That celebrity presence

Andy Warhol craved celebrity. In search of a fast track to that state of bliss he associated himself with the famous and the infamous.

Business sponsors take the same tack associating themselves with an exhibit at Nevada Museum of Art, "Andy Warhol's Dream America."

Warhol rubbed elbows with celebrities at New York's famed nightclub Studio 54 and signed his name to multi-image silk-screen prints of them Marilyn Monroe, Mick Jagger and Ho Chi Mihn.

Now Nevada State Bank, along with Navallier & Associates, Q&D Construction Company, Sierra Pacific Power, Nevada Arts Council and Reno Sparks Visitor and Convention Authority want to rub elbows with Andy. Sponsorships are the way they tap into the buzz that still follows Warhol decades after his death.

As the major sponsor, Nevada State Bank has opted to offer free admission tickets to the general public. They must be picked up at a bank branch on March 3 and used the same day.

"We did Andy Warhol because it has such broad appeal," says Nevada State Bank President and Chief Executive Officer Bill Martin. He likens it to a Muppets event the bank sponsored in Las Vegas 15 years ago, which was a huge success.

But he's not counting on tangible returns.

"Every time you do something with an expectation of return, you are disappointed," says Martin. "We're happy to have our name connected with the museum. You always hope people will have a warm feeling about you."

Q&D Construction sponsors a family program at the art museum next month at which people can create their own silk-screened portraits and bask in 15 minutes of fame. The company's private morning session is followed by an afternoon session for the general public.

"It's relevant because we're craftspeople," says Sheila Hlubucek, communications director at Q&D. "We feel that hands-on projects to do with families contribute to employee retention."

The company also wants to interest the children of present employees in the trade.

"It nurtures the kinds of things we appreciate as craftspeople. It's part of what interests people in getting into the building industry," Hlubucek says.

The Andy Warhol sponsorship is just part of an $8,000 corporate sponsorship from Q&D that brings the company limited use of the facility, reception perks and employee membership cards.

Corporate sponsor Navallier & Associates Inc., a money management firm, was drawn to its partnership by the people who attend exhibits at the art museum.

"You could say their clientele is the same as ours," says President Arjen Kuyper. "We believe in the museum's mission and what they've accomplished in bringing culture to the community. That connection helps to enhance our own image. It serves to burnish our brand."

Sierra Pacific Power Co. sponsored the Warhol exhibit's opening-night reception, at which attendees were encouraged to arrive in avant-garde attire acceptable at the trendy Studio 54 venue.

"Good corporate citizenship is a part of our culture," says Karen Ross, community relations manager. The power company's museum sponsorship is funded by shareholders, not ratepayers, she adds.

Nevada Museum of Art Deputy Director Amy Oppio says she approached Reno Sparks Convention & Visitors Authority after she saw how other cities milk famous artist exhibits as a tourist draw.

As media sponsor of the show, Reno Sparks Convention & Visitors Authority has advertised the exhibition and related hotel packages regionally in Sunset and VIA AAA magazines and on National Public Radio in the Sacramento market.

"We have aligned objectives," says Mary Ann McAuliffe, arts and culture manager. The agency also acted as liaison to Eldorado, Peppermill, Silver Legacy and Grand Sierra Resort, which are marketing hotel packages designed to bring visitors to Reno to see the exhibit.

Matching sponsors with exhibits is nothing new for museum staff. They arranged for Nevada Mining Association to sponsor a show of silver objects.

They're talking with the Reno Rodeo about becoming a membership sponsor (not a financial sponsor, since the group is a non-profit) for a show featuring Deborah Butterfield, a sculptor who celebrates the horse.

And potential sponsors abound for the autumn show featuring Yosemite.

"We want our sponsors to be proud they sponsored," says Oppio, "and to get something from sponsorship as well."


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