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Jax Daily Record Monday, Dec. 2, 201905:10 AM EST

Nelson Mullins and Jacksonville University: Partners in art

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Law firm leases collection from student artists.
by: Max Marbut Associate Editor

Visiting the offices of Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarbourough on the 41st floor at Bank of America Tower Downtown, you might get the impression you're in an art gallery instead of law firm.

That's because the space is filled with original art created by students and faculty members at Jacksonville University.

“We have a real variety of pieces from traditional to contemporary that really challenge the notion of traditional corporate art,” said Daniel Nunn, managing partner of the Jacksonville office.

“It's an opportunity for us to see things we wouldn't have thought to buy and it creates a fun place to work,” he said.

Based in Columbia, South Carolina, the business transactional and litigation firm has 25 offices in 11 states and Washington, D.C. Jacksonville is one of five offices that partner with local collegiate art programs.

In addition to the partnership with the Linda Berry Stein College of Fine Arts at JU, Nelson Mullins offices have arrangements with Marshall University in Huntington, West Virginia; Community College of Denver; Savannah College of Art and Design (Atlanta office); and the University of North Carolina Charlotte.

“We put out a call to artists. We put together a proposal and then Dan selects the objects,” said Lily Kuonen, associate professor of art and foundations coordinator at JU.

“It's a healthy competition and the students get real commercial art world experience,” she said.

The current collection comprises about 100 objects, including paintings, drawings, sculpture, ceramics, glass, digital art and mixed media.

On the business side of the partnership, Nelson Mullins leases the art collection that is juried each July and changed each August.

Kounen said the lease allows JU to support six exhibitions by nationally-known artists and designers each year at the Alexander Brest Gallery on the university's Arlington campus.

The financial support from the law firm also supports scholarships students obtain for their senior thesis projects, allowing them to pursue projects on a larger scale than they otherwise would have considered, she said.

Not all of the art is removed when the new collection is installed. In each of the past five years since the partnership began, attorneys at Nelson Mullins and some of their clients have purchased the students' art. Other pieces have been added to the firm's corporate collection.

“I'm sort of a minor collector and I like to collect local artists. When they switch them out, I always buy a piece,” Nunn said.

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