Working towards an MBA is no easy task but the knowledge gained is already benefiting my approach to business and strategy. I am hoping this has a direct impact on expanding our market and offering creative solutions, that positively impact the arts, to new and untapped clients. – shares The Coloured Cube managing director Mariapaola McGurk
The Coloured Cube managing director Mariapaola McGurk, a Henley Africa MBA scholarship recipient, has won The Business and Arts South Africa (BASA) First Time Sponsor award for its Springs Mall project.
The award is presented to a business supporting the arts for the first time, regardless of size, budget, or whether it is CSI, marketing, HR, BEE or other. It is in recognition of The Coloured Cube’s partnership with property developer Flanagan and Gerard for the Springs Mall artwork project involving 55 artworks installed throughout the Springs Mall.
Business and Arts South Africa’s announcement of 44 finalists for the annual BASA Awards was especially significant this year as the ceremony celebrates two decades of business and arts partnerships in South Africa.
Ms McGurk said: “Three years ago The Coloured Cube was founded as a profit-based arts company with a strong and absolute belief that arts and culture add value to our society. These awards are testimony to this. Being acknowledged alongside our project partners, property development and investment company Gerard & Flanagan, is a great honour.”
Discussing her passion for arts Ms McGurk explained: “Nearly 20 years ago I left the small town of Springs determined never to return (very tricky as my parents still live there). I complained about the lack of art, the lack of opportunity and lack of creativity. Who would have thought that this incredible award would come from a project inspired by and implemented in that small town.”
“Growing up in Springs I experienced a love/hate relationship with the town. I loved my family and my friends, but I hated the complacency, the boredom and the lack of creativity that seemed to dominate most people’s existence – I wanted more. I wanted to meet movers and shakers, people who were pushing the boundaries and daring to take risk.”
“I didn’t want to have another braai, another drink or another dreary conversation. I believed this small town had nothing to offer a creative person – instead, that it inhibited growth and stumped dreams. So I left. I moved to the big city and mocked the small town I came from. I insulted Springs on social media, I told my parents over and over again to move out! I questioned why anyone would choose to stay there.”
“Yet it was in this small ‘backwards’ town where I received my first opportunity to have a solo exhibition in 2005. It was in this town that the local newspaper – The Advertiser – came and wrote an article on my art and my exhibition. The curator of Springs Art Gallery, Thabo Sekoaila, supported me, guided me and offered me warmth and conversation – something no gallery in Johannesburg had done for me. It was in Springs that at the age of 15 I realised I loved visual arts and started extra art classes. It was in this town that The Coloured Cube won its first major award in the BASA Awards 2017,” she explains.
In 2016 Ms McGurk was contacted to propose artworks for the new development of a mall in Springs. Her team brainstormed internally and offered the client 3 options:
- Photography highlighting the art deco buildings.
- Artworks made internally by myself using my technique of paper cutting.
- Artworks made by Ekurhuleni artists highlighting the talent of the municipality.
The client chose to go with all three options and the open call to artists and photographers was publicised. There was one rule: You had to either be an artist from Ekurhuleni or the work had to be inspired by Ekurhuleni. “We had hundreds of submissions and the top 55 works were chosen. A body of works highlighting the talent, people and places of Springs/Ekurhuleni is now on permanent display through corridors and offices of the Springs Mall,” she says.
The talented artists and photographers that are part of this collection include: Anelia Zimkhitha Mliswa, Babalwa Dhlamini, Katlego Modiri, Mpho Makhubo, Quaymberley Dudley, Sabelo Mabuza, Sean Mokhethi, Sizwe, Sibisi, Victor Mkhungo, Nico Phooko, Tlotlo Lobelo, Gail Scott Wilson, Mark Straw, East Rand Art Sharp Visual Art, Mbodlo Mbodlo, Nkosinathi Khumalo, Puleng Radebe, Siboniso Mbcube, Charne van der Merwe, Lethabo Motzeleng, Sicka, Apollo Heynes, Esau Dlamini, Nikita Mahlati, Potsiso Phasha and Mariapaola McGurk.
The project has the potential to be implemented with property developments throughout South Africa – acknowledging the context of the development and supporting the arts – not through sponsorship but rather through payment of services/products, where all parties benefit from the outcome. “This project continues to shine a positive light on the Springs Mall and its PR, the mall now has a permanent collection that may gain in value over time and it benefited artists from the area.”
“The arts offer something that nothing else can – they offer the human element – the connection to the people. It must be real. It must be sincere and it must be paid for. Gone are the days where artists must beg for cents. It is through forward thinking clients like Flanagan and Gerard, The D’Arrigos, MDS Architects and Marketing Concepts that this is evident. Clients who see the value of the arts and the value of paying for the arts,” she says.
“20 years on and my childish views of my home town have been challenged. It was in Springs that the boundaries were pushed, where movers and shakers were willing to take risks, where an opportunity was opened for the creative sector and dreams come true. One step back certainly has led to two steps forward.”
Jon Foster-Pedley, dean of Henley Africa, says that Ms McGurk is putting long hours into her MBA programme. “It is great to see our students receiving recognition for projects during their studies. Mariapaola has commented that she is already applying the MBA principles she is learning with success.”
Ms McGurk adds: “Working towards an MBA is no easy task but the knowledge gained is already benefiting my approach to business and strategy. I am hoping this has a direct impact on expanding our market and offering creative solutions, that positively impact the arts, to new and untapped clients.”