Conclusion of a two-part interview
Last week, the MSR connected with Twin Cities’ icon Robyne Robinson on making history as the first person of color inducted into the MN Broadcasting Hall of Fame and walking between two worlds as a television media personality. Here we chat with the history-maker on the next chapter of her colorful career.
MSR: Last week, we talked about the struggle of working to be the voice of multiple communities while also fighting to have your own voice in both the newsroom and the community at large. What is it like to reflect on that journey?
Robyne Robinson: It’s nice to be able to share that [experience] with other people and say, “You need to really look at the direction of where you’re heading [and] your focus.” It’s nice to be able to sit back and talk about these things from the perspective of what I have done in media versus what I have done in politics. I’d like to be involved more…in different ways as opposed to being out front.
MSR: If you were to return to television, what would that look like for you?
RR: Hmm, good question. I don’t know, maybe a much more global perspective than what I’m known for. But global, in part, because I got to spend about eight years outside of the U.S., just being in Greece, living there and meeting people.
And, it’s a very humbling thing when you get outside of the U.S. to see that there are many people that have patterned their fight on what [Black Americans have] done here 50 years ago, and it makes you realize that we can’t afford to lose that respect in the world and we can’t afford to lose hope.
We have so much to offer people of color around the world, and the world is based on many of the things that we create. I think maybe that’s something I would want to explore more.
MSR: Design seems to be a major theme in your life now. You’ve got your boutique jewelry line and you served as consulting arts director for the Minneapolis/St. Paul’s Airport Foundation for a few years.
RR: At the airport, you know, the whole goal there was also to give back [and] to make sure that the Minnesota arts community has a major voice in what’s happening and that it can be seen and it can be celebrated nationally, internationally. We have so much to offer, and Minnesotans are very humble, don’t always talk about their sh*t.
Well, why not? I’m from Chicago; we talk about everything! Let’s stop doing that “Oh shucks, gee whiz” thing and really just be recognized for the bounty of talent that’s here. So I enjoyed it, but I’m enjoying much more being out on my own.
MSR: What is that life like on your own? What’s next?
RR: FiveXfive — my public art consulting firm. It is basically working with corporations, hotels, nonprofits to really brand their own identity within the community.
MSR: Branding through art? What does that mean for a business?
RR: It’s not enough to just build a sculpture somewhere, anywhere, and say, yeah, that’s public art from us. People want to know who you are in the community and how [those businesses] fit into their lives. Art is the greatest communicator there is to let people know how you feel about a community and what’s your investment in it.
This is a big thing that’s really talked about in terms of being disruptive influencers — a disruptive influencer is really stopping an old way of thinking. [We’re] introducing new ways of thinking to corporations so that they can be a part of the community and really feed back into it.
MSR: What does your day-to-day work look like?
RR: Well, I am in the business of art. I may not be able to weld or paint, but I get excited about the plans of it and getting the artists involved and going back to people… and selling them on the idea of it. We make it happen for people who have the talent and the means, but don’t know about how to put it all together.
MSR: What does your day-to-day work look like? What projects are you currently working on?
RR: Piggybacking off what I’m doing with the airport, MSP is trying to create a people’s airport, whether they’re flying or not, to be a part of the energy and the dynamism [of the Twin Cities]. I’ve got five art projects with [them]. One of the projects I am working on is building an art park that will be installed at Terminal — the main campus driveway.
I am also working on three new murals, one with the amazing Greta McClain and Candida Gonzalez [of Goodspace Murals]. They are the top muralists in the Twin Cities today. They have murals everywhere and are starting to go all across the country. And, then I’m working on the new Silver Ramp installation with Steve Ozone. So, we’ve got these amazing artists that are going to be going into these installations.
Then, I’m working with the Mariott at Elliot Park that is opening up [this week] in Downtown Minneapolis and I’m working on updating the design at Funky Grits. I am also working as a liaison between the Minnesota Museum of American Art and [artist] Chris Mars.
MSR: You’ve also launched a new blog that coincides with the consulting.
RR: It’s all about design — everything from like the Obama library and music and film and everything Black. Yes, people of color design!
MSR: Wow, that’s a lot!
RR: Yes, but I don’t ever feel like I’m working hard enough! And, I just got appointed to the State Capitol Art Exhibition Committee for the next four years. We pick all the art that goes into the capitol and rotating exhibitions.
MSR: How do all of these new ventures tie into our original conversations about supporting communities of color and being that voice?
RR: At the end of the day, it’s really about exploring where are we all in this diaspora? Where are our journeys and how are they similar and how are they colorful and flavorful, and what are we offering to the world, and what is this going to be for the 21st Century? What is our design on this template?
For more information on Robyne Robinson and her latest ventures, visit fivexfiveart.com.
Stephenetta Harmon is a Black beauty editor, curator, and digital media and communications expert who builds platforms to celebrate the power, impact, and business of Black beauty. She is the former EIC for Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder (2018-19) and current host of MSR Forefront, a digital roundtable series. She is the founder of Sadiaa Black Beauty Guide, the premier directory dedicated to Black-owned hair and beauty businesses. Find her at stephenetta.com.