A Rejuvenating Trip to GOLDEN Artist Colors, a Beating Heart of Arts & Biz

Posted by Ms. Jordan Shue, Aug 25, 2016 0 comments

A few weeks ago, my colleague Emily Peck and I had the pleasure of representing Americans for the Arts on a visit to GOLDEN Artist Colors, a family operated company that manufactures paint and a bevy of other materials for professional painters and artists. GOLDEN received a BCA 10 award in 2012 for its exemplary support of the arts, and from the start it was clear that this was a company whose products and bottom line followed the passions and beliefs of their creators, Sam and Adele Golden.

GOLDEN was born out of Sam and Adele’s retirement in New Berlin, New York, and followed the simple dedication of “making tools for artists.” The company has grown since then, building up its facilities, opening an art gallery, and creating the Sam and Adele Golden Foundation, “conceived as a way to thank the community of artists for their support, encouragement and friendship,” which includes running an artist residency program nine months out of the year.

Sam, his wife Adele, son Mark and daughter-in-law Barbara Golden with partner Chuck Kelly.

Mark Golden, the inimitable CEO of GOLDEN, is clear that the success of his company is measured not only by its profits, but by its ability to connect artists to products that allow them to realize their creative visions. During a conversation in his painting-filled office, he told us that “artists fall in love with paint. That’s something that critics and historians don’t always acknowledge.”

That sentence really stuck with me, and it was reinforced time and again as we toured the facility and saw the pride with which the employees (GOLDEN is an employee-owned company) manufactured the paint. Emma Golden, program director of the Sam and Adele Golden Foundation, said, “We’re always linking artists with manufacturing. The origins of GOLDEN revolved around delivering paint to artist studios and having conversations about the products, how they worked, and how they didn’t. As a result, custom products became a core part of the business.”

The Paint Bar, where artists are welcomed to experiment with GOLDEN products.

In the manufacturing facility, the concept of “making” is everywhere. From the hand painted labels (seriously, every single stroke on every color chart and tube of paint is hand done) to the charts showcasing application methods, employees use GOLDEN products every day. GOLDEN encourages this involvement, engaging its employees in creative practice through access to the Sam and Adele Golden Gallery, which has shown exhibitions of employee work; Paint Day, which includes artist-led painting workshops with employees, staff art projects, community events, art talks and more; and engagement with the Foundation’s artists-in-residence, who spend time on the manufacturing floor to talk to employees and see how the paint is made, tested, and perfected.

After touring the manufacturing facility, Mark took us across the street to a renovated barn that houses the studios, offices, and living quarters of the Foundation’s artist-in-residency program. We were lucky enough to visit during the second annual GOLDEN Educators Residency, a partnership with the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers that awards three teachers the opportunity to create and experiment with GOLDEN products for two weeks.

A view of the residency at GOLDEN.

We had dinner with Mark, Emma, and Barbara Golden, as well as the three resident artists: Isaac AlaridPease of Media Arts Collaborative Charter School in Albuquerque, NM; Jessica Clark of Lumberton Senior High School in Lumberton, NC; and Bryan Wilson from Northwest School of the Arts in Charlotte. Over a delicious meal of pasta overlooking the fields beyond the barn, we talked about our own creative practices, New Mexico, honey bees and the paint they inspired at GOLDEN, and the alignment between Americans for the Arts’ goal of transforming America’s communities through the arts with GOLDEN’s vision to support and recognize the indispensable value that arts provide in all our lives. It was a perfect trip, and hardly felt like work at all.

A work in progress by resident Bryan Wilson.

I write this not simply to tell you the story of a family founded and operated paint company, but to try and convey to you how magical a place this really is, and how dedicated its leaders are to maintaining the heart and soul of their products and customers. GOLDEN goes beyond supporting the arts, believing in the arts, or even investing in the arts. To them, they wouldn’t exist without the arts, without the artists who use their products, and without the innovators who challenge them to create new products that test traditional methods of painting and artmaking. The gratitude it receives from making such important contributions to the lives of working artists drives GOLDEN.

In his office the day before, Mark pointed to two 4-inch binders on his bookshelf, labeled 2015-2016 Thank Yous from artists, colleagues, peers, and others working in creative fields. “That’s how I measure profitability,” he said with a smile. And I knew without a doubt that he meant every word of it.

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