Sandy Boss Febbo is one of the most dedicated, knowledgeable and savvy art buyers we know. She has worked on such clients as Harley Davidson Motorcycles, Porsche and Subaru. It is no wonder that she has headed up the Carmichael Lynch Art Production Department for the last ten years. Sandy has a very special way of protecting the creative process while managing client expectations and budgets. She is all about the end product but she doesn’t lose sight of what needs to happen (or not) along the way. She is truly a gift to her agency and any photographer that is fortunate enough to work with her.
I was so honored when Sandy agreed to be interviewed for our on going art buyer series; especially because I know how much she prefers highlighting the work rather than herself. Adding humble to her list of traits is not surprising. Thank you Sandy for sharing all that you did with us. And, thank you to Alison McCreery of POP Blog for helping make this interview possible.
What were your creative interests growing up?
I definitely had artistic influences growing up though it wasn’t until college when I took art history classes to satisfy course requirements that it clicked. I loved it and thought that the art people created to tell the story of their times was such a cool window into history. My Lit and Art History degree led me to an internship at the Minnesota State Arts Board, and then to the tour guide program at the Walker.
What roles have you held at Carmichael Lynch?
I spent my first couple of years at CL doing whatever random things needed to be done – sourcing clown costumes, tending ant farms, you name it. Guess that was a natural lead into Production. It was not at all an intentional path. I had been at the agency for maybe two weeks before I figured out what an Art Producer was and as soon as I figured that out – I knew that was it. After two years (and a steadfast raising of my hand for the opportunity) I transitioned to an Assistant Art Producer, climbed the ranks so to speak, and have now been leading the department for 10 years.
What did you “want to be when you grew up?” Are you surprised where you ended up?
A curator, so I guess in a way that kind of panned out!
While I didn’t even know what an Art Producer was when I first came to CL – I’m not at all surprised I ended up here. I’m just lucky my path led me in this direction because it’s a great fit. Artist sourcing is by far my favorite aspect of the job – I’m always looking. Photography, illustration, design, type, it’s endless and I love it all. I have hungry eyes and there is so much wonderful work out there that is really inspired, and inspiring. Any project that affords an opportunity for a deep dive and gives me a reason to chase a specific genre, region, etc.. is a good day. I’m truly curating and it’s a blast.
Recently I had cause to dig into the Philadelphia art scene. An impressive trove of talent. It was so much fun. I invited Jenny (Art Producer at CL) to join in when she had a slow afternoon. We kept sharing our finds with each other and other co-workers. Happy eyes! I’ve often lamented that I don’t have enough days or projects to work with all the artists I admire. Jenny shares that lament and started a blog to put her wish list out there just to celebrate and share great work. If you’ve not seen it, check it out.
I think I could probably teach the mechanics of production to anyone that is organized and possesses an attention to detail and follow through. But a creative eye, and appetite, those are innate. Anytime I do presentations on “this is what an Art Producer does” I always show an image I shot of an expansive rocky beach filled with thousands of the best skipping stones. It may be a tired analogy but the intent is to represent that possessing the interest to turn over every single one of them because you never know where you’re going to find something wondrous– that’s the magic.
What was that first moment of inspiration when you knew you would work in a creative position?
It was inevitable. I’m curious, I have a short attention span, and yet am amazingly patient. So the fact that each day is different and yet I have some projects that run months long – it’s a good balance.
When I think now of the number of shows museum curators get to organize, Art Production is much more my speed. Tripping into adland was definitely a good thing.
You studied art. What is your relationship to photographers who are also artists?
I think there is more of a grey area between these worlds than many people do. I respect people who can do both commercial and fine art and not feel they are sacrificing one for the other.
How do you not compromise creativity while finding a workable budget?
You don’t have to – there is always a way, somehow. It’s my job to get the creative produced and to partner with artists that will help us get there.
One thing people reading this would find surprising about you?
I don’t like to talk about myself. Another thing – I love to brew beer. I thank my husband for that. It’s really fun. It’s as much science as it is craft. The process is detailed yet super creative and it smells delicious the whole way through from when you’re steeping the malt to the fermentation process when the yeast is doing its thing. And it is totally worth the wait. It’s that tangible reward. It’s why I’m a Producer. You have something to show for your work and it has a story behind it. With beer, you hold a pint in your hand. I’m totally hooked, I grow my own hops.
If you weren’t an art buyer/producer/consultant, what would you do?
I’ve had a permaculture coach this summer and am learning how it’s different from traditional gardening. Outside the world of visual arts, local food, organics and sustainability are what I’m really into.
How do you keep the same level of inspiration you had when you started your job?
