When Craig Earle curated “All Falls Down: A Kanye West Art Show” in November 2017, he kicked up a storm. The event announcement blew up online, with hopeful attendees desperately seeking last minute tickets. In a Central Ave. lounge meant to accommodate 75 people, Earle had sold it out, gathering around 100 to celebrate Kanye’s legacy though the local art community.

“I curated that show because I wanted to bring that kind of vibe to Albany,” Earle said of the pop-up exhibit. “I’ve seen bigger markets do that stuff like New York City, L.A., Atlanta and I was like, ‘Well, we can do that stuff in Albany.’”

The 31-year-old is better known as DJ TGIF. He’s been spinning in the area for a decade and has a dedicated radio spot as program director of WCAA 107.3 FM at 10 AM. Earle also runs a promotions company called HYP3. Born and raised in Albany, he feels dedicated to build the community into something enviable.

“I’m a DJ with a big platform and I want to use that to create platforms,” he said.

“This is home. I’ve watched people from here say there’s nothing here, that Albany’s boring. Then I’ve watched people from outside of Albany come in and build stuff,” he adds. “There is a lot of talented people here and not enough platforms for them. I feel like if all the talented people have to leave here to be appreciated then this place never gets any better. My mission is to make Albany better.”

Inspired by the success of the Kanye-themed event, Earle set out to do more. When he found that a community space in the Albany Coliseum at 153 S Pearl St. had opened up, he took his chance.

“The people that owned it moved down to Atlanta, but it used to be this cultural hub between people who did poetry or were interested in acting. When they moved, it left a vacuum for that kind of space so I want to fill that void.”

The DJ plans to hold an “art-warming” in late March to open up the space to the community and expand its potential. In addition to hosting art exhibits, he hopes Urban Arts will host local entertainment, social gatherings and pop-up shops.

“I just think an art gallery is a cool aesthetic for something like that,” he explained. “The idea I had of an art gallery has completely changed because not only can you walk in and see art, it can be a home for just, creative expression.”

The Albany Urban Arts Gallery will open with its first exhibit, ‘Black Marvel’, on March 3. In the show, local artists will portray black history figures as comic book characters, celebrating true heroes through a medium that audiences have become familiar with in graphic novels and blockbuster films.

“I think it gives the artists a lot of room to really do what they want and let their creative juices flow,” Earle said.

Anusha Sekhar, for example, was featured in the Kanye show and will be showing her paintings of a black Wonder Woman and cartoon Mahatma Gandhi at “Black Marvel.”  

“I am excited to display artwork of Gandhi in order to show his influence on Martin Luther King’s Montgomery Story during the civil rights movement,” Sekhar said. “I think an exhibit like this would promote the rich culture and talent that minorities contribute to upstate New York.”

The Clifton Park-based painter told The Alt that coming from a predominantly white community, she appreciates the ethnically diverse community of Albany.

“It was thrilling to see that tickets sold out that quickly, especially being that it was an art show. I had no that the crowd in the 518 was so enthusiastic to support the arts…the turnout was very uplifting,” she said of her previous experience working with Earle.

Earle already expects “Black Marvel” will sell out as quickly as “All Falls Down.” He’s put a lot of faith in the community of listeners and supporters he has gathered over the past 10 years.

“[As DJ TGIF] I’ve gotten people to come to a lot of different venues, now I’m gonna get ‘em to come to my place.”

“Black Marvel” Art Show at the Urban Arts Gallery, 153 S Pearl St, Albany. Saturday, March 3 at 7 PM.