©2018 Tampa Bay Free Press / Brennan Ink
TOP LEFT: Geofran and Samuel Carrington, founders
of MESU 360 Project Gallery with assorted MESU gear.

MESU 360 Project Gallery is the studio home of creatives Geofran and Samuel Carrington. It is possibly the hippest thing going on in St. Pete right now.

The gallery retail space, originally located at 578 1st Ave N., and now in its new home at 2428 Central Avenue in St. Pete, showcases original artworks of contemporary fine art merged with street pop culture, high fashion clothing and apparel and fine jewelry and watches. The store also has an in house goldsmith jeweler with over 30 years experience. In addition studio rental space is available for small events & receptions.

It's the only place in town for its unique niche of high fashion street wear and ready-to-wear fashions, original handcrafted jewelry and fine art. Including accessories by Louis Vuitton, Marc Jacobs and more. They also carry an assortment of home gifts and coffee table books including Phillip Leeds, Big Shots!, and Pharrell Williams "Places and Spaces I've Been." They even carry local musician Jordan Esker's album, "Best Supporting Actor."

The MESU brand officially launched in 2009, but it began in 2008. Originated by artist Geofran Carrington, it's letters are an acronym for "Mix Emotions Stresses the Universe." The 360 stands for the idea of a circle. Not in the sense of karma or "what goes around comes around," but in the sense that each person helping each other creates a complete circle. "That combination of light and life," Geofran explained, "we all need each other."

"Almost like what you put into it - you get out of it," Samuel said.

Geofran and Samuel Carrington, the brother-sister founders of MESU 360 Project Gallery, grew up in Trinidad and Tobago. The early origins of what would be their brand were first shown there. "My sister, she has been making stuff for years," Samuel said. "Like one time she told me that she could make a fan. She was 5, I was maybe 8." "It was super hot in Trinidad - we used to throw water on the bed just to be cool because there was no air condition. She convinced me that she could make a fan." She didn't end up making one that day. "I THOUGHT I could make a fan," Geofran said. It was the start. "She was bringing these different ideas for years," Samuel laughed. Samuel also showed his acumen for business early. "I started my first business at 13 because I wanted a pair of Air Jordans - so I started making deals with my neighborhood friends -- I'll borrow your TV -- I have the video games -- Let's come together."

"In the first week I made $400," he said. "I got my Air Jordans."

The MESU 360 brand would later spring from these origins.

Fast forward to 2008. Samuel had become a watchmaker and the two were now living in Clearwater. Geofran, also a watchmaker, had another company called Chímere Designs, a fashion brand, making costumes inspired by the carnival celebrations in Trinidad and Tobago and Brazil's Carnival.

"I was on a 10 day vacation trip to Jamaica," Samuel explained." I called her on the phone, this was like, day 5 - and she said 'I got the best one. ... when you get back, I'm going to show it to you and show you what it is.'" "I'm like, what is it she made? I'm super excited. I'm an entrepreneur at heart and she's this artistic person, and I like the creativity and the fact that we can bring something together."

"So, long story short — I got back home and she has everything, not just on paper, but, like three-dimensions. So the bookcase was three-dimensional paper. Everything was like, so well done, made and prepared. The next day I was like, we've got to start working on this. The brand, "Mix Emotions Stresses the Universe" had this happy/sad feel to it."

"Doing things collectively, collaborating was what I liked, so with my sister being so creative with her artist self and me being so creative in bringing people together, it was like, man, we can make this work."

"If I may say." Katherine said, "Geofran and Samuel have this type of personality. They have this glue to attract people."

Katherine Gonzalez, now the brand's Office Manager and the third member of the team, is from Colombia. She came aboard in the early years as well. Like Samuel and Geofran, Katherine is a watchmaker. There are early photos of her wearing the first MESU T-Shirt and the first MESU Design Ring when the brand offices were still located in the Carrington's house in Clearwater. In ten years she has come to occupy the job that she originally proposed when she started — Office Manager in the brand's own brick and mortar location.

Geofran, the Project Gallery's Co-Director, is a visionary artist known for her unconventional approach to art. "I like to create a concept and bring it to life, like when I had Chímere Designs. I like to envision," She said. She designs, paints and also does interior design and interior staging. She is the Vice President of TIMEOUT LLC, a watch and jewelry service company. MESU360 is her own unique brand and a place for her to showcase all of her avant-garde creative ideas.

Samuel, MESU's Executive Director and Artist, has been a watchmaker for 17 years now. He owns TIMEOUT LLC, a company that has successfully grown from one to seven stores. In addition Samuel creates and designs watch mechanism neck pieces from his very own vintage watch collection that can be worn as jewelry. He recently did a nearly sold-out show at MESU.

Artists from all over the world have shown at MESU, both at their original location and in their current space. A Spanish artist, Jose Saenz De Heredia, flew in from Spain just for his art show at the gallery, Chicas and Formas. The reception featured a live flamenco dancer, Carolina Esparza. "It was a wonderful show," Samuel said. De Heredia's show at MESU led to another exhibition in France.

Some of St. Pete's most talented and well-known artists have also exhibited at MESU including Sebastian Coolidge and Thirst McFly. Last year, MESU 360 hosted a huge street party at their original location to celebrate St. Pete's annual Shine Mural Festival.

Artists and designers currently exhibiting in the space include designers World Thrift (Alessandro Cocozza and Nick Fanning), international photographer Joey Clay, artist Jason Skeldon and Jerry Jonoso. Jonoso, who made his name in New York with contemporaries like Andy Warhol and Basquiat, told MESU he would only exhibit at their gallery because they "get it."

