Q&A: the founders of Culture Corps

Below, Furthermore talked to Force Villareal and Remen about their professional paths, the process of building projects, and their health and wellness routines.  

What’s your background in the art world?

Yvonne Force Villareal: After Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), in the early 1990s, I was working in galleries in New York City. It was an amazing time to be in the art industry, because it was like a blank slate—there wasn’t such a strong market as there is now. In 1995, I decided I wanted to start an art advisory, as I’d been helping people buy art. Doreen ended up having twin girls and the architecture hours were so intense that she came and worked with me. The art advisory was interesting and I had great clients, but I wanted to be more creative and work with artists in an intimate manner to make something outside of the box happen. So, in 1998, we produced our first major art performance. It was with [Italian performance artist] Vanessa Beecroft at the Guggenheim. We asked her to create her dream performance, and it was incredible—1,500 people attended. The role of producer, then, was an unexplored niche in the art world. In 2000, Doreen and I co-founded the Art Production Fund. We produced some really historic public art works, including Prada Marfa and Seven Magic Mountains.

Why did you start Culture Corps?

YFV: We wanted to expand in this space of working as consultants within the private sector and to really understand what the idea of a cultural entrepreneur was. So, we started a boutique creative agency that bridges the worlds of fine art and corporate industry.

What’s the process like?

YFV: First, we meet with our clients to find out what their goals and desires are. We tailor-make individualized programs for them and match them up with artists that will help them achieve their vision and reach their audiences. Our main clients are in the hospitality and real estate industries and every project looks very different. At the end of the day, the common denominating element is that there is always a high level of quality and integrity. We never water down our projects—they are always created in the highest-level way with high-level artists that are appropriate for the venues.

Can you talk about the Hudson Yards projects?

YFV: Before Off The Wall (pictured above), the first one was about a year ago, as a prelude to the opening of The Shed. Because it was on Mother’s Day, we did something that was very accessible, but also refined, and invited Yoko Ono to do a Wish Tree [part of her ongoing art installation series.] Thousands of people came and wrote wishes on the tree. We also worked with the artist John Burgerman who created a mural that visitors helped to color.

Over the holiday season, we did art in the theme of the future being bright. We invited Paula Hayes, whose medium is living plants. She created stunning cone sculptures and installed pine trees in them. After, we donated the pieces to a school in the city so that the plants continued to live on. Bovey Lee did snowflake cutouts that were in shapes reminiscent of Chelsea. We made massive decals out of them and put them all through the lobby at 10 Hudson Yards. It was incredibly beautiful and a very different approach to the idea of holiday décor—it wasn’t décor, it was art.

What effect does social media have on this kind of art?

YFV: What it has brought is a beautiful community that lives digitally. It’s a place for people to share their experience and art and all the meaning that’s embedded in it.

With such a busy schedule, how do you stay grounded?

YFV: The first gym I was a member of was actually Equinox Flatiron in the late 1990s. I first practiced yoga there, and now I’m a full-fledged yogi. I’ve become obsessed with SoulCycle and I combine that with yoga.

DR: I meditate every morning for about 45 minutes and then do stretching and basic muscle-building exercises while listening to podcasts. For a special treat, I’ll join my daughters for a spin class.

What about wellness and nutrition?

YFV: I either go one extreme or the other as far as skincare, beauty, and makeup. I pretty much never wear makeup during the day, but when I go out at night I have a lot of fun and do the extreme. I’m very strict with my diet. I’ve been practicing intermittent fasting for many years and I’m mostly gluten-free.

DR: I drink plenty of water, at least one liter a day, and I am essentially vegan (although I do eat fish once a week).

YFV: My great pleasure, and where I put my time in, is practicing yoga and spending an hour of the day doing some kind of workout. It’s a necessity, and the days I don’t do it, I don’t feel like myself.

This interview has been edited for publication. Portraits by Lucas Michael.

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