After watching his artist Mother work different mediums over the years, Isaiah Mangum picked up the craft in his own unique way. A creator and thinker, Mangum is educating others through art and traveling by design. Mangum sits down with Travel Noire and shares the secret of living in Fairbanks, Alaska. He is an art curator, a coffee lover, a traveler, an educator and a family man. His biggest flex? He is an ambassador to the city and surrounding communities through his social club, Venue.
The Venue is a laid – back, creative space that is proud to be inclusive to all. In the mornings, the space is a coffee shop, art gallery, chill zone and a boutique store curated by over 40 different local artists. In the evenings, The Venue is home to intimate concerts, wine tastings, private parties and more.
Similar to LeBron James’ House Three Thirty, Mangum has recently added to his current space, creating an 8,000 square foot brick and mortar that will feature a new bar, lounge, concert and movie area.
TN: Is everything in the boutique curated with local artists?
IM: Yes. We try to represent through relationships. I know all of the artists here, we maintain relationships with each other. Some are very dear friends. Funny enough, these cards are all done by my Mother. She’s kind of gotten into this style, Vantangle. She’s been an artist my whole life. I learned through her growing up. I guess I got my creative side from her.
TN: There’s a gallery in the coffee shop as well that has a theme of… caribou?
I curate an annual show called, Educating through Art. Each year we have a theme that teaches people about different things through artwork. This year the theme is called, Art in the Arctic. Discovering the species of caribou through art. Our goal in celebrating caribou is for the public to become more aware of the significance of this wildlife species that can be found on three northern refuges based in Fairbanks: Arctic, Kanuti and Yukon Flats National Wildlife Refuges.
TN: What makes Fairbanks a great place to live?
IM: I think people don’t know what to expect when they come to Fairbanks. I think Alaska is so far away. I think it’s way more accessible than people think. This is home. We’ve got modern theater, music, art and coffee! They have the most amazing breweries, but I can drive five minutes and be in the middle of nowhere. To me, I’m like, shh, don’t tell everyone. Fairbanks is a hidden gem. I can wake up and get my modern amenities and have an international airport to boot. I think Fairbanks is pretty special. I am kind of biased though, I think.
I feel honored to live here. The caveat, I’d have to say is if I had to be here 365 maybe I’d be a little crazy. We all need to travel to get a bit of a perspective.
TN: Where is your favorite place to travel?
IM: Travel is a hobby, I like the entire journey. It is as much fun to me as the destination. Quality over quantity. I’d rather experience things than collect things. I do love travel. It was my birthday and I found this really epic mistake fare. So, for about 400 bucks all in, I stayed one night in LA, Tokyo, Bangkok, Singapore, Tokyo, LA and then Alaska. It was my favorite time ever. I got to just be in my head, listen to audiobooks. I was eating sushi one night and the next night I was eating Pad Thai. And I love that. Just get on an airplane and go and then come back. As much as I like going to the places I go, there’s still something about coming home. I feel like I’m always happy to come home.
TN: How did this space, Venue come to be?
IM: If you look at the name, Venue it is generic by design. If you look up ‘venue’ it is defined as the place where things happen. So, I wanted Venue to be, ‘Where Fairbanks happens.’ Come for a coffee in the morning and a chill vibe and come back in the evening for a concert or whatever. I want to design a space that can be anything, so there’s Venue.
In 2020, I had a full kitchen and a daily brunch. Now we have 3 staff members. I reduced the hours. The people we have are really solid, they’re family. I had to pivot, so Fairbanks Made, my apparel company, started. We’re trying to come out of the last two years of COVID. Everything we do here is intentional. Venue has a gallery showroom feel, but then there’s coffee and seating. Galleries are usually like, don’t touch, don’t eat or bring your drink in here. But, we say, no, interact with it. Touch it. For me, it’s just really cool to see community happening here.
People say they feel like they are in Seattle or Chicago when they come to Venue, and I like that. I put them together like the Avengers or something ya know? I am an ambassador of Fairbanks! This is an experience. I’m a steward. A diplomat. In a way, I want to always be building off of this. Everywhere you go there are people like us. We are a little off the beaten path and that’s cool.