If you ask Miya Bailey what it means to be a local hero, he’ll tell you he doesn’t look at himself that way at all.
“I am in a situation where I can help other people financially. I’m supposed to do this. A king is supposed to take care of his village.
The North Carolina-born artist and entrepreneur has called Atlanta home since 1994. Around that time, he started his business, City of Ink, a tattoo shop that doubles as an art gallery located in the neighborhood. Castleberry Hill Arts. He’s leveraged his entrepreneurial success to give back through Peters Street Station, a community center that focuses on creating opportunities for Atlanta artists to leverage their work as a lucrative business, not just a hobby. time.
Bailey was one of 17 trailblazers honored as part of Atlanta United’s Spirit of 17 project. He sat down for a Q&A at Peters Street Station to discuss black entrepreneurship, visual arts preservation in Atlanta and more.
How long have you been in art?
I’ve been involved in art all my life, so I can’t remember when it started. And my mom was always community oriented, so it was always natural to do that.
I don’t remember when I started, it’s always been part of the lifestyle. I’ve always been part of my family dynamic, so I never thought about it any other way.
What prompted you to start your business?
Growing up in the 80s, during the time of George Jefferson, it was like that’s what you were supposed to do: open your own business. I’ve always considered working for someone else as a secondary thing. It never came naturally to me to work for someone else.
What is the mission behind your work?
The mission behind my work is really to open as many doors as possible for as many young artists as possible. That’s basically it. It’s to open doors for them, to teach them to be owners, to teach them to be bosses, to teach them to make money. And I lean towards the artists I see who are giving back to the community in some way.
Anyone I see with a lack of loyalty to their community, I really don’t deal with them, no matter how talented they are. I just go off on how someone’s vision matches my vision and that’s it.
What is your goal for Atlanta in the future?
My goal for Atlanta is to reshape the culture of Atlanta. Doing my part to reshape the culture of Atlanta, Georgia is always going to be my forte.
Atlanta involved you in a lot of things. When I moved here music was the focus, then you have sports teams, then you do this and you have that. All of these different things have been the focus. My first thing is to make sure visual artists are a big part of why people come to Atlanta. So keeping that culture alive in the metropolitan area is my part.
Who are some of your local heroes?
I really like Coach K, because I’ve seen him come up. Curtis Daniel, the owner of PatchWerk, is like a major inspiration to me. Anthony Harper, owner of the Goat Farm Arts Center, a major inspiration to me and a great mentor. People like Charly Palmer, Kevin Williams, Gilbert Young, W. Jabari, they’re great heroes to me. I also like Cam Kirk. I love Cam Kirk and the opportunity it gives young photographers. I think it’s really great. And he doesn’t talk about it much, he just does it through action.
What do you like most about Peters Street?
I love it, because we helped build it. The only person I knew here was Karl [Booker] with Off the Hook Barbershop. He is like a staple in our community. I would say that as far as Castleberry Hill is concerned, this is our real president, in my opinion. He was the first here. He has strong values. And you know how to talk about a hair salon. He always wants to make sure his community is in a better place.
How can Atlanta be even more united in the future?
I think I put more emphasis on art collectors. I think it’s the energy that we lack. We have a lot of artists, we have a lot of musicians, we have a lot of everyone. But the people who make it all happen are the people who buy art. So, I would love to see more showcases of actual art collectors.
Why do you call Atlanta home?
I call Atlanta home, because of the inspiration I had when I moved here. Being from North Carolina, this was the first time I had seen free black people. Black entrepreneurship is what I mean when I say “free”. As if their fate was in their hands. They don’t rely on anyone else to pay them or write their check. They strive to get it themselves and support their families. I just saw this and I was mesmerized, because in my hometown I feel like there were maybe only two or three of us who were entrepreneurs in the black community . But here, I see it everywhere.
I firmly believe that if you have to fight, you might as well fight for yourself.
What does it mean to you to be a local hero?
My first thing is responsibility. If people look up to you and see you as a hero, then you need to make sure you understand that responsibility. You don’t have to be perfect. But, if someone is watching you and you have a platform to speak out, don’t waste your voice. Say something that will benefit your community and the people around you.
I don’t look at myself like that at all. I just watch myself doing what I’m supposed to do as a man. I am in situations where I can help other people financially. I’m supposed to do this. A king is supposed to take care of his village. That’s what I’m supposed to do.