in for the networking party, pass out champagne at the door, and have live singing during the networking party just for ambience. Afterwards we put on a whole feature of models and dancers just for entertainment at the event.
It’s called The Tux because we ask all the guests to show their own version of the tuxedo, even if it’s painted on it doesn’t matter because it gives it a theme, it gives it a feel. This year, it’s called “The Tux 2: Behind The Mask” and it’s a masquerade. The idea behind it is that we all wear masks no matter what we’re doing. Not necessarily being fake, just different sides of us. The point we’re trying to make this time is that it’s ok to take off the mask and then move on.
DA: For someone who’s looking to come up with their own company similar to yours, or even something more centered such as a dance company, what piece of advice would you give to an aspiring entrepreneur?
BB: I would say to have all of your ducks in a row. Like know if it’s for profit, have your business account open and ready, have all your licensing, put certain people in charge of things, delegate, delegate, delegate. If you carry on too much, it will eventually fall apart, or if it does happen you’ll make yourself sick and you can’t continue like that.