Because every day there is more to see and do. I learn something with every production – every new job big or small offers something. If I wasn’t still learning and growing I would be off to the next thing. But amazingly it continues.
What one word describes your working style? Is it different than when you first started?
Tenacious. Nope, just more experience to draw from which is pretty awesome.
How do you describe your job to your mother or someone not in our industry?
I make things happen. I’m fortunate to get to work with some great teams which makes it easier, and more fun, to make things happen.
Where do you look for inspiration? Stay inspired?
Everywhere I go. The street, blogs, social channels, galleries, festivals, concerts, nature, searching for periodicals, books, chef driven restaurants…
I don’t delineate between what inspires me at work and what inspires me in my personal life. They are distinctly different things, but what inspires me is universal.
Favorite blogs or recent show
Too many to name, so here’s one. I came across the brilliant Tumblr audio + visual several months ago and still love checking out the pairings they’re posting.
What do you think is important to do in your personal time to keep you inspired at work?
It’s a matter of being, personal time or work. It’s about keeping my eyes open and trying new things.
What do you love about your job?
The people I meet along the way. Everyone has such unique stories – it’s pretty great.
What about the industry/your job is exciting right now?
We get to make things. For fun. From our CL Collective, to in-house gallery installations, to our water tower projections, to an art contest with MCAD, to working with the Twin Cities stellar dusk to dawn art festival, Northern Spark, to our rooftop concert series, to our Client work. It’s a mash-up that keeps things interesting.
What has kept you at CL for 16 years?
All of the above. And that’s a lot. It’s significant to me to recognize that no matter where I go, there I am. It’s up to me to make the most of it. I’ve been fortunate to be at an agency where we often agree. Creatively and socially. CL is wind powered, our build-out was LEED qualified, and when I approached CL to see if we could be a CSA farm drop site so more people downtown could have access to a weekday pick-up they didn’t hesitate to say yes.
Even more, this Fall there is a proposed amendment in Minnesota to define marriage as between a man and a woman. CL came out opposing that which I really respect. I see this issue as a matter of civil rights and to have an agency willing to take a stand is incredible. It draws like-minded clients. Subaru is such a great example of that.
What at the moment do you see happening in the culture that you find inspiring or interesting?
A re-embracing of small scale, artisan, handcrafted beauty in art, food, fashion and more has been building for a while. It never went away, it just has a nice trajectory right now.
It’s been rewarding in recent years to watch this grow and to see people make a living by participating in it. Specific to food – our farmer’s markets and co-ops are off the charts. I love this and my husband is into it too. We have massive amounts of tomatoes and he was preserving them yesterday. We both like the cycle of things, and taking things start to finish. We’d rather have awesome tomatoes ten weeks a year than buy some shipped from elsewhere in the midst of winter that don’t have any flavor. It’s more special in season. Though I will relish our preserves in January!
If you could change one thing in the creative industry right now, what would that be?
I would encourage people to breathe. Things move so quickly that people are so focused on what’s next they miss what’s now. I move around a lot, but I work to focus on the moment. It’s amazing what you see when you do. I have an insatiable appetite but I experience what I’m doing. It’s a conscious effort to look up and around.
If you could tell photographers one thing, what would it be?
Shoot what truly inspires you. I always have found that personal work has more soul. It’s more interesting. The images are more successful when the photographer is connected to what they’re shooting. My best project commissions have resulted from tapping into that connection. Anytime I do portfolio reviews, I always ask to see personal work.
Do you have a favorite photo of yourself that you are willing to share? Can you tell us about it?
I have an on-going series of self-portrait shadow shots that I send to my husband when I’m out on location. Most of them have some underlying humor from the day. Straight capture, low tech, low impact. My version of postcards home.
Favorite way to spend a Sunday?
Reading the NYT over a great breakfast and then riding bikes around Saint Paul and Minneapolis with my husband and friends, always with fun stops along the way.
Creative hobbies or practices?
Participate. Get involved. I’m still a tour guide at the Walker. That place, the people that shape it, and those that go – it is such a dynamic exchange. Any art center of their caliber that will also host an Internet Cat Video Film Festival – I’m in.
No, they really did. Google it. The Walker has a natural amphitheater space and it was inundated. Something like10,000 people showed up.
On your home office walls?
No office walls at home, that’s my thing, only at the agency and even those are partial. My agency walls hold a star I’ve had since my first day here, a few promos and cards of favorite artists and agents, a Post-it with my bicycle serial number, a great vinyl cover, a stellar example of origami and a couple of quotes, one partial. “…that I can’t wait to get to work in the morning.” and “Only when you know what you do, you can do what you want.” I don’t recall the source of either, they just resonated with me for personal reasons.