The MSP Mingle event series, a Make It. MSP. partnership between GREATER MSP, the Minneapolis Regional Chamber of Commerce and Saint Paul Area Chamber of Commerce, connects professionals of color throughout the region. At a recent event hosted by U.S. Bank attendees heard from Chadwick “Niles” Phillips, founder of The Avant Garde, a renaissance arts, music and entertainment production company. We caught up with Chadwick to learn more. 

Why did you create The Avant Garde and what are your hoping to achieve?

I created The Avant Garde because of my deep passion for music and the arts. I’m fascinated with the history of the type of field that I am in. There were so many artists from the 50’s, 60’s who had incredible music with content about uplifting society. Also, my father is a Julliard graduate who just retired from the Colorado Symphony Orchestra after 48 years of service playing the upright bass. So it is in my DNA to represent music and the arts on a high level.

I always think about legacy and what can be built to push the culture forward in a positive way. There are so many great eclectic and enlightening artists here and the scene is elevating and coming of age rapidly. I started The Avant Garde to give them a platform to be seen and heard for the passionate work that they create. The response that The Avant Garde has gotten from the community since we started has been amazing. We have a lot of plans that I can’t wait to manifest. It is all about elevation with artistic expression that will remain timeless. The future is looking bright.

Tell us more about that bright future. Who are some of the local artists inspiring you right now?

The future is about expanding our brand within the world of music and the arts. We are focused on growing as a cornerstone for the next frontier of the local music, arts and entertainment scene.

I will be releasing my debut album very soon and that will set a platform for what is next as well. We also started an open-mic entitled “Eclectica” that we present at The Reverie Cafe every Tuesday night. This was put together so The Avant Garde can provide a platform for up and coming artists who need a platform to be seen and heard. There are many local artists who are doing amazing things right now. Some are Vie Boheme, Joe Davis, Dahlia Jones, Ashley Dubose and Theo Brown. With so much talent in the Twin Cities, it is an honor to be here and a part of the renaissance. I’m enjoying every moment of it.

You’ve lived and worked all over. Why come back to MSP and what did you bring back that influences your work?

I moved back because it was a great place to start my next chapter in life. I was in New York City after I graduated from Michigan State University for a bachelors in Communications. While in NYC I was fortunate to win the “Who’s Next”/HOT 97 talent search which enabled me to release a single on Major Label/Koch Records. I also have worked in film for BET, CBS, MTV and NYC Fashion week and I taught with a program called “The Hip-Hop Project” where I was able to teach my philosophy of music and the arts to youth from Brooklyn to Manhattan.

I graduated from Park Center High School in Brooklyn Park so Minnesota has always been a second home to me. I also have family here. So when it came down to my next step as far as price of living, great opportunities and plans to flourish as an entrepreneur, Minneapolis was a great fit. With everything I am doing now with my own business from The Avant Garde to teaching my youth and arts curriculum “Hip-Hop, History and The Arts”, I am able to apply the knowledge from what I learned working within those prestigious fields in New York City. It definitely has helped with how I approach what I am doing now.

Tell us more about that legacy from the 50s, 60s and other times that inform your arts curriculum. What are some of the themes that continue to fascinate you today? 

Artists are broadcasters of the times they are in. The 50’s and 60’s were fascinating because in America it came to a boiling point regarding sacrifices that were made for equal rights in this country. I look up to the artists who were speaking of those times.

The Harlem Renaissance of the 20’s before The Great Depression, the Bebop Era during World War II and the Soul Music uprise during the Civil Right Movement provided solace, vision and hope for the people. I honor and pay homage to them because they provided the opportunities that I have now.

To me, carrying on positive and progressive tradition with my art comes first before anything else. I am highly thankful for the artists of those times.

This has been a pleasure. Thanks for sharing your work. As people do that what do you hope they’ll find?

You’re welcome! This has been great for me as well. When people experience an event presented by The Avant Garde I want them to experience an atmosphere that is euphoric and unique. The Avant Garde brings a vibe that is optimistic and inspirational through the way our events are produced.

It is all about an energy that is vibrant with a lot of flavor.  We want people to fall in love with the culture we bring because of how genuine it is. I believe that events should be put on to bring people together in unison to enjoy the rhythm of life. Creating that type of unique experience for our society is what The Avant Garde is all about.

Chadwick “Niles” Phillips was born and raised in Lansing, Michigan and lives in Minneapolis. He is the CEO/Founder of The Avant Garde, LLC. He is a hip-hop artist, director, producer, actor, host, motivational speaker and teacher of his own curriculum entitled “Hip-Hop, History and The Arts.”

Photo by ARC Photography. Video courtesy of The Avant Garde.

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