Business as an artistic canvas

LAUREN HERTZLER / TTN
LAUREN HERTZLER / TTN

Uri Pierre Noel has never looked at a college degree as a means to get a job. In fact, at 21 years old, he’s already proven he can get a job, and a reputable one at that.

Rather, Pierre Noel said he’s a Temple student to fill the gaps in his own knowledge.

“Every day I learn something amazing,” he said.

Perhaps it’s Pierre Noel’s ongoing urge for learning – he’s a biochemistry and entrepreneurship and innovation dual major – that has helped him get to where he is today.

Pierre Noel, a New York-native, is executive director of James Oliver Gallery and by summer will be a co-owner. He is currently designing a new mobile application that simplifies the process of decorating a home with artwork and also is a co-founder and co-organizer of Arts Tech Philly, a Philadelphia meetup group. Among other odd jobs, like working with his favorite car service company Uber Philly, Pierre Noel still balances school, work and a new relationship to the best of his ability.

“Uri is intense and it seems like there are a million things going through his head at any one time, but he still knows exactly what needs to be done,” said Dana Shafer, an intern at James Oliver Gallery.

Shafer, a senior art history major, has worked with Pierre Noel at the arts gallery since August 2012. She said she “admires his dedication” and his “ability to get where he’s gotten at such a young age.”

“I think more young people should have his particular type of initiative,” she added.

Pierre Noel said he fell in love with the art world during his first job as a French translator at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. He became an intern at James Oliver Gallery after he graduated from Upper Darby High School – and his big promotion came after the gallery’s owner caught him writing a business plan in a back room. Pierre Noel excelled in Future Business Leaders of America competitions in high school, so he was ready when James Oliver asked him to solve a problem having to do with an event sales program.

“I wrote the business plan in about 48 hours,” Pierre Noel said. “I gave it to him, he read it and didn’t tell me what he thought about it for like three days. Then it was two or three days before my birthday, right before I turned 20, when he was like, ‘We should talk about promoting you.’ And then after my birthday he was like, ‘What do you think about taking over as executive director?’”

Although admittedly nervous because he knew he would have to learn how to shift from being an “ideas guy” to an “operational guy,” Pierre Noel said it was the best birthday present he’s ever received.

“I get to run a company,” he said.

But it wasn’t as easy for Pierre Noel, he said, when he wanted to start a Philadelphia branch of Arts Tech.

“About halfway through the process they got a little freaked out because they found out how old I was,” he said. “They were like, ‘Wait, you can’t even buy a beer, what are you doing?’”

Pierre Noel proved that he didn’t have to buy a beer to run a meetup group, as the Philadelphia branch is now in its ninth month since its inception – and growing.

Pierre Noel said he has an “artist’s approach” to almost everything he does. That’s why, when he’s asked if he’s an artist, he says, “I’m an artist and my canvas is business.”

“The businesses that I want to create are to be placeholders for jobs and to stimulate and grow markets in that sense,” he added.

A typical day for Pierre Noel starts at about 6 a.m. when he tends to more than 100 emails on his six separate accounts. On a regular basis, Pierre Noel is making deals for office supplies, contacting artists for events and discussing ideas with designers, artists and bloggers. He said he is currently dedicated to establishing the “best art gallery internship in Philadelphia,” and has a preference for Temple students.

“I need to find more Temple students to give me copies of their résumés,” he said. “As a Temple student, I would always want to give back…that’s just how it is.”

Although Pierre Noel’s schedule has restricted him to part-time school and online classes, he treats his education like another job to maintain discipline.

“I’ll start studying three to four hours before the class actually starts and study two to three hours afterward,” Pierre Noel said. “So I take it really seriously, like a job in a sense, where you clock in.”

He even has a laptop that he’s blocked all social media on, so he can stay focused, Pierre Noel said.

Pierre Noel said he will be hiring an assistant director in a few months. With his lightened workload, he said he plans to attend Temple full-time in the fall.

Pierre Noel describes Temple as a university where students are “part student, part hustler.”

“That’s just what it is, you know. You’ve got a company, but you’re still paying for school,” he said. “I don’t have any loans right now, which is mind-boggling, but at the same time I still gotta work hard…You’ll leave here with a degree, not worried like, ‘Ah, am I gonna get a job?’ because you’ve always been looking for a job since freshman year just to get through the day.

Lauren Hertzler can be reached at lauren.hertzler@temple.edu or on Twitter @laurenhertzler.

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