The NBA dedicated its All-Star weekend to elevating HBCUs, and Florida A&M was one of many schools featured during last weekend’s festivities in Atlanta.
And one FAMU student stood out in particular. Elijah Rutland, a senior graphic design major, was featured as an artist during the NBA All-Star HBCU Student Showcase.
Rutland participated in the “Beats Black Creator” program. During this opportunity, he developed custom Studio3 beat headphones.
“I wanted to create a Black history design that did not feel like it was for Black History Month,” Rutland said during an interview with NBA star Zion Williamson.
Williamson entered the NBA All-Star game wearing the custom headphones designed by Rutland.
“It was a very surreal feeling. Seeing players I grew up watching wearing my work and also appreciating the effort and message behind my work was one of the best feelings that I’ve ever felt,” Rutland said.
Rutland is a multi-talented artist. He customizes shoes and sells FAMU apparel.
“The main things that inspire my creativity are my life experiences and things that I enjoy. It could be family experiences, anime, manga, cartoons, sports, etc. I use those various experiences to express different ideas and messages,” Rutland said.
Rutland is dedicated and he believes hard work is a key to his success.
“The main thing I took away is that there are really no limits to what I can accomplish. Seeing my work on such a major stage was a huge reassurance that I can really do whatever I put my mind to and so much more,” he said.
Rutland hopes that his Black history design will inspire others to use their talents for a bigger cause.
“My experience with the NBA also taught me that I need to think bigger when it comes to the goals I want to accomplish. Working with the NBA and Beats in this capacity is something I never even thought about but it is something I was able to do and do well so moving forward I’ll be making sure to intentionally think big,” Rutland said.
“Immediately after graduation I plan to start working at Warner Brothers animation as a background painter while also continuing my work as a freelance artist, illustrator and designer. My ultimate goal is to be a full-time independent visual artist and to continue doing projects on or past the level of what I recently did with the NBA/Beats by Dre,” Rutland said.
His custom designed headphones will soon be available for purchase.