“A nuh mi choose it. A it choose mi” a conversation with Jamaican ARTtivist Charles “Mark Phi” Smart


Charles “Mark Phi” Smart is an international Philanthropic ARTivist, creator and an ideology rooted in the belief that we all have the ability to create and make an impact on our world. Mark Phi demonstrates this through Art Philanthropy and Art Wealth Generation

First, he uses his art to create social change and help organizations to further their cause through the funds generated from his creations.

Second, he uses art as an asset class for wealth generation and store of value for art connoisseurs, enthusiasts, collectors, and investors, consciously preserving the value of his art and deliberate about appreciating its value over time.

Mark Phi established Mark Phi Creations as a social business enterprise that spreads the Mark Phi ideology and executes the “Impact Model” internationally, demonstrating to others that we can make an impact on the lives of others while benefiting. Through creation we make an impact.

Mark Phi was born in Jamaica with a rich Sierra Leone heritage where his great great grandfather Gombu Smart is a national hero and he currently lives in South Florida.

A nuh mi choose it. A it choose mi” a conversation with Jamaican ARTtivist Charles Mark Phi Smart

Tell us about your background, your connection to Jamaica?
“A kuntri bush mi cum fram”. Born at UWI and spent my early years in Pear Tree Grove, Richmond Hill, a small place in St. Mary close to the St. Catherine border. Moved to Sligoville where my mom ran the health center in the community and then to Kingston, Havendale, off border Avenue. Went to Spanish Town Primary school and stayed up to 4th at Jamaica College. I still remember 3D and 4 Science II. Left before my flowers… and CXC. I ran Track at Boys Champs in 1993 and discovered “mi did kinna faas” but immigrated to the USA the Monday after the championship. Here is the link for some nostalgia –

Do you remember when you realized that you wanted to be an artist? How did you become aware of your ambition?
“A nuh mi choose it. A it choose mi” I discovered I had artistic ability from a “Sip and Paint” event I attended in 2013. The teacher told me I had something and that I should pursue it. In 2014 I sent the 3rd painting I ever created to the Bob Marley Facebook account managers. The painting got almost 400K likes and over 30K shares. My mom followed up with encouragement that it was a gift I needed to use. Enter “Mark Phi”. See a picture of that painting here:

Are you a self-taught artist or do you have formal changes?
Unless you count the basic instructions from the Sip and Paint event, that’s the extent of my formal training. It’s exciting for to see what comes out when I get in front of a canvas.

What was your first painting? Do you still have this painting?
I’m a Leo, so I selected a lion to paint at the Sip and paint event. Gave it to my friend that I took to the event. It was her birthday. You can see it here.

What is your favorite medium and how does it influence your creativity?
Acrylic on canvas. Acrylic mainly because it’s what I started with and it dries faster than oil. I’ve experimented with sculptures and I love working with charcoal. Acrylic allows me to work quickly and layer so I can give depth to he pieces I want the viewer to get lost in the layers of paint and how they come together to create the subject.

What is the inspiration behind your paintings?
This varies. Inspiration comes my spiritual journey, things that are birth out of a burning desire within me and curiosity. However I am deliberate about creating positive images or images that inspire us towards our better selves. Impact love and beauty

A nuh mi choose it. A it choose mi” a conversation with Jamaican ARTtivist Charles Mark Phi Smart

Which of your paintings has given you the most gratification of your career?
Whoever wrote this question wasn’t being kind to me. I haven’t done that painting yet.

Which is your favorite piece and why?
I wake up and go to bed looking at “Sunrise Sunset Contentment”. This is one of those pieces birth out of my spiritual journey. It’s a fat Buddha sitting contently in the clouds with a big smile on his face and all his possessions on his person… which isn’t much It’s a constant reminder that “Wanting is suffering” and to “Receive and Accept”. See painting here:

You are described as an ARTtivist? Can you explain what that means to you?
This is new and old. The ideology behind Mark Phi is rooted in activism out of or through the art I create. It is summarized in the Mark Phi Creations tag line “create impact”. More recently however, that activism has been focused on social issues and ways to shift the hearts and minds of our society toward love and unit. ARTivism is activism through art so an ARTivist is the artist that creates art for activism.

In what ways do you feel NFT (non-fungible tokens) will affect the future of Art?
Every way. It will redefine / define new forms of art, how we collect it, how we own it, how we distribute it, how we showcase it, how we store and preserve it, how we sell and buy it, who has access, who collects and sells, what we pay, what we pay with and all the unknown possibilities. It’s a whole new landscape. Every way. I am a speaker at the Disruption Now Art & Equity Summit on April 22nd where we will be discussing NFT’s and it’s impact on the art world, how it works and how to make it work for you. See link

Tell us how the murder of George Floyd has impacted you, influenced your art and the docuseries you did on racism?
It was triggering. Anger. Frustration. Powerlessness. Helplessness. Hopelessness. Sadness. Moved to act. After watching the video it compelled me to take action using what was available to me and so I created a painting named “46 Pleas” depicting George Floyd’s last words while Derek Chauvin’s knee was on his neck, taking his life way. I had so many emotions after making the piece and decided to put them on camera in a 4 part docuseries entitled “Conflicted Coward” and for the first time put my face out to the public as an artist. I made a decision to be more deliberate about creating art that empowers the black community toward independence. The “46 Pleas” painting and “Conflicted Coward” docuseries are being institutionalized at the Ohio State University in the College of Education and Human Ecology and will be used as reference material in their curriculum for the Black Lives Matter movement and the social justice protest in 2020. On April 21 at 3:30 PM I will be speaking with the Dean about the “46 Pleas” body of work and art and activism.

What new projects are you working on?
Birth out of the Conflicted Coward docuseries about the George Floyd’s murder is the Jamaica Heroes Modernized project. With a super talented and accomplished team we’re producing a multi-dimensional body of work that will revisit the story of Jamaica’s National Heroes and propel their sacrifice and heroism unto the world stage. We are reviving and modernizing the portrayal of Jamaica’s National Heroes. We are transforming the dull black and white sketches and photos of our national heroes into fine art portraits. We are retelling their stories through a 10 episode docuseries from emancipation to independence. We are producing original Jamaican music and print collateral to distribute to schools in Jamaica for the next generation. With this project we are using the cultural pride of community to empower independence through Jamaica’s national legacy.

What do you do for fun?
Experience my daughter growing. I paint. I love to travel and experience new people, places and things. Mi luv a good party an mi luv dance…. And music is always around me. Is a vibe. Seeing what I envision materialize into reality is what makes me excited about living… especially if it makes a difference in other people’s lives.

What advice would you give a young artist just starting and wondering where to begin?
Create a lot.
Value your work and believe in yourself.
Make a plan and stick to it.
All the limits are in your mind and you have the power to change that.
Practically, seek out the people you want to connect with it.
The answer to the question you never ask is always no.
It’s easier when you’re working with others.
Read “Think and Grow Rich” once a year.

Mark Phi Links
– Mark Phi Website
– Mark Phi Instagram
– Mark Phi Facebook

Jamaica Heroes Modernized Project Links
Jamaica Heroes Modernized Project site
– Jamaica National Heroes Instagram
– Jamaica National Heroes Facebook

About the author

Xavier Murphy