The term “starving artist” is often used to describe people who are strong on artistic talent but weak on other skills. That term does not apply to Bernard Jackson, owner of the Indigo Blu Gallery located in Columbia’s Village at Sandhills.
Jackson is a native of Columbia. He attended C.A. Johnson and Columbia High School before enrolling in Benedict College. After graduating from Benedict, he enrolled in the University of South Carolina to pursue his Masters Degree in Fine Art.
Jackson got a job in Detroit at the Museum of African history as an exhibition designer. He hated Detroit, so Jackson moved to New York to pursue his artistic dreams.
“I wanted to become a professional artist,” Jackson said. “One of my mentors, Larry Lebby, just passed. He was one of the springboards along with Cheryl Johnson. A lot of these teachers, along with my mom, helped nurture me and get me to the point where I believed in what I could do.”
Jackson thought that his career path would only be in graphic design. But in New York, he also got involved in the film industry.
“When I went to New York, I found a whole amazing industry in film,” Jackson said.
Initially, Jackson worked on Spike Lee’s movie Malcolm X as a scenic artist He worked on over 30 movie projects, such as Die Hart 3, Strictly Business, and Mo Better Blues. He also worked on television shows, such as Sesame Street, New York Under Cover and Law & Order. Jackson credits his union membership for helping him to get entertainment industry jobs.
“As a member of Local 829, I was able to work throughout New York, Connecticut. anywhere there was a film being shot,” Jackson recalled. “I could just go to the art director or production designer, and give them my credentials. And if they needed me, they would bring me on.”
Jackson’s work in the film industry afforded him the opportunity to pursue other art opportunities. Be became skilled in multiple field of art, including portraits, murals, illustrations, sculpture, scenic artistry and design. Eventually, he decided to open an art gallery and event hall to showcase his work.
“I was able to open up a gallery in South Orange, New Jersey,” Jackson recalled. “It was called Gallery 61. I was there for about 27 years. It was my first time truly managing and owning a business. We had a lot of amazing events with celebrities like Queen Latifah, Lauren Hill, Andre Brauer, Dionne Warwick. Tons of celebrities would flow into the gallery and they would buy the art. We would also do jazz and poetry and rent the gallery out for parties and receptions.”
Jackson loved running the gallery. But life’s challenges led Jackson to move back home in 2015.
“I decided to come back home because my mom needed me to help her,” Jackson said.
“When I got back, a friend, Lori, gave me the kick to get a gallery open. Her father, Dr Robert Canard, taught art at Benedict. She, along with some other friends, encouraged me to open up a gallery here,” Jackson said.
Jackson wasn’t sure that Columbia would support an art gallery like the one he had in New Jersey. But he decided to go for it. So in 2017, he opened Indigo Blu Gallery. He named the gallery after his youngest daughter.
“When we opened up the gallery, the response was amazing. And so now going into our third year. It's been a struggle at times, but it's been going extremely well.”
Located in the Sandhills shopping complex, Indigo Blu consists of two sections. The first section sells artwork and household items.
“They're like a smorgasbord of different things. They are really cool, interesting items. As a buyer, I go out looking for really cool and interesting pieces. So we call them pieces because each one is interesting. And a lot of them are one of kind pieces. And, and then the artwork that's in here is all mine. I'm going to start featuring some new artists in the upcoming year,” Jackson says.
The second section is used for meetings and events. With a seating capacity of 140 people, the space has been rented out for everything from weddings to baby showers. Indigo Blu has also had several filmmakers shoot scenes in the facility.
“We’ve had almost every kind of event you want – weddings, birthday parties, anniversaries, retirement – a lot of parties,” Jackson said.
Jackson takes pride in the fact that the event space has reasonable rates.
“It's $250 an hour with a four-hour minimum,” Jackson said. “We need one hour to set up and one hour to break down. For the entire evening, it's like $1600. And that covers everything decorations, the only thing it doesn't cover is food. We normally reach out to a caterer or the customers bring the catering in.”
In addition, clients can also use the facility for drawing and painting classes.
“It's basically a group of people painting the same thing eating some wine and cheese and enjoying themselves,” Jackson says. “It’s $25 a person and it includes the canvas and paint.”
On Friday and Saturday nights, Indigo Blu hosts Dinner, Jazz & Poetry nights. Tickets are $25, and dinner is included. Jazz musicians and poets are invited to audition on Thursday evenings from 7 – 8 p.m.
Future plans include host a comedy show on Thursdays and a Jazz Brunch on Sundays. Jackson says that he is happy that his friends encouraged him to open a gallery in Columbia, and is excited about the future.
“We feature a lot of great artists, amazing poets and amazing musicians,” Jackson said. “It's working, and we just need the community to support us.”
Indigo Blu Gallery is located at 460-6 Town Center Place in Columbia. Jackson can be reached at (803) 260-4006.