The legendary Rod Stewart declared in 1971, "Every Picture Tells a Story." Forty-five years after that classic album was released, Worcester-area entrpreneur Linda Sbrogna couldn't agree more. Linda's love of art compelled her to make a career change in 2013, leaving behind her administrative job at UMass Medical School in Worcester to launch Sbrogna's Artistic Promotions. In her first-ever interview, Linda shares her experiences, her inspiration, and her beliefs about the positive impact art can have in the home and in the community.
Blackbird Design Studio:Linda, thank you for taking the time to talk today. For the benefit of readers who haven't met you, what was your background prior to launching your business?
Linda Sbrogna:I was always involved in the medical field. I started as an x-ray technician, and then worked with a doctor's office in the Worcester area when I had my children. I knew that I needed more education in order to move forward with my career, so I went back to school to get my bachelor's degree in health science and ended up in an administrative position at UMass Medical School.
Blackbird Design Studio: What inspired you to start Sbrogna's Artistic Promotions?
Linda Sbrogna: When I was working at UMass Medical School, I was asked to create an art gallery on the fifth floor of the school, and we spread the word to the doctors and other employees. We were overwhelmed with submissions and put together a wonderful gallery. It was at the reception for the completion of the gallery that a patient walked up to one of the pieces of artwork and said, "Whoever put this gallery together, I want to thank them for taking a few minutes of my pain away!" If you think about it for a moment, that statement is very powerful.
I was not expecting the intensity of his reaction to the gallery. As an artist myself -- by hobby -- that meant so much to me, that one painting could have such a positive effect. It provided more than just beauty on the wall; it provided relief, joy and inspiration for this person in his time of need.
Blackbird Design Studio: That's fantastic, Linda. You mentioned that you consider yourself an artist "by hobby". Do you have formal artistic training?
Linda Sbrogna: I took art classes after work at the Worcester Art Museum and had the opportunity to meet many professional artists. These artists had beautiful paintings in their studio, and I often thought that their "extra" paintings should be hanging up somewhere to inspire others. From there, the cornerstone of my business was created: to enhance opportunities for the creation of art by artists and then to enhance viewing opportunities to create moments of joy, peace and inspiration for people.
Blackbird Design Studio: You're like a matchmaker for artists!
Linda Sbrogna: That's a good way to put it. (laughs)
Blackbird Design Studio: Do you work strictly with painters and illustrators, or do you work with other types of visual artists as well?
Linda Sbrogna: I also work with photographers, as well as a sculptor in Pennsylvania. I'm hoping to grow the business, to have more options for artwork that could be placed in a home or business.
Blackbird Design Studio: If a designer were to come to you with a client who was in need of artwork for a space, what are some of the things you would take into consideration when trying to match that client to one of the artists you represent?
Linda Sbrogna: The first thing I ask is: what is the client trying to achieve; what is the tone of the room? I also try to match the personality of the artist and the client. For example, if a client is interested in outdoor activities, I'll look for an artist who enjoys camping.
Blackbird Design Studio: Can you share an example of how this approach worked successfully with a recent project?
Linda Sbrogna: I had a business client -- an HVAC company -- that wanted an abstract piece of artwork that illustrated the nature of the client's work. This particular client liked outdoor activities, and I felt that one of my artists who shared those interests would be a good fit. The client asked the artist if he could incorporate the company's logo and aspects of the business into this abstract work. The artist was able to do this very effectively, and the project was a success for the artist and for the client.
Blackbird Design Studio: So you would say that on the commercial side as well as the residential side, art is very instrumental in setting a mood, promoting an idea or sending a message?
Linda Sbrogna: Yes, I do, and I think that when people look at artwork, it should tell the viewer a story about the person or about the surroundings. People connect to art for personal reasons. When artwork connects people to their past, or creates new ideas or new stories, the moment becomes an experience for them and for others.
Blackbird Design Studio: Have you ever had the reverse happen, where someone has been inspired by a piece of art and designed a space around the artwork?
Linda Sbrogna: We actually did, with a company in Worcester. The client wanted to use abstract paintings with a lot of blue, because he felt that blue was very calming. He wanted his customers to feel relaxed when they came to his office. He designed his entire office space around the artwork. The artwork went up first, and everything else followed.
Instead of being left for last, artwork can be most effective if it's chosen first to help convey a message or a theme for the space and make that message stronger.
Blackbird Design Studio: That's a great point. A concern for some with using art is the cost, because art is seen as an investment. Collectors are willing to spend millions on a piece of art, but not everyone has bottomless pockets. Is it fair to say that there is art out there that's accessible for everyone, regardless of their budget?
Linda Sbrogna: I would say yes, because you can always start off small. You don't have to start with a very large piece. If you meet an artist that you can relate to and you like their artwork, you can always ask the artist if a print is available. A lot of artists also have options for payment that make it more affordable. I would recommend that if you want to start getting into art or working with local artists, you can start with one small piece, or with prints.
Blackbird Design Studio: That's an excellent idea!
Linda Sbrogna: Thank you very much for asking me! I actually got connected with the Worcester Regional Airport through the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce. I would like to thank the Chamber for supporting my efforts and for setting up my initial meeting with the airport. I was asked to create art displays every month inside the airport terminal. Having the ability to display my artists' work is really a wonderful opportunity for my artists and for the people who have the chance to view the artwork. We've being doing the displays at the airport for about a year and a half, and they've been very well received by the travelers and employees. We do themed displays, usually tied in with major holidays or any special events the airport is having. It's a nice challenge to put together a display, to make it inspiring but also stay with the theme.
For example, we also promote a harpist, Rebecca Swett, who played at the airport during the holidays. It brought a lot of peace and calm and joy to the airport while people were waiting for their flights. Music and art really bring a calming atmosphere to the listeners and viewers.
Blackbird Design Studio: It sounds like a lot of hard work, but the payoff is no doubt very rewarding!
For those who may not have occasion to visit the airport in Worcester, how can people find you online to learn more about what you do and about the artists you promote?