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A Creative Mixture of Art and Business


Andy Warhol, were he local and alive, might have offered one of his famous Campbell's soup cans. Georgia's Howard Finster might submit a canvas featuring a bottle of Coke.

For its Nov. 30 mixer, the Universal City-North Hollywood Chamber of Commerce asked local artists to produce paintings and other works on the theme, the Art of Business.

Locally, 17 artists answered the call, most of them East Valley residents. Karl Abramovic did a painting of a king pushing a hot-dog cart. Dan Wooster painted a construction worker, complete with hard hat, working on a railroad. Susan Krieg contributed a feminist variation on the famed Absolut vodka ads. Others did paintings, sculptures, photographs and works in mixed-media inspired by business ideas and icons.

The artwork will be on display and on sale at the mixer, an after-work party that is free (except for drinks) and open to the public.

As the chamber's Liza Standish explains: "chamber mixers are usually a time for swapping business cards and drumming up business." But incoming chamber president Joe Hooven proposed doing something different and more ambitious.

A former art student who collects work by local artists, Hooven had recently attended an art show whose theme was the Tarot at the Lankershim Arts Center. Why couldn't the chamber do something comparable, he wondered, in partnership with the NoHo Arts Union?

Why not indeed? The Union's Kenney McCulloch thought it was a terrific idea and offered to contact the artists. In operas, artists choose to starve in garrets rather than sully the creative process with commerce. But in real life, artists often have symbiotic relationships with businesses and are often businesspeople themselves. After all, Picasso didn't give it away.

"Artists have always had their patrons and they've almost always been businessmen," McCulloch says. "Big business and the church are our two biggest supporters historically."

Hooven agrees, citing such legendary tycoon-art patrons as J. Paul Getty and Norton Simon. Just as the Medicis supported Michelangelo and other Renaissance artists, Empire West Property Management and the mixer's other sponsors are supporting local artists, Hooven says. Any profit from the event will go to the Artists Union.

Artist McCulloch says he warmed to the theme, in part because of his own positive interactions with commercial enterprises in NoHo.

"I've had very good experiences with the local businesses, and I want to encourage that for other artists," he says. He and fellow painter Dover Abrams were recently commissioned by the Eclectic Cafe to do a mural, which now brightens an exterior wall in back of the North Hollywood restaurant.

McCulloch has done two paintings for the upcoming show--one depicting an office building, the other a multi-image portrait of eccentric billionaire Howard Hughes. Abrams' contributions include a painting whose central image is the little girl with a big umbrella who appears on the Morton salt container ("When it rains, it pours").

Some of the artists had trouble grasping the theme when McCulloch first gathered them together and explained it. "But the longer we thought about it, the easier it became," he says. Eventually all of them found a way to marry their styles to the art-of-business theme, even those whose work is abstract.

McCulloch and the other organizers hope guests will interact (they never used the awful term network) with the artists and businesspeople who attend. In fact, both groups have a lot in common. After all, doesn't creativity fuel new businesses as well as the making of art? And haven't art and commerce always been intertwined in the entertainment industry, which is the major employer in the area served by the chamber?

The organizers also hope those who attend will take home a painting or other artwork. McCulloch says the artists are doing their part to encourage that. "I asked them to price their work pretty low," says McCulloch, who hopes more people will be able to buy as a result.

The artists also contributed prints and an original work or two to be given out as door prizes, along with tickets to shows at nearby theaters.

"I think it's a wonderful opportunity," Hooven says. "We're going to have fine music, fine food and more. What we want to do after this year is make it a big annual event."

And, he promises, some of the art is fabulous.

The Art of Business mixer will be held from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday at the Lankershim Arts Center, 5108 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood. Admission is free. RSVP by calling the Chamber of Commerce at (818) 508-5155.

Spotlight appears every Friday. Patricia Ward Biederman can be reached at

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