Artist, Entrepreneur Creates Change with Tea
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Martin Shulze is artist and social entrepreneur who is working to make the world a better place with tea. The pu’er tea comes from the Yunnan Province in China and is sold by Misty Peak Teas.
But, we’re getting a little ahead of ourselves.
Martin explains his early career in the art world. “I started in 2004 by working at Sprueth Magers, one of the world’s leading contemporary art galleries. After running a commercial gallery, a non-profit art space and working at Germany’s most visited museums, I founded the art non-profit Public Delivery, in hopes of finding a new model on how art can be produced and shared.”
He’s working to connect more people to the art world, giving people direct access to art in their lives. “I’m trying to bridge the gap between everyday people and institutions by empowering individuals, groups and communities to take part in art projects and become artists themselves, as well as then showing these results in established institutions.”
The transition from commercial art to nonprofit was difficult, he says. “The biggest challenge to overcome was leaving the commercial (art) world and its stability and believing in my own vision.”
Another transition was in the offing, however.
“In 2013, I started supporting Dear Burma, a free school for Burmese migrants in Bangkok, Thailand. More than 30 volunteer teachers give free classes. I was very inspired to see that education is the only hope for the students for breaking a generational cycle of extreme poverty and their hunger to study and succeed. Often the students would work 16 hours a day, six days a week, and on their only free day come to attend the school,” he says.
It is clear that Martin loves his work there. “I’ve helped the school not only with finding all kinds of support but also by setting up classes such as a photography class (now taught by a well-known Burmese photographer). For an art project with the United Nations, World Vision, International Labor Organization and other NGOs I’ve interviewed about 50 students and every single one of them expressed the desire to go back to their home country and teach others, for free.”
He adds, “This work feels very valuable and often much more important than producing yet another exhibition.”
Now, we can talk about tea.
Martin explains the mission of Misty Peak tea, which he joined as co-owner in 2014. “It’s one of the very few tea companies that direct source from the farmer, paying them much more than any other tea company. I don’t like to communicate this publicly, but we pay about 35x more than Starbucks for example.”
Martin sees the business as fulfilling part of his personal mission to do good. “The tea business is really an extension of the urge to help people, both by helping the farmers as well as providing a very high quality product.”
“The tea farmers of the region that I work with (Yunnan, China), unlike winegrowers in France, don’t live in chateaus, but are often the first generation of becoming wealthy, building themselves and their community better houses, roads, schools, hospitals etc.,” he explains.
Martin says he’s not done innovating. “In the next months I’m opening two more companies: One will be selling Burmese tea and coffee, the other will offer eco tourism in Burma. I’m trying to connect the dots and build something that’s positive and has the potential to change the lives of people.”
On Thursday, July 7, 2016 at 4:00 Eastern, Martin will join me here for a live interview to talk about his remarkable career and his efforts to help people around the world. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.
More about Public Delivery:
Founded in Seoul in 2011, Public Delivery is an art non-profit that organizes both exhibition as well as public art projects. It seeks to reach individuals that generally do not visit museums or galleries, using art as a language that everybody should be able to use. While focusing on creating an alternative model to established organizations, institutions and companies operating in the same field, Public Delivery is completely self-funded and independent.
More about Misty Peak Teas:
Misty Peak Teas is a tea company that is dedicated to providing highest quality tea to the world. The tea is grown and processed by one family from trees planted in Yunnan Province, China before the advent of electricity, 200-500 years ago. Other companies may carry hundreds, or thousands of teas, while Misty Peak only direct sources a few selected teas.
Misty Peak Teas was founded in 2011 and quickly made waves throughout the tea world, rising to recognition when rated #1 Pu’er tea online out of over 5,000 Pu’er teas in 2014. Now the tea is available in hundreds of shops in the North America, Europe, Asia, and South America.
More about Dear Burma:
DEAR Burma is a non-profit and non-denominational school for migrant workers living and working in and around Bangkok, Thailand. It’s located in downtown Bangkok. It was established in 2002 and currently about 2,600 students attend the school each year.
Martin Shulze, courtesy of Public Delivery
Martin Schulze is a director of an art non-profit and social entrepreneur. He tries to bridge the gap between art institutions and communities, engage with responsible entrepreneurship and provide free education to the ultra-poor.
He started out in the contemporary art world by working at Sprüth Magers, Cologne, Germany where he facilitated projects for artists such as Andreas Gursky, Barbara Kruger, Rosemarie Trockel, Donald Judd, Cindy Sherman and others. After co-running both a commercial gallery and a non-profit art space in Germany for several years, he founded the art non-profit Public Delivery in 2011, focusing on art projects in public space, especially to interact with people who generally don’t encounter contemporary art. Up until now, Public Delivery has worked in 37 countries internationally. In 2013 he started helping out in the development of DEAR Burma, a free school for migrant workers in Bangkok, Thailand and in 2014 joined Misty Peak Teas, a tea company based in California that’s one of the few tea companies who direct-source their tea directly from the farmer.
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