Trailblazers 2017: Chadwick Phillips

Chadwick Phillips // Photo by Elliot Malcolm

Chadwick Phillips // Photo by Elliot Malcolm

For many artists, making a name for themselves can be a challenge. Chadwick “Niles” Phillips, founder and CEO of The Avant Garde, is working to change that by putting a spotlight on up-and-coming artists in the Twin Cities.

Originally from Lansing, Michigan, Phillips grew up in a musical family and was inspired to go into the arts from a young age. After graduating from Michigan State University in 2006, Phillips took some time to pursue his own career in New York City, where he found success both as a hip-hop artist and in other capacities. He moved to Minnesota seven years ago, and founded The Avant Garde in 2014.

Inspired by the same principles as its namesake, The Avant Garde supports artists from all disciplines, but its focus is primarily on eclectic, neo-soul artists whose music is inspired by the traditions of African American culture. This past year, The Avant Garde won a $10,000 Artist Initiative grant from the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council (MRAC) to help put on a concert series that focuses on artists of color in the Twin Cities.

“I want people to walk away inspired,” says Phillips. “I want them to know and understand just how powerful music with a message can be when it’s performed live. I want them to know that the Twin Cities has some absolutely incredible, amazing artists that are on the rise.”

Phillips expects to release his debut album in 2018, and to continue producing Avant Garde events as well as working as a teacher of courses like “Hip-Hop History and the Arts” at schools across the area. “It’s a beautiful thing for me to be here,” he says, “and I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else in my career.”


Trailblazers are the people, ideas, businesses, and organizations doing necessary, important, and groundbreaking work in the realms of food, drink, and culture. See the rest of The Growler’s 2017 Trailblazers here.