Geofran and Samuel really started getting the materials, a marketing strategy and a plan together to make their brand known in 2008. They went to New York, doing Anna Wintour "Fashion's Night Out, fashion shows, and connecting with Jeffrey Deitch," Samuel explained."So we were doing stuff like that and that's pretty much where the two things started coming together. But the thing is," he said," we always wanted to have a real brick and mortar space. We tried to get into all these galleries — Damien Hirst, George Condo, but we were too young, so I'm happy for the fact that we didn't get in to them, because the brand could have been destroyed. I think that the strength and the fight behind it made MESU into what it is now."

"It's not just MESU 360 Gallery, it's MESU 360 PROJECT gallery — where we now give a service to other creatives like us who want that opportunity. But, you
meet a lot of older people in this industry who tell you 'do what you like' but they don't tell you HOW to do what you like and how to get there."

"Young creatives can sometimes get depressed and discouraged," Geofran said. "For instance, I recently met a young lady who is a jewelry designer. She mentioned to me about an experience she had presenting her work for sale, and as a creative you feel like you have always made the best piece. She told me the store representatives wouldn't even look at it - they would not even allow her to open up the case. Automatically they thought, it's not their market -- it's not their caliber -- because she doesn't have a main stream name, they think "don't waste your time."

"A lot of people are super-prejudiced as well," Katherine said, "So they go based on how you look when deciding to give you an opportunity."

"That's why we want the project gallery to be a place with a strong foundation and an eye for detail to showcase artists and designers works. Without that platform, most young creatives would not have an opportunity - unless you are well known, and how do you get to be well known if no one gives you the means? If no one gives you the opportunity, it will then become a hobby."

"We need to nurture that." Samuel said. "Just because they're creatives doesn't make them business people."

"That's right," Geofran agreed. "You're only young for so long and then time goes by," she said. "I was 23 when I started the brand and I'm 33 today. So, time does go by, but its really keeping that drive."

Next on the agenda for MESU is to create a co-working opportunity for designers and artists who can't afford their own brick and mortar store, giving them wall or rack space to develop their talent and their brand.

"They themselves can't afford a space, so we give them a section. We are going to give them a space that's laid out right and we want them to sell. So even if this space closes or we move, they can still have their brand that they started here," Samuel explained.

MESU will soon be offering regular classes and events including Spanish Classes for Kids ages 2-4 and 5-8 two days a week; a weekly motivational speaker answering creative's questions about the specifics of running their business like managing expenses and taxes, and spiritual enlightenment classes.

Another class, "Project Talk" will be held every Thursday night. It will be shown on the Project Gallery's YouTube Channel and will feature a lively discussion of what's happening in the worlds of fashion, art, politics, music. The class will feature weekly local speakers who are doing something to drive the city forward.

"When I started MESU," Geofran said, "I was living in the Bay area, but I was doing all my shows in New York."

"Places like New York," Samuel added, "they capitalize on the fact that art is everywhere. When you go there all you see is the influence from art."

"This is where the political part comes in," Geofran said. "I think, the city of St. Pete, needs to encourage artists, especially being advertised as an art community, 'stay here and you could make a living, we want to buy your art.' Without that, artists are going to feel, - I am going to feel, I'm investing a lot of time and money and I'm not earning a living. I have to pay my taxes and the tax guys are coming and my landlords are coming and ... I feel like the political aspect, we need to have more of a movement to say, look, these are young entrepreneurs, artists and creatives that are coming from other countries and states bringing their talents along with them, therefore to the guy down the street that has the most multi-million dollar home, come and support and buy your art local, come and shop local, and that's what New York City and other major metropolitan cities offer."

"Now in St. Pete, we have businesses and we have condominiums and all that great stuff," Samuel said, "but if you take the art away from St. Pete and it's just bars and homes, everything is going to fizzle."

"I feel like St Pete is too small of a town to break up into different districts to divide the art community," Geofran said. "They have the Warehouse District then the Grand Central ..."

"It causes "Art Beef"," laughed Samuel. "It's a real thing I have learned. When I first heard about it, I thought 'what's that? like a rap battle?"

"I think one reason why there's so much "conflict" among artist, is that the talent is so great and the opportunity is too limited," Geoffran said.

Samuel gave an example of the positive impact that the arts can have. A neighbor who once stopped into the gallery recently told him that she made the decision to rent her current home because the MESU gallery was there. "She told me, when she was initially home shopping, she wasn't too sure of the neighborhood," he said. "Then later, she came and saw that our store was now present, and said, "'OK, I can live here." That's how important the arts are in the City.

"Basically, you're saying that there is a lot of benefit being created and that people creating it should share in that." (Editor)

"And I think they can," Geofran said, "but we need to come together. "It acts like a spider web. One thing can trap so many things."

"We came to St. Pete because we thought St. Pete had other art businesses here," Geofran said. "And when we moved to 1st and 6th, they were moving out and we felt we were sold on a lie. And people are discovering that -- they feel St. Pete is becoming a mirage. It looks one way -- but that isn't really what it is, with more opportunity there will be less beef."

"I see art in everything," Samuel explained. "First and foremost I believe in a creator. And we are his creation. Therefore, we are all art in motion."

Geofran and Samuel don't want to miss a chance to say that they owe a huge debt of gratitude to their Mom, Franka, who they would like to thank for her love, support and dedication in building their brand.

For more information about MESU 360 Project Gallery, visit mesu360.com..

MESU 360 PROJECT GALLERY
2428 Central Avenue, St. Petersburg, FL
727.827.2128 mesu360.com
HOURS: Tues-Sat 11-7pm; Closed Sundays.
Open Monday by appointment only.

MESU 360 Gear
ABOVE, RIGHT: Chímere Designs
in action in New York City.
Watchpiece jewelry by Samuel Carrington.
Geofran Carrington with assorted MESU360 designs in 2009.
MESU 360 JUNK COLLECTION
Chímere Designs Costume Wear .