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Art + Business

Story by Dillon Mitchell and Maggie Wehri, Images by Karen Selva

There comes a special challenge by dual majoring in specializations housed by different colleges and Maggie Wehri is no exception. As a fourth year, Wehri has come to know 18 credit hour semesters well and is bringing two ostensibly different things into one complete package. While others may find the combination of art and business daunting, Wehri is pursuing her passions at full force.

Majoring in Art and Business, Wehri specializes in sculpture and “Sustainable Enterprise Management” (SEM) with a minor in entrepreneurship. SEM is a major she created through Fisher’s “Special Area” that focuses on the application of economics and sustainability. “Sustainability is the future of business. It’s a necessary part of any organization to succeed in today’s market with growing regulation and climate change awareness,” says Wehri. “No one’s talking about the bottom line anymore, rather, the triple bottom line: people, planet and profit.”

Composing this major was no easy task and was accomplished with the help of Dr. Neil Drobny, faculty leader of Ohio State’s Economy, Environment, Development and Sustainability (EEDS) major. “At the time we talked about her pursuing an EEDS major with a business minor or do a Fisher major with a EEDS minor. However, neither of those options gave her the focus she was looking for. I helped convince Fisher to let Maggie create her dual major.”

Wehri’s combination of interests is much more than just setting herself apart from the crowd. She refers to artists as makers and businesspeople as thinkers; by merging the two, Wehri is tapping into her own skill of creative problem solving. “Art is so much more than just application,” Wehri says. “You’re not just doing techniques, it’s a lot of conceptual work. If you’re really willing to investigate meaning and ask the questions that challenge something, you hold the opportunity to expand your mind in a really powerful way.”

Wehri takes this analytical and conceptual side of art and applies it to practical, real-world business ideas. Wehri has been part of the collaborative effort in creating RecycleNow, a mobile application that analyzes the costs and benefits of increasing recycling rates for municipalities. Wehri’s two-year experience and success of this project has landed the team in a year-long graduate level course that examines RecycleNow from a potential commercialization standpoint. “We ask questions like, does this app actually meet the customer’s problem? It’s going back to these basic elements and identifying a value proposition around the app’s commercialiabilty.”

Not every student can say they helped create an app in their college career and Wehri’s originality doesn’t stop there. This fall, Wehri has been selected to participate in 2 art exhibitions hosted at regional and national levels through the Whitdel Arts Gallery in Detroit, MI and Main Street Arts in Clifton Heights, NY. “I’m really proud that others are finding value in the work that I do,” states Wehri. “My piece, Multiples, is the reason I selected sculpture as my discipline. This work utilizes an everyday material like safety pins, fastened by its natural properties in a really beautiful way.”

Body of Article ImageWehri’s duality is one of the greatest struggles she has faced throughout her college career. Although she’s never received pushback from departments, Wehri says, “they’ll accept students dual majoring in two different colleges, but they don’t encourage it enough. I’ve been pushing myself to really create this formal connection to show the university that there’s a lot of value in cross collaboration; especially in my instance, art and business, two fields that are on the surface very different.”

After 3 years of laying down the foundation, Wehri is out to establish the intersection of her two worlds. This semester, Wehri features her artwork on select TV monitors in the Fisher campus. “The image I created explores the relation between art and business and comes from a very conceptual sense. What is art? What is business? So I brought it back to the basis of ideas. In fact, all fields are ideas, they’re just applied differently,” states Wehri.

Todd Slaughter, the head of the sculpture program in the art department, oversees Wehri’s cross-collaborative movement. “Everyone is doing a combination of things,” Slaughter says. “If you go and just be an artist, or you go and just be a business person, you won’t end up doing something terribly interesting. That’s just the way of the world.” Slaughter advocates there’s an increase in the number of art students with other interests and upper administration is attempting to get department entities to talk and formally collaborate.

Wehri’s originality looks to create awareness around the student ability to cross-collaborate. “When I talk to my peers and they ask what I’m doing, a typical response is that [they] had no idea that you could even do that,” states Wehri. As a pioneer, Wehri is planting seeds for the university, “she’s a little bit ahead of her time, with the confluence of her two interests, but that’s okay because you need leaders.” states Drobny. “I think this will set an example for other students who want to pursue combinations of fields.”

“I created a lot of great experiences that have been overwhelmingly rewarding and were by no means easy to tackle. A lot of people think that when they struggle, that something is too hard and they can’t do it,” states Wehri. “But if you push through and you’re willing or able to see the outcome, regardless of whether you’re completely satisfied with the outcome, the experience is invaluable.”

The meeting of Wehri’s sustainability economics and creative problem solving isn’t just about fulfilling degree requirements; it is satisfying a true need in the world. “I read an article in Fast Company Magazine and a similar article in the Harvard Business Review that effectively says the world is looking for individuals with all kinds of training from the arts: artists, filmmakers, musicians and so many others,” Wehri says. “Research shows that these individuals are more adaptable, resourceful and can quickly learn and apply new skills to a variety of challenges. Artists aren’t just dreamers or rebels. They’re builders, project managers, communications specialists; they have the mind of an inventor and the heart of an explorer. It’s not a bad set of talents in a world faced with uncertainty and change.”

In Wehri’s mind, her combination of art and business lives up to the ideals that the university preaches: one student, one faculty, one university. “I honestly never thought that I would be this thoughtful about anything a few years ago,” Wehri states. “It makes me so excited to think that in reality, my first few steps in the collaborative arena are only just the beginning.”

*Check out Maggie’s artwork featured on Fisher campus TVs

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