Hampton alum uses art to help the community


Jerica Deck | Campus Editor

Hampton alum, Nalan Smartt, has now become a prominent freelance creative director in the area. Smartt, a 2008 graduate from Staten Island, New York, has created various shows, concerts, and productions both on campus and in the Hampton Roads community.  Smartt tends to focus on topics about uplifting African Americans, art, and self-expression.  The multitalented former majestic dancer also teaches dance classes and is an esteemed photographer.

Recently he worked with artists Asa Jackson and Hampton Boyer to create the Contemporary Arts and Networking Festival. Also known as the CAN festival, the event took place in Mill Point Part and involved various forms of art including live murals, spoken word, dances, and DJ performances.

“A lot of people see art as one angle of artistry.” said Smartt “You see the environment that the arts are being nurtured, dance, music painting artistry murals graffiti exposes things like that spoken word. Then in this area I feel like no one art form is truly better than another. What we wanted to do is create a solid platform of exposure for all the arts in this area.”

The event was similar to a downtown block party, except here various artists were able to sell and showcase their pieces. The CAN festival included performances from D&T dance studio, the band Jimmy Rig, and Hampton’s own Majestic Dance troupe.

Smartt also worked with Professor Idonia Barrett from the sociology department to create and produce Hampton University’s first Hip Hop Showcase last year. The show entitled “Hip Hop, Do You Still Love H.E.R.?” focused on the evolution of hip hop throughout time. At the CAN festival, various Hampton students showcased their various talents and artistic ways. Similar to the CAN festival, the show displayed many different types of art. These included dancing, singing, spoken word, skits, painting, and even rapping.

“I look at art as obviously as just like historical but almost like the essence of being human” said Smartt when describing his passion for the arts. Smartt continued “We forget that being human is about expression. It’s about emotion. It’s about connectivity. It’s about being able to relate to a person and share common things. And it’s about really experiencing a level of appreciation for the next person.”

Smartt is very excited to reunite with Professor Barrett once again to put together another Hip Hop showcase this year. He’s hopes to  gather even more of Hampton University’s artists and art enthusiasts together once again to put on another great performance. All singers, dancers, rappers, poets, and more are welcome to audition. The auditions will be held on Sunday November 8. They will take place from 2-7 p.m. in the student center cyber lounge.

Smartt uses his passion for the arts to create change in his community. He is a pioneer for self-expression, and has successfully been able to turn hobbies he loves into a way to help other people around him.  His advice to others is that “if you really want to make a change in your area or you want to see change in life, you have to look inside yourself and be that catalyst for change.”

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