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Art and Architecture | Interview with CEO of MG2 Mitch Smith

June 12, 2017

Our CEO explains why he's been a big supporter of the art community, finding commonalities and incorporating art into MG2 and the architectural world.

Mitch Smith, CEO of the Seattle-based architectural firm, MG2 has been with the company since the very beginning, when there were just 18 people at the firm, calling it the true formation of his career.

“I have had the opportunity and experience to grow with the business at MG2, learning, opening my eyes to many things along the way, and stumbling. It has been a long journey but I am excited about where we are now.? In terms of my career, what got me into this was a little more family oriented. My dad was a landscape architect, my sister got a degree in interior architecture and my Mom painted a lot. That experience informed what my passions and interests are today.”

Mitch Smith CEO MG2

Mitch has always been a big supporter of the art community, finding commonalities and incorporating art into MG2 and the architectural world as much as he can.

“Architecture is a form of art. When I was growing up, a real influence for me was the art on the wall, produced by my parents and paintings that my dad created in school. There was a real mystery around him because I didn’t know him back then when he was exploring his creative side. There was always kind of a wonderment around that; from seeing his artistic expression to knowing what his subject was. For me, it was important, those early memories. I was just a child. My path kind of started there; then we travelled. We travelled a lot, growing up in the Northwest. It was all just opening up my mind. When I went university, my focus was on architecture, with a minor in Art history. I continue to explore even today. It’s all connected; pursuing and exploring things that could open up your mind to different points of view and different possibilities.? Art is just phenomenal for that.”

Mitch Smith CEO MG2 | Early Memories of Dad’s Paintings

Inspiration comes more fluidly for Mitch, and with his exposure and role with the Bellevue Arts Museum (he is on the board of directors), he is actually able to get the story from the artists and find out the reasoning behind their artwork.

“The story has a huge impact to me on what I see and feel from the piece. When you go to a museum and see art in a static form it can be compelling, but when you hear the artist speak about their work and what their own inspiration and visions were, that’s like ‘wow.’ There’s a whole other complexity and depth to it. I really respect what they do.”

“It’s so much more personal; seeing it through their eyes and hearing their story is compelling. Being involved in the museum gives me more opportunity to hear those stories and get to know the people behind it.”

For MG2, the key focus lies within the consumer experience, the markets and their clients, allowing them to be involved in everything from retail to hospitality and other commercial markets.

“It’s all about creating a unique and memorable experience. Sometimes architecture is not a vehicle for that. Architects can get wrapped up around the object and not translate it well to the people or the person experiencing the building. The fascinating part about architecture is its grand three-dimensionality. It’s just amazing. I love being able to translate that into an individual experience in a way that is memorable, which takes a lot of different forms. It depends on what the expectation is of our client to what kind of experience they want to convey relative to their brand and to their customer.”

Tommy Bahama | Coconut Point

“It keeps us broad-minded, in not bringing an assumption to what that aesthetic needs to be. We do that in all of our work and to embrace the notion of creating transformative experiences in everything we do: that’s our motivation. ”

When focusing on the challenging aspects of Mitch’s career at MG2, he notes that there is a constant balancing act between the business side and the creative side.

“The fascinating thing about architecture is that balance between the business side that you have to set boundaries and expectations, you have to have certain metrics, you have to be successful financially in order to afford yourself all the luxuries of freedom or creativity. Balancing those two, and they do inform one another, is a constant challenge. You’re inspired by the creative direction but you have to translate it into value to the business – and the client obviously as well. It’s a constant challenge, but I enjoy it too. Every new opportunity is like a puzzle you have to sort out.”

MG2 has a large berth of long term clients that they have been able to shape and help involve in the architectural field. Mitch notes that the key is to get aligned with their clients and truly understand their needs.

Tommy Bahama | Disney Springs

“We really understand what our client’s business is, not as designers or architects, but as their business partners. Really connecting with that and giving them insights and foresight with our expertise helps the success of their business. It creates a real partnership because they are evolving too and constantly making adjustments on what they need us to do to be more successful.? It’s being with them in that dialogue and really being proactive on their behalf that has a huge impact on the whole dynamics of that relationship.”

Being such a supporter of art and having the personal, familial connection with it, Mitch notes that the biggest evolution he has seen is the inclusivity of the art industry.

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