Reiko Tate ’94 knows how executives and artists think. She’s been both – she is both – and she applies that expertise to her work as an events manager, specializing in bringing cultural experiences to corporations.
“Starting a business, it’s almost like creating a painting. You make modifications to a color; you make modifications to business,” Tate said. “That’s why I think art is such a good tool for helping people because it’s very similar. You start off with a vision and it may or may not end up that way.”
Tate grew up as the “artsy one” in a family of accountants. Her parents didn’t stifle her creativity; rather, they indulged her passion, buying her art supplies and taking her to museums.
While she once imagined herself as an artist on the streets of Paris, when it came time to declare a college major, she heeded her parents’ advice — she studied economics and art at Spelman College.
Her aspiration shifted to business, but she found that she ultimately wanted a career that “focused less on numbers and offered more flexibility, more excitement.” Consulting turned out to be the right move.
“I always had this idea of using art as a means of training people, as a means to succeed in business,” Tate said. “With how fast things move, the value of making sure the whole team can deal with changes in the market, and all the different things that come with business, doing art, creating art, is a way to exercise getting comfortable with changes and being more confident.”
So in 2009, after working a corporate job and selling pieces at art festivals on the side, she left her job to focus on art full time. Her first concept, Fun + Art + Wine, launched in 2009, just as the paint and sip industry was taking off.
One of her early challenges with Fun + Art + Wine was making her offering unique. Rather than present a completed painting for clients to copy, Tate started with a blank canvas.
“I made the decision that I wasn’t going to compete on price but (rather) on experience,” she said. “It’s more of a creativity class than an art class, so people understood you’re not just going to come in and paint something — you won’t paint the same thing.”
Clients were apprehensive at first, but Tate encouraged them to lift the paint brush and realize their vision.
“There’s nobody in the years I did it that came back and said it would have much easier (to copy a painting),” she said. “Once they got over the initial hesitation — being responsible for creating something…they had fun with highs and lows and they learned a lot too.”
After six years of hosting Fun + Art + Wine parties, Tate transitioned to connecting cultural organizations with corporations to design artistic team-building events.
Tate continues to produce her own art, professionally and personally. Her recent work features neon flowers and expressive women with wire limbs and yarn afros.
As a businesswoman, she knows what sells, but she is also inspired by the challenge of producing new art.
“I like to create things that are different, and trying to figure out ways to make them more different,” Tate said. “That part of the creative process, that idea of asking ‘How can I make it different? How can I make it better?’ ”
Her fondest memories of the arts at St. Andrew’s are at the wheel, where she sculpted clay into what have become timeless pieces.
“I’ll go to a friend’s house and I’ll see something and say, ‘Oh that’s really pretty,’ and I’ll flip it over and see my signature and realize, ‘Oh, I made that! I made that in high school,’ ” Tate said. “It still looks like it could have come out the kiln the other day.”