A Solvable Problem: Xavier Jackson Builds Community With Local Art Plug

Xavier Jackson wants to make art accessible to everyone in Omaha—especially as a career option.

While the term brain drain often refers to young professionals in the startup space, the same can be said for local artists. Jackson is combating that with Local Art Plug, a local space for artists to grow, while connecting them with art lovers.

An outlet for artists to display their works and a space for art lovers to discover pieces in multiple mediums, Local Art Plug is proving itself as a much-needed platform.

The creative behind the concept, 29-year-old Jackson, is turning heads, not just from local artists, but investors too. On July 8th, Jackson took home the grand prize for the Midlands African Chamber’s Pitch Black competition.

Xavier Jackson, founder, Local Art Plug. (Photography by Debra S. Kaplan)
Xavier Jackson, founder, Local Art Plug. (Photography by Debra S. Kaplan)

Building a Foundation

Immersed in the arts at a young age growing up in South Omaha, Jackson attended Omaha South High School, a visual and performing arts magnet school, which provided a nurturing environment for artistic growth. During those years, Jackson’s creative outlet was not bound by just one medium.

“I was really big into the hip-hop culture. So graffiti, dancing, making music, all that stuff was what we would do in our free time when we didn’t have sports or anything else going on,” Jackson said.

His high school experience amplified his love for the arts, where it was the norm to see students walking around with sketchbooks. He took creative classes to hone his skills. He was even in a band.

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Once he began attending the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Jackson expanded his understanding of art, beyond the purview of high school.

“I started going to museums more and just really appreciating the art and hanging out there and just being one with the art,” Jackson said.

Majoring in broadcasting and advertising and minoring in English, he discovered a new passion.

“I wanted to create a commercial that aired during the Super Bowl but then I also really fell in love with creative writing,” he said.  “And that’s where the original idea for Local Art Plug — back then it was called Showcase — came about.”

The idea was to create a magazine for artists to connect and give exposure to high school-age artists. He shelved the idea when he couldn’t get the magazine off the ground, only to come back to it after graduating college. When he couldn’t find a job in his field of study, a friend introduced him to a business accelerator.

“In [the accelerator] I took the idea from being a magazine to being, the end goal, a location-based app where you can find artists or art shows anywhere in the world,” he said.

Xavier Jackson, founder, Local Art Plug. (Photography by Debra S. Kaplan)
Xavier Jackson, founder, Local Art Plug. (Photography by Debra S. Kaplan)

Plugging In

Jackson said building an art career can be oftentimes isolating, and with a lack of support, he noticed his peers leaving Omaha altogether when a sustainable career was not possible.

“As a young artist just starting out, it can be kind of a daunting task to get your art out there to be able to grow your career in Omaha, because there’s a lack of opportunities, especially for people to enter in at an entry-level,” he said.

Local Art Plug, officially launched in 2017, offers a space for artists to navigate the community and build confidence, no matter what skill level they’re at. Currently featuring 30 artists, localartplug.com is free for artists to share their pieces online. Those interested in purchasing art can purchase the pieces through the website, either by a one-time payment or through a payment plan. Businesses, nonprofits and individuals can also take advantage of the subscription model where art is rotated every three months.

“There are additional tax savings for business owners. So it’s really beneficial for them to not only highlight the mission, keep their walls beautiful, energize their workforce, but also give back to the community,” Jackson said.

Jackson’s business model goes beyond simply the sale of art. Located in the Flatiron Building downtown, Local Art Plug’s historic space is a means to create warm connections.

“We really just want to be that rose in the concrete to give people in that area not only something to do but something to look forward to and something they can build upon,” he said.

Artists can join in on informal events such as Creatives & Coffee, mini markets, and have art shows at an affordable rate.

And his advice to aspiring artists? Put yourself other there as much as possible.

“Always keep challenging yourself to do bigger and better things,” he said. “Maybe start off with a vendor table and work your way up to an art show. Maybe you host your own art show and curate art, but ultimately we want to help artists build that confidence in their work to be able to go out there and sell to the world.”

Coming off his win at Pitch Black, Jackson is looking forward to using the knowledge gained through the accelerator program and maximizing his winnings by identifying additional funding opportunities to invest in art technology and start a nonprofit division.

For now, the validation from the experience is what Jackson is enjoying the most.

“We knew it was a problem and it’s a solvable problem, but it’s a problem that people see value in, so that’s very affirming as well and we’re just excited to kind of take things to the next level,” he said. “I want to thank everybody that has helped us get to this point because it does take a village sometimes to be able to get something up off the ground.”

When it comes to his own creativity, Jackson enjoys writing science fiction and can be found exploring nature, most notably with his dog Bruce Leroy.

“I think a lot of my creativity now is just focused on creative ways to reach the public, creative events that we could possibly do that might benefit people or get more exposure, and then just creative ways to grow the business,” he said.

402-739-9725 • 1722 St Marys Ave, # 110, Omaha 68102
Website: www.localartplug.com
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