We at ArtistsNetwork would like to congratulate Robert Buchsbaum, CEO of Blick Art Materials, for receiving the Business Committee for the Arts (BCA) Leadership Award from Americans for the Arts.
Americans for the Arts is the nation’s leading non-profit organization for advancing the arts and arts education. The BCA Leadership Award recognizes individuals for their extraordinary vision, leadership, and commitment to supporting the arts and for encouraging other businesses to follow their lead.
From a recent press release:
Buchsbaum joined Blick Art Materials in 1996 and successfully restructured the company, helping turn Blick into the nation’s premier art supply source. In 2013, Blick absorbed Utrecht Art Supplies and now has 66 retail stores across the country. Over the past 15 years, under Buchsbaum’s leadership, Blick has made financial contributions of at least $475,000 a year to programs and organizations that support the arts and arts education.
Buchsbaum’s commitment to leadership is also shown through Blick’s support of the National Art Education Association, the Arts Action Fund—a 501(c)(4) non-profit organization affiliated with Americans for the Arts—and the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, as well as his personal board representation with the National Art Materials Trade Association and Marwen, a non-profit dedicated to educating and inspiring under-served young people through the visual arts.
The legacy of Buchsbaum’s leadership is connected to his grandfather, Robert Metzenberg, who bought the company from Dick Blick in 1948 and was instrumental in its post-World War II growth. Metzenberg’s dream was to see that every artist, art teacher, and sign painter had mail-order access to the tools of the trade.
“I am honored to be named BCA’s 2016 Leadership Award honoree, in recognition of Blick’s long history of advocating for and supporting the arts,” said Buchsbaum. “We look forward to continuing our support of the Arts Action Fund in creating opportunities for every American to participate in and appreciate the arts.”
“I congratulate Robert Buchsbaum, whose long history of dedication, forward-thinking leadership, and support for the arts has been unwavering,” says Robert L. Lynch, president and CEO of Americans for the Arts. “He truly believes in the power and benefits of the arts in everyday society.”
A Grandfather Who Loved Fine Brushes
An interview with Robert Buchsbaum, as seen in The Artist’s Magazine:
TAM: Your company started in 1911 with an actual Dick (and Grace) Blick in Galesburg, Illinois. It’s a third generation family business: can you tell us the story?
RB: The Blicks developed a specialized lettering pen called the Payzant and sourced fine squirrel-hair lettering brushes, eventually becoming a full-line supplier to the sign painting industry. Dick Blick also invented our catchy motto: “Dick Blick Ships Quick.” Blick had the advantage of being close to rail yards, and he promised to get your package on a mail car one day after he received your order. After World War II, my grandfather was tired of working for Sears in Chicago at the same time the Blicks were looking to retire. My grandfather borrowed money from his father and used his savings to buy out the Blicks. My grandfather thoroughly enjoyed art and loved cataloging the thousands of products necessary to satisfy the needs of the artist. Given his fluency in German and French and his merchandising background honed at Sears, he was capable of sourcing products from all over the globe, especially from Europe.
TAM: How has art education changed, from your perspective, in 100 years?
RB: Despite draconian cuts to funding, art remains an important piece to student development. I serve on the board of a Chicago area after-school fine art program that serves disadvantaged kids on a tuition-free basis. Our students have better than a 90% overall graduation rate from high school versus Chicago Public Schools at under 50%.
TAM: What is your sentimental favorite of the materials you sell and why?
RB: Blick Master Brushes: admittedly expensive but beautiful. My grandfather was famously fastidious about brushes—down to selecting the person that shaped them. He wouldn’t let them be photographed, drawn in the catalog or shipped with a hair out of place. It’s almost as if he didn’t realize that they were going to get dipped into paint, and even, solvents!
TAM: How important are artists themselves to your business?
RB: Our job is to ensure that artists are only limited by their imaginations and physical skills—not by their materials. We don’t exist without artists. Short of sending free supplies, we try to be wherever artists are and support them in every way we can. Currently we maintain some form of sponsorship relationship with several thousand art organizations around the country. We support local artists in the neighborhoods and college campuses of our 66 retail stores. One example is a program we launched called Art Room Aid.
TAM: When you look back 30 years (The Artist’s Magazine’s debut) or 100 years (your debut), what are you most proud of?
RB: Personally, I am most proud of providing a reliable, fair source of income that has supported a lot of families over a long period of time–I know my grandfather would have said the same thing.