Image Contributed by Shabazz-Norris

The Soular Lab is the online inventory of Arial Robinson, with a heavy emphasis on “soul” because, for Robinson, to be Black is to be soulful, soul-filled and soular.

Amidst a modern-day Black Renaissance, N.C. A&T alumna and multidisciplinary artist, Arial Robinson stands as a world-changing, convention-bending force.

In 2020, she created a digital artistic experiment station rooted in the principles of exploration, documentation and reflection.

For Robinson, the “Soular” in Soular Lab is a direct embodiment of her own cosmic power as an artist — the ability to channel creative forces and manipulate different mediums to construct a unified solar system of art with herself as the radiant source.

The “Laboratory” complements Robinson’s celestial Soular power, representing the online space’s purpose as an artistic experimentation driven by science-like intentionality behind each piece. Unbound by the constraints of a traditional canvas, the Soular Lab uses digital media to structure Robinson’s unique “Arial view” of the creative process.

Since 2020, the Soular Lab has evolved into a multifaceted entity, an artistic experiment station where Robinson forges her art pieces and an art blog documenting her creative journey, while also serving as a space for Black creatives to learn, collaborate and find inspiration.

“It started off as just like this digital portfolio where I was just documenting different projects I was trying out, but since then it’s developed into what I like to call a community where I share my inspirations. I talk to people about my experiences because a lot of times like creatives, they just don’t know what they don’t know. Like, if they don’t know that this camera can achieve this quality, it’s hard for them to go to get those tools and do the same thing. So, I just wanted to kind of break that barrier in between like a finished product and an idea so that people understand that process,” Robinson said.

Robinson’s Soular Lab captures the fullness of Black life by blending soul, art and cosmic consciousness – making groundbreaking artistic achievements in the process. The lab documents her trailblazing work, from creating imaginative unofficial Nike campaigns in 2020 to being selected to design an official Nike Dunk Low for her HBCU in 2022; making her the youngest of only four Black women to receive such an honor.

Long before founding the Soular Lab Robinson took inspiration from another genre-defying renaissance artist, Beyoncé.

“I always had a fascination with the arts ever since I was little, like before I can even remember. When people would ask me, what do I want to be when I grow up? I always wanted to be Beyoncé because I thought Beyoncé was a profession. One of the girls from my church would babysit and turn on Beyoncé music videos and tell me this needs to be vacuumed by the end of this music video. So, I was really exposed to music and performance at an early age. I also grew up in the church, so I would do praise, dance and be in the choir.”

Although she may not have grown up to be Queen Bey herself, Robinson embodies the artistic spirit Beyoncé expressed in 2018: “I like to be free. I’m not alive unless I am creating something.”

Since childhood, Robinson’s vitality has been found in her creativity. After graduating high school, she enrolled in North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University where she was met with a vibrant environment of Black joy and creativity. Even as the COVID-19 Pandemic emerged, quarantining did little to extinguish her creative spirit. In fact, it gave her the space to pursue her artistry.

“I knew that going into college, I didn’t want to play sports, I wanted to focus on more art, arts-related things and really tapping into my creativity. I went to North Carolina A&T and from there I really was able to connect with people who liked music, fashion and creative things. I really started to put a lot of energy into my creative bodies of work beyond just creating cool things for Instagram. In 2020, when the pandemic happened, it was the first time that I was at home and I didn’t have anything to do… it was the first time where I really got to sit down with my thoughts and just create. Since then, I’ve been able to really show people that I have an interest in the arts in that’s what I create within,” Robinson said.

In 2020, Robinson also took her first trip to New York City. The bustling energy and artful nature of the city tapped into Robinson’s cosmic consciousness, imbuing her with a new sense of creative possibility that inspired her to rebrand her creative portfolio.

“In New York, I feel like there’s always a hustle and bustle that makes me want to get up and do something. So, following that trip, I knew that going into 2021 I wanted to redo my digital portfolio…In quarantine, I learned a lot about Black arts and the 70s, specifically about how that decade was so transformative for Black people. Black people were really centering themselves and their experience, and one word that continually popped up was soul. I noticed how being black and the word soul were synonymous in the 70s,” Robinson said.

Since 2020, Robinson has curated Soular World a Black-centered “everything” mini-magazine, designed the NBA G League’s Greensboro Swarm game jersey, and even authored and published “The Modern Day Black Alphabet.” Robinson’s artistry is boundary-breaking, avant-garde and represents a new version of what an artist can be – everything and more.

On March 28, Robinson will host a Making Space Workshop here at NC State titled, “Explore, Document, Reflect: Leveraging Experiences For The Creative Process.”

When referring to the Soular Lab’s community impact, Robinson said, “I feel like that’s really what my talk is about, just opening up the process to people so that don’t feel fear when it comes to executing their projects. I want Soular Lab to have more like in-person interactions where I get to meet people, where people can ask me questions, where there can be an open dialogue, and then also to just keep documenting the projects that I’m working on, I want to put out more physical bodies of work, things that people can interact with. So like more books and physical paintings, pins and clothing and things where people can like physically say, I was a part of this laboratory/movement, and it helped me to branch off and do my own thing.”