May has thought a lot about art.
It's part of what you do with art. Think about it. Look at
it. Think about it.
You think about the art itself, sure. But you might think,
too, about where the art came from. The life of the person who created it. And that's
where May's interest lies.
He sees art, particularly culturally distinctive art, as a
means to start conversations -- conversations about our differences and our similarities.
``Large companies,'' May, 37, says, ``they're promoting
diversity. Is there a way to do that with art?''
May isn't just some sort of Johnny Appleseed of good will.
He's also looking to make a buck. He's come up with a twist on an old business plan. He
installs temporary art exhibits in the hallways of high tech, but his exhibits feature
ethnic art and cultural narratives.
The business is May's latest stop on a search for
meaningful work. Through the go-go 1990s, he worked in the marketing departments of
Silicon Valley's high-tech companies.
``I enjoyed what I was doing in high tech,'' he says, ``but
at a certain point, you feel like you're part of a machine.''
In 1997, he moved to Israel, where he was born, and went to
work for a start-up. He liked the idea of returning to his homeland. He hoped it would
bring more meaning to his work and life.
``I kind of realized it's still the same kind of high-tech
work and craziness.''
So, he thought about what he really wanted to do. He'd
always loved art. Not so much doing art, but looking at it and learning about it. He'd
become especially intrigued by the cultural richness of some pieces while vacationing in
Then one sweltering day in his Tel Aviv apartment, it hit
him: He could try to bring to high-tech campuses the same fascination with other cultures
that he'd found through art.
``My friends said, `It sounds so crazy.' It's either going
to work, or it's just going to fall apart in the first three months.''
May went to work contacting artists and galleries to line
up a supply of work. He pitched his idea to big high-tech firms and landed a small
handful. In 1999, he moved to a Victorian two-flat he co-owns in San Francisco. He set up
home and office there.
It's been almost three years and Amit May Fine Arts hasn't
fallen apart yet. Yes, business is slow in the downturn. But he's been helped by outright
sales of some pieces to businesses and individuals.
May says he's paying the bills. And maybe more important,
he isn't looking back.