At the Art of IT

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So what's a retired art professor doing with a studio in the basement of a hip, Indy IT firm?

Well, painting, of course.

The seed was planted when Kelly Pfledderer, founder and CEO of Apparatus, moved his operation to the old headquarters of WFYI at 1401 N. Meridian a few years ago. He invited his friend and former professor, artist Greg Huebner, to check out the new digs.

After seeing the bare walls, Huebner recalls, "It looked like a hospital, and I said, 'Kelly, you need some art.'" So he loaned Apparatus nine of his large paintings to hang in the public spaces for the big open house.

Pfledderer really liked the look they gave the new office, so he asked whether he could keep them on loan. Huebner replied, "If you give me access to them whenever I have a client over, that's all I need. You can keep them as long as you want."

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A year later at a birthday celebration at the Rathskeller for the artist, Pfledderer mentioned this space in the basement where WFYI had studios. The emeritus professor of art at Wabash College asked about high ceilings and natural light and then suggested that Apparatus needed an artist in residence.

"Kelly didn't bat an eye," Huebner says.

The result's a great marriage for both the proprietor and the artist. "I get a lovely studio to work in rent-free and three floors to put my paintings up on," says Huebner, "and Kelly gets 43 paintings throughout the building and loves it."

Huebner also has access to potential art buyers as Apparatus' clients meet in the building. If one painting sells, it's replaced with another from the studio.

At first, the software engineers and other employees greeted the studio space with hesitation. "They initially treated it like it was this chamber they couldn't enter," says Huebner. But after a while, some would stop in to watch the artist paint.

"We had one chap who was an Orr Fellow, and he would come in every two days and chat for at least 10 to 15 minutes," says Huebner. "He would get to the point where he'd say, 'Oh, I see you've reworked that upper right-hand side.' I would realize that he's digesting what I'm doing on a daily basis by coming in."

Some visitors will ask the abstract artist, "How do you know when you're done?" or say "God, I'm glad I work at the computer, because it would drive me nuts."

Huebner always listens to jazz when he works, as the music's improvisational style contributes to the flow of his paintings.

That love of jazz led him to set up a performance at Apparatus' HQ by Grammy-award-winning saxophonist Jeff Coffin during this year's Indy Jazz Fest. Huebner is on the board and thought a performance in an old studio that still has acoustic tiles might bring interesting new visitors into the company. Pfledderer immediately agreed.

"It comes down to Kelly's willingness to do anything to make this a better community," says Huebner

He hopes other local firms, both large and small, will consider housing an artist in residence. For Huebner and Apparatus, it's a fine fit of left and right brains.

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