By Isabel Thottam
Every year, Redwood Media Group’s LaunchPad Program selects two up-and-coming, unrepresented artists—one from San Diego and one from Miami—to exhibit their work at Art San Diego and Spectrum Miami respectively. The selected artists get an opportunity for which many young artists strive: to present their art at a site-specific exhibition.
Ann Berchtold, founder and executive director of Art San Diego, created the program in 2011. After Redwood Media Group bought her company, the LaunchPad Program expanded to Spectrum Miami, one of Redwood’s other contemporary art events. The program also has the potential to be included in future Redwood shows, such as Spectrum Indian Wells, which premieres this March, and July’s Art Santa Fe, Redwood’s latest acquisition. To date, the company has named seven artists as LaunchPad Artists.
In 2015, Redwood selected Brittany Segal and Renuka Adhav to be the sixth and seventh members of that prestigious group. Segal, 27, studied fine-art sculpture at the Academy of Art in San Francisco and has recently gained recognition for her small, detailed drawings. From abstract oil paintings to acrylic graphic works, Segal’s art includes purposeful and haunting illegible writings and intricate, small designs.
Adhav, 28, has an associate’s degree in radiography and a four-year certificate in nuclear medicine and is a practicing nuclear medicine technologist. In 2012, she took time off from her full-time job to pursue a bachelor of fine arts in painting from the Savannah College of Art and Design in Savannah, Georgia. After graduating, she moved to Miami for a job in nuclear medicine, but continues to paint and sell her work.
Selecting artists for the LaunchPad Program is based on a set of criteria, says Linda Mariano, managing director of marketing at Redwood Media Group. “We look for local artists in the communities of Miami and San Diego that are at a point in their careers where they are being recognized … in the media and have done a few local shows at galleries, museums, or private venues,” says Mariano. “They need to show a dedication and a commitment to becoming professional artists. Both Brittany and Renuka fit that profile.”
Part of the process for selecting the LaunchPad Artists is finding candidates and determining whether they would be good fits. Segal appeared on Berchtold’s radar, and, after finding out more about her work, Berchtold decided that Segal would be a great candidate for the program.
In Miami, Redwood works with Life Is Art, a nonprofit organization devoted to promoting and highlighting art in the Miami area. Life Is Art put out a call for applications for the LaunchPad Program, asking applicants to create profiles and submit their artwork. James Echols, co-founder and executive director of Life Is Art, and Redwood’s Mariano then reviewed the submissions and narrowed down the pool of more than 100 candidates to 10. They then selected one of those 10 as the artist who had the unique opportunity to paint live during the Miami show.
“What stood out [about] Renuka was the developed level of her work—the quality and the distinctive nature of it,” says Mariano. “The material she uses, the media, and her approach to creating a canvas are unique, and that is what drew us to selecting her.”
Benefits of the Program
The LaunchPad Program gives emerging artists the opportunity to gain a wealth of exposure. The program can be a catalyst for emerging talent—from those exhibiting at Art San Diego or Spectrum Miami to social-media coverage, press releases, and emails to a long list of collectors.
“We hope what happens is that they are already on the edge of becoming career artists,” says Mariano. “The artists we choose already understand the importance of being in a venue like Art San Diego or Spectrum Miami. Brittany had the opportunity to exhibit at the show, and Renuka was painting live during the show. This [ability to exhibit or paint at the show] maximizes the opportunity, and it’s a key benefit.”
Adhav recalls first learning about the LaunchPad Program through a friend and fellow artist who had exhibited at Spectrum. “I never thought I’d be able to get … into the show since I had just moved down from Atlanta,” says Adhav. “But my friend encouraged me to try it out and see what happened.”
Adhav describes her work as surreal, imperial landscapes. The South Florida community is more receptive to her contemporary work than Atlanta was, she says. “South Florida has more culture and diversity. There are people from all over the world who bring their art here, and people are more welcoming to their ‘crazy’ pieces,” Adhav explains. “[In Atlanta], they did not seem interested in collecting contemporary art.”
Adhav says that finding out that she won was a surreal experience, especially because it was her first show. She exhibited paintings from her series of surreal landscapes. She uses oil on some pieces but also enjoys working with nontraditional media, such as polyurethane wood stain.
“I like to experiment and see what happens when you mix these materials together,” Adhav says. “Sometimes, it takes time to work and see how it will look the following day. It’s a lot of layering and building up on the surface. When pouring things onto the surface, I’m exploring and building it up into something; I start to envision a landscape as I do this. It starts to resemble something, and I let the idea formulate as I paint.”
Adhav believes that the LaunchPad Program has had a tremendous impact on her career and that it has expanded her potential. “Being a part of this [program] gave me a confidence boost that I had not felt before,” she says. “It made me feel like my work is worthy of these shows and that I should keep trying. It helped me learn how to price my work, to be ready for any opportunity, and to be appreciative of everything.”
Though she has been painting since she was young, Segal entered the professional art field only about three and a half years ago. She credits her father, an architect, for encouraging her to engage in creative activity. After a few years of working full time in a more traditional job, Segal decided to go full-force with her art. “Since becoming a full-time artist, it has been a crazy, wild ride and I wouldn’t have it any other way,” she says.
Segal says her art is very emotional; she draws her inspiration from the people and interactions she has in her daily life. Segal uses these inspirations—from relationships and love interests to people she has met only briefly and those who are close to her—to fuel her work.
“I use a lot of texture in my work to evoke movement, which then evokes emotion,” she explains. “I paint with oils on canvas. All of my work is completely abstract. I find something very freeing about abstract art; it allows me to be perfectly and imperfectly me.”
Segal also has a pen series, which she calls her “love letters.” They are illegible to the viewer because she contorts the letters in each word so drastically that only she knows the meaning. The reader is then left with only the emotion that stemmed from the experience she wrote about. “My mind runs in all sorts of directions at times, and my pieces reflect that chaos in a very calming way. It is as if my paintings put to rest [my] internal chaos,” says Segal.
At Art San Diego, Segal showcased an assortment of her mini-pen series of ink-on-paper artwork. She also showed two of her large love letters on canvas: one softer and more whimsical and the other stronger and more defined. An abstract green and neutral oil painting hung at the back of her booth. This piece was from her Idaho series “The Detailed Terrain,” and she says it is one of her favorites. She also showcased an all-olive-green painting for which she used scraping techniques to provide texture.
Segal is currently working on several large commissions from private clients. She also has a few ideas for her next collection. She says that her time in the LaunchPad Program was unforgettable. “The LaunchPad Program was amazing. I met so many people over the course of the weekend and throughout the buildup to the event,” she explains. “I definitely found that it created a space for my art in the San Diego scene.”