(614) guests cover artists
By Travis HoewischerPublished May 1, 2013
The chalk lined up nicely for us this time.
When we approached Jeni Britton Bauer about appearing on this year’s blackboard ColumBEST cover, she excitedly suggested that we work with “this great pizza shop in Olde Town East,” called Yellow Brick Pizza.
We were even more excited to tell her we already had them on board.
Hiring Bobby Silver, co-owner of Yellow Brick and author of some of the most hyper-realistic chalk portraits we’d ever seen – like an animated Matt Foley hawking their “Olive in Van” pizza, or Lambchop’s Shari Lewis promoting their lamb pie – was a crucial piece in our front page puzzle.
Little did we know that he’d bring along with him a few extra crew members, artists/employees Clint Davidson and Paul Giovis, who exceeded the expectations of our initial concept with a giant mural on the wall of our office, in all its 8-foot-by-9-foot glory.
Soft-spoken and mellow in the finest sense of the word, Silver described himself as “not the typical business owner.”
That’s an understatement.
A CCAD graduate, he used to be an art handler for the Wexner Center and Columbus Museum of Art. He was once an Americorps educator. He did artwork for platinum artists Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’s album The Heist and continues to be a commission portrait artist.
He plays bass with Brainbow, Psandwich, Blueprint and Nick Tolford and Co.
He once drove Justin Bieber around. (no bullsh*t).
“I’m an artist, and I don’t claim to be anything other than that,” he said. “My business partner, Faith, is brilliant with the business stuff. She handles that. I’m just doing what I know how to do. I understand people, environment and the function of art. We need art to create warmth and presence in an otherwise sterile environment, and our employees need to be appreciated as individuals and understand how to communicate positively with our patrons and each other.” These are all contributing factors to what Silver refers to as “the vibe.”
And by virtue of Silver just “doing what he knows how to do,” Yellow Brick has become far more than just a pizza shop. They purchased more than $5,000 worth of local art to adorn their walls last year, and often hold art auctions in-house for entities like Roy G Biv’s Emerging Artist Series.
And when a local editor comes calling for magazine cover commissions, he contracts out talented employees like Davidson and Giovis. In short, he’s a business owner that also doubles as a headhunter for opportunities for many of his artistic employees.
“Art is the pivot point for Yellow Brick Pizza,” Silver said. “We support local art, we have it hanging on our walls, even craft beer, it’s an art, and we support all these artists, basically, that travel around with their brewery and name. We’re like an [art] hub.”
Silver, an Akron native, has been immersed in portraiture since his childhood. His brother taught him to draw, and in third grade, he started creating “fairly realistic” pencil portraits – of his stuffed animals. It wasn’t until taking ownership of the shop that he picked up the chalk, an outgrowth of his desire to put his own stamp on the brand and create an innovating way to market the shop’s specialty artisanal pies.
“We usually pick some cultural reference points to market our specialty pies that we put on our chalkboard,” Silver said. “Sometimes a literary reference, other times an art history reference or it could be a pop culture reference like our favorite SNL character. Either way, something thoughtful or insightful to help pique our interest and the patrons.”
A resident of Olde Town East since 1996 (he used to do laundry in the space that now houses Yellow Brick), Silver is not only proud to turn their corner of Oak and Franklin – now home to Angry Baker and The Tavern as well – into a business hub, but to change the paradigm for small businesses that employ large numbers of artists.
“Every single business owner I know has told me not to be friends with my employees, and though I respect all of them for what they do, it’s just not the way we run the business,” he said. “Having strong relationships has made it so that we can collaborate together in all aspects; we collaborate on the pizza, on how to market the pizza… it’s all based on creativity and working with each other.
“We’re trying to reach a cultural sustainability; we want to have a creative outlet, but still have a structural work environment.”
• 2000 CCAD graduate
• managed Blue Cube Art Gallery
• mural work: Ohio Birds, Peach District, Trains Across the Sea
• designed logos for Yellow Brick Pizza and Seventh Son Brewery
• co-owner, Yellow Brick Pizza
• 1999 CCAD graduate
• Americorps Member, “Children of the Future” arts outreach program
• did artwork for platinum artists Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’s Deluxe Edition of The Heist, as well as locals Main St. Gospel and Psandwich
• played in bands Mortimur, Brainbow, Psandwich, Nick Tolford & Co.; toured across U.S. and internationally as bass player for rapper Blueprint and Rhymesayers Entertainment
Instagram: @Paul Giovis
• 2012 CCAD graduate
• currently creating a clothing brand called Abnormal with Allies Craig Dransfield and a team of local artists
• also does screenprinting/murals/design, available at firstname.lastname@example.org
Yellow Brick Pizza is located at 892 Oak St. There will be a silent auction for artwork by Roy G Biv’s EAS Columbus on May 29th. For more information, visit www.yellowbrickpizza.com, or www.eascolumbus.tumblr.com.