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Art Leadership Program a win-win-win

Corporate sponsors have long played an integral role in the development and dissemination of art and culture. OST USA, an IT company with a 125-employee office in the North Loop's TractorWorks Building, is further advancing corporate sponsorship.

As the highest-profile partner of the Art Leadership Program (ALP), an ongoing collaboration that provides emerging artists with resources, guidance, and access to markets, OST supplies studio space (ArtLab 111) near the building’s loading dock for the dozen or so artists-in-residence it has already sponsored (usually for three to six months), and a lobby gallery (Gallery One) that regularly hosts exhibitions and openings for ALP’s participants.

“OST is the quintessential corporate partner,” says Ron Ridgeway, ALP’s founder and chief visionary, who launched the partnership. Ridgeway is also a mixed-media artist and corporate branding consultant. “We maintain a meaningful venue [for our artists], as well as curatorial services and placement… as exhibitions are becoming an art form in themselves. These days, it’s all about the experience.”

One ALP alumni launched from the program into high-profile commissions. In early 2012, local artist Elizabeth Simonson displayed her “systems-based” installations at BMW of Minnetonka’s Gallery One—an off-site ALP exhibition space. That same year, she built on a commission for the Walker Art Center’s lobby with a $25,000 fellowship grant from the McKnight Foundation.

Simonson “set the benchmark for our program,” says Ridgeway, but there’s nothing stopping future ALP participants and residents from notching their own victories. Ridgeway describes ALP’s corporate sponsorship model as a classic win-win-win: Artists get funding and market exposure, corporations get the positive PR that accompanies art patronage, and business districts or neighborhoods gain valuable physical assets.

“What’s been most beneficial [about working with ALP] is just getting our work out there,” says Twin Cities artist Booka B (aka Adam Booker), a recent graduate of Metropolitan State University who is showing new work with Lindsay Splichal, a recent graduate of the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, beginning March 6 in Gallery One. But creating art is just one piece of the puzzle, he adds: “You also have to connect with the community.”

Traditionally, companies that invested in art curated permanent collections that would eventually “gather dust,” as Ridgeway puts it. The rotating installations or exhibitions put on by ALP’s visiting or resident artists, in contrast, feel like organic additions to offices, building lobbies, and other public spaces, he adds.

ALP has also hosted an exhibition at International Market Square and is currently working with potential tenants of Nicollet Avenue’s 9’s on the Mall. “We hope to build a sustainable model for this type of partnership,” Ridgeway says.

Sources: Ron Ridgeway, Art Leadership Program; Adam Booker
Writer: Brian Martucci
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