Art hangs in building lobbies, adorns hotel room walls, and even lines the corridors of hospitals, but where does the work come from? Who are the artists?
New art advisory firm Willa Prints is ready to add character to all sorts of spaces, from residences to office buildings and beyond, through a curated collection of high-quality art, much of it produced by local Columbus artists.
In an age where practically everyone is carrying around a quality camera in their pocket, “The design has to be Instagram-worthy,” says Co-Founder Jeffrey Michael. Gone are the days of mass-produced, generated digital images.
Willa Prints first began partnering with local interior designers for their artwork needs. The firm was instrumental in providing pieces for a designer during a recent exhibition at the Columbus Museum of Art featuring styled interiors – a first-of-its-kind installation. But as the group spoke with more interior designers, they encouraged the firm to think bigger – think commercial.
“We’ve built the relationships with these residential interior designers that helped us uncover this need for artwork,” Michael says.
While residential design has traditionally lent itself to more limited edition, local pieces, the paradigm shift has started hitting larger companies. Even entities like Super 8 Motels have pledged to use local artwork.
“Now we’re seeing just a swell of every new development asking for, just demanding local artwork,” says fellow Co-Founder Matthew Spitler. And at a time when Columbus is seeing a massive amount of development, Willa Prints has the ability to deliver on a large scale.
“We can fulfill a legitimate need,” Spitler says.
To bring in local artists, Willa Prints partnered with CCAD associate professor and artist Julie Abijanac.
“The amount of talent in Columbus is really unbelievable,” Michael says.
“Julie has been able to connect us with wonderful local artists,” Spitler adds.
Willa Prints curates pieces from artists like Maureen Elizabeth Clark and Kyle B. Duncan into their portfolio.
The firm aims to match the artwork needs of a spectrum of clients, from individual residences to corporate, hospitality, healthcare and real estate entities. Willa Prints will curate an assortment of artwork based on the needs and budget of a client, and be there through the entire process, from finalizing pieces to hanging them on the walls.
Michael says it took them almost a year to develop their supply chain. Sustainability and ethical manufacturing are important to the founders and they wanted partners that believed the same. Frames are individually hand-made in Italy, with Forest Stewardship Council certified wood by artisans making a living wage. Paper and mats are made from sustainable materials.
“Every step of the way let’s make sure that we’re not only working with the finest manufactures in world, but let’s look at their portfolio, make sure we are using the most sustainable, environmentally-friendly products that they offer,” Spitler says.
It’s not only the right thing to do, Spitler adds, but the clients appreciate it.
In addition to working with the Columbus Museum of Art, Willa Prints has worked with large entities like CCAD and individual business owners like James Moore of Small Business Owners of America. They have a project with The El Dorado Resort Playa del Carmen in Mexico on deck and are also forging relationships with local developers.
It’s not Michael and Spitler’s first foray into the art world. The two previously launched social enterprise LittleDaVinci, which used proceeds from custom products with children’s artwork on them to fund art education programs. At the time, e-commerce platforms were not as easily accessible, leaving the group to build the technology it needed from the ground up.
While the idea itself garnered much interest, the company was up for Business of the Year from the Ohio Art Education Association, Spitler and Michael ultimately decided they couldn’t continue putting costly dollars into developing technology that frequently had issues. Although bittersweet, they decided it was best to fail fast and keep moving.
“We need to develop something where we can run off an existing platform and the kind of modify it to fit our needs,” Spitler says. “What can we do where we don’t have to rely on trying to build a platform by ourselves?”
Michael says the core of their idea has always been to tell stories through artwork, and they have found a new way to do it through Willa Prints.
For more information visit, willaprints.com.