Nibiru Gallery: A look behind the new venue in Sweet Auburn

Students Elijah Watkins and Jabriel McIntosh hope to create a new space for students just off campus.

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Starting from the Bottom

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Candra Umunna | The Signal
Watkins (left) and McIntosh (right) in their new art space and venue: Nibiru Gallery

A seemingly abandoned building on Auburn Avenue stands illuminated on a Friday night. A few casually dressed individuals are scattered along the sidewalk leading to its entrance. Behind them is a narrow doorway, where a pleasant aroma slides through the air. It’s another night at the Nibiru Gallery.

Upon entry, a kiosk awaits all attendees, featuring small trinkets and original jewelry. Satirical and abstract art cover the walls, their messages left to the viewer for interpretation. Just beyond this is the performance room, where a disc jockey spins opposite the stage. Dozens of interconnected wooden doors create a high ceiling for a room of endless activity, where creatives and students alike await the night’s festivities.

The Nibiru gallery is a pioneer venue for Georgia State students, founded and financed by seniors Elijah Watkins and Jabriel McIntosh. They recently discovered their passion for event coordination and artistic networking, and have since been working to define their niche.

Humble Beginnings

Watkins was the graphic design and marketing director and McIntosh was the homecoming director when they began at Spotlight Programs at Georgia State, where the students got their introduction to event planning.

“Seeing the way we affected the people around us through our events really motivated us to begin planning our own events,” Watkins said.

McIntosh agreed that event coordination was a field he suddenly fell into unintentionally, citing his early experiences as a young leader.

“I really didn’t know anything about events,” McIntosh said. “I kind of joined Spotlight on a whim, but it really gave us our big break in terms of planning events and marketing. It’s very rare for freshman to become event directors, so at the time it was crazy having people four and five years older than us taking orders, when Elijah was only sixteen and I was eighteen.”

McIntosh, a Real Estate major, explained that this early success organizing student events opened his eyes to his own possibilities.

“I kind of thought to myself, if we can run events, market, and strategize with budgets provided by the school, why can’t we do it on our own?”

McIntosh and Watkins share a desire to be entrepreneurs. They co-created Obscure Goods, a clothing company and brand that brings together the team’s innovative and business powers.

“We both have similar goals, and we both feed off each other’s strengths,” McIntosh said. “Elijah has the genius mindset and business strategy that complements my creative ability.”

The Realization 

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Candra Umunna | The Signal
Watkins preparing for a show at Nibiru.

McIntosh and Watkins channeled their talents into opening an innovative, avant-garde venue in the heart of downtown Atlanta called the Nibiru Gallery.

“It’s an incredibly spacious four story building, and there’s a really creative energy within the place,” McIntosh said. “You can really do anything artistically there, and I had a really good feeling about it. The owners made it feel like a family environment, reminiscent to the old times on Auburn.”

But because the building is old, it needs several renovations including installing bathrooms and air conditioning. Watkins explained that it likely will not be fully renovated for some years to come, but the team is fundraising in the meantime. Nibiru Gallery’s renovations tie into a community uplift project called ‘Save Auburn,’ created by McIntosh and Watkins in an effort to uphold the historical integrity of Auburn Avenue.

Watkins feels that the project is a symbol of them giving back to the downtown community.

“We really want to preserve the historical value of Auburn Avenue for the community. We know the history behind Auburn Avenue in terms of civil rights, as well as what it represents to the people who came before us. They made it possible for students like us to attend HBCUs and Georgia State, so we have to preserve that.”

Aside from paying homage to their predecessors, Watkins and McIntosh also have personal intentions behind keeping the Nibiru Gallery privately owned.

Making Change

“We want it to be a creative hub for students all around Atlanta,” said McIntosh. “We want you to have a place to be able to get away and study, create, hang out, and just network with like-minded individuals. Georgia State doesn’t really have an escape like that for students to go to.”

Watkins said it comes full circle with Obscure Goods’ aim: to provide innovative goods and services to artistic, ambitious professionals.

“People aren’t just looking for a club scene; they want a place where they can genuinely express themselves,” Watkins said.

McIntosh also explained how each event has a theme, including their most recent function, fittingly entitled ‘Bliss: Chill Differently.’

“Our events always revolve around the five senses,” McIntosh said. “You’re going to be impressed visually, we always have unique homemade scents at our event, and there’s always good music.”

“We want people to be able to mingle and interact in a friendly, sociable environment. We want you to be able to come hang out, and actually feel different, while still unwinding and getting culture,” Watkins continued. He believes a change of pace is necessary for students, especially for those who do not have an interest in the weekly club scene that Georgia State promotes.

“I’ve lived on campus for the last three years, so I always see how the younger students are so eager to soak up the Georgia State lifestyle,” said Watkins. “Georgia State is such a diverse community, students don’t always relate to the typical club scene that campus parties present. They end up not going out, or they may stay at home the next year. Nibiru gallery can be something different for the students who are different.”

“They don’t have to worry about getting dressed to go dancing and fitting in to something they’re not comfortable with,” Watkins continued.

Although Watkins and McIntosh have a long way to go in terms of completing their community uplift project, they now actively  host events and mixers at Nibiru, using the skills they learned working with Spotlight.

Changing the culture and nightlife options for Georgia State students will no doubt be a lengthy project, but the Obscure Goods visionaries have no doubt that they can bring positivity and creativity to downtown Atlanta.

For booking information and questions about Nibiru Gallery, contact Obscuregoods@gmail.com

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