Art school experience helps grad launch new business venture

Anyone who still believes going to art school is a whimsical flight of fancy that serves little practical purpose with few chances of landing a remunerative occupation should meet Gordon Frendo.

A graduate of UWindsor’s fine arts program, Frendo (MFA 2007) is the creative director of his own media agency and a living affirmation of the notion that artists needn’t starve to keep their integrity intact.

“I think that’s an antiquated idea,” Frendo said in a phone interview from his Mississauga office. “I really see conceptual art as a very important aspect of what I do. I’m able to communicate using a fairly sophisticated visual language. This is an important aspect of what I do for my clients and how I work with my creative team.”

Frendo launched his new venture, a marketing agency called Bridging Media which he says expands upon existing paradigms of promotion and product knowledge, in 2010. Besides printing services and promotional items, his company offers design consultation to help clients bring their marketing concepts to life. Those clients run the gamut from realty companies and fashion designers to charities and art galleries, he said.

The company gives Frendo the opportunity to apply his visual arts background to the exciting field of brand development.

“Brand development is about creating identity and that starts with an idea,” he said. “It’s a lot like building an art project.”

Originally from Mississauga, Frendo studied fine art at Fanshawe College and then at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design in Halifax. While there, spoke with his professors about where to go to graduate school, and Windsor kept coming up.

“Windsor had this reputation for being experimental and for wanting their students to strive for something beyond what they were artistically comfortable with,” he said.

He began in sculpture, carving stone and then started working with aluminum, bronze, wood fabrication and other materials before moving into multi-media installations. The chance to work as a graduate assistant for professors Cyndra MacDowall, an artist photographer, and Sigi Torinus, a multi-media artist, were particularly useful experiences and he credits a course taught by Julie Sando on contemporary visual culture as being especially influential.

“I learned a lot about conceptual art and how media works within society,” he said of that course. “It taught me a lot about how the public perceives ideas through messages about products.”

Frendo always knew he wanted to be self-employed, so after graduation, he took several jobs including one as an account executive with the international logistics firm UPS, so he could “learn the vernacular” and understand how business works.

Now that his own business is up and running, he can look back at his time in art school and list the concrete, meaningful experiences he gained there that provided him with the skill sets to make his dream reality.

“It teaches you how to think critically and the ability to think critically has many different uses,” he said. “Marketing has become much more sophisticated and that’s because the general public is much more sophisticated. There’s just so much more room for creativity. That’s why having a conceptual fine arts background can help you.”