You might say Margo Spellman leads a double life—or triple or quintuple lives.
Her energy, persistence, logical mind, artistic temperament, vast network of friends, and wide-ranging interests fill her days with marketing meetings, sessions in her studio, family occasions, volunteer work on behalf of breast cancer awareness/cure and Whim W’Him, art workshops at her old grade school, plus myriad other activities.
As a child Margo wanted to be an artist, but a familial tradition of careers in business, politics and public service nipped that idea in the bud. “You’ll never make a living as an artist,” she was told. At the Catholic school she attended there was no art, or science either for that matter. While she was growing up, “you’re so creative” was a pejorative remark (like saying an ugly face is “interesting,” I imagine). So she learned the 3 Rs very well and went on to earn a Bachelor’s degree in English, as well as a Master’s in Public Administration from the University of Washington. After graduation, Margo took a “real world” job as the first marketing director at SeaTac Airport and “travelled around the world, negotiating with men about airports.”
But something felt wrong. Some crucial element was missing from her life. She started hand-building with clay and attended adult ed classes. “In the basement of Mrs. Bullitt’s house,” she took an oil painting class, something she had never tried before. “And I was awful,” Margo recalls with a shudder and a smile. Yet she kept at it. “The more art I did, the more I had to speak the truth. It gets you into trouble. It becomes a problem.”
Then came a week long course in abstract painting on Whidbey Island, where the students experimented with media and techniques, using sealed and unsealed canvas, paper folding, trying out different textures, even working blindfolded. The course was a revelation, and a trial. Margo had awful performance anxiety. “It was ugly—and so cool.” In her life, the leitmotif had always been “You never fail.” She was used to achieving, to getting straight A grades, to exceeding expectations. To venture into art, especially raw, non-decorative art, was to risk failure and pursue seriously what she’d been raised to discount. A terrifying leap into the unknown.
“Art is about truth, not beauty,” said Kandinsky, one of her great influences. And Margo’s art has courageously moved away from conventional beauty, toward “ugly, disturbing, dark, burning truths.” Perhaps it has to do relinquishing control, allowing dark stuff in and being willing to take chances. But surely it’s also a way of taking control, no longer living just to please others but being driven from within. “I do this for myself,” she says, “and to work through issues. You like it or not.” And others do like it. Margo is represented by the Monserrat Gallery in New York, and her work is now much sought after in the Northwest. https://www.margospellman.com
Time passed in Margo’s multi-faceted life. She quit her job and took another, as Assistant Director of Public Affairs for the Port of Seattle. Some years later, she quit that job too, tugged away by the arts. It was in her next position, as Marketing Director for Pacific Northwest Ballet, that she met Whim W’Him artistic director and choreographer, Olivier Wevers, when he was a principal dancer there. “I love dance,” she says, “because there are no words.” Like her art. And dance entered her work in a series of abstract paintings that had their source in the ballet.
After Margo left PNB in 2003, her sister Kat suggested that they go into business together. Now they jointly run The Spellman Company, “a boutique lifestyle marketing firm.” Chatting about the mission of their company, Margo talked about authenticity and finding the unique essence of a brand. I was intrigued. Marketing had always rather seemed to me a way to dress up what you had, to make it likeable to others who might want to buy it or contribute money. But for Margo, it’s the other way around. Their firm views publicity as “part art and part science, hinging on creating a unique identity that distinguishes the product in the eyes of the buyer and media.” An apt setting for this complex and gifted woman to bring together what she’s knows professionally as a publicist and what’s she’s learned as an artist.
Along with art and marketing, Margo’s familial heritage of community service is well-integrated into her life. She lavishes her professional talents on Whim W’Him, both in the form of a marvelously explosive piece of art for tonight’s auction/dance party* and as board member and chief architect of the company’s marketing strategy.
*For tickets to Out On A Whim #4, go to https://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/280828 – Secret Whimmer Password: Coquette