Success: Jude Smith-Whitman

Jude Smith '90

Jude Smith has been immersed in the art business since she graduated from Mount Mercy in 1990. After working with CornerHouse Gallery in Cedar Rapids for five years, her entrepreneurial spirit pushed her to branch off on her own. Now, Smith owns art2uinc. where she designs and chooses original art for homes and businesses of high-profile clients.

If you’ve ever been to Leonardo DiCaprio’s home, Michael Phelps’ villa or—more likely—St. Luke’s Orthopedics, you may have seen her work.

 “I love the creating side of art, and I love my clients. I design a piece of art and have an artist create it, or sometimes I’ll find the perfect piece. When I educate my clients, art is a stimulation—physically, mentally and emotionally. What goes into a piece of art is an experience that that artist has gone through. It could be trials and tribulations of their life and it translates into the art which then beautifies the space.”

The business side of entrepreneurship came natural to Smith. She took few business classes before graduating. It was the art aspect she needed to learn, and she feels she wouldn’t understand the process fully hadn’t she gone to Mount Mercy.

“I’m not that great of an artist, and I have a fine arts degree. But without my degree, I wouldn’t be able to do what I do today. Not everybody has to be a great artist. It’s all because of my training, schooling, passion and dedication—it’s why I am where I am today.”

Though Smith expected to be a teacher upon graduation, her path to owning an art-related business was sparked while in school. Mount Mercy fostered her eye for art, a skill she appreciates and uses in her business most.

Jane Gilmor’s painting class taught me so much when we were asked to critique art. It was really, very beneficial. I take those principles and I’m able to educate clients based on my knowledge and everything I learned from Mount Mercy.”

She believes that understanding art is a knowing and a feeling; it’s an emotional process. She feels lucky that she chose Mount Mercy and hopes prospective students take into consideration what they will get from the university.

“The reason I chose Mount Mercy is because it’s smaller. I knew I could go to a professor’s office and have a one-on-one conversation. Everything starts with your mentors and who is teaching you. Their skill set and how they teach you matters, and it carries over because at that age you’re so young and you’re learning and you’re impressionable. I didn’t even know I was going to get into the field that I did, but my professors were so generous with their time and energy, with limited resources.”

Jude Smith-Whitman, ’90
Art Consultant
art2uinc.
Scottsdale, Ariz.

To give back to a school that has given her so much, one of Smith’s career goals involves students of the university.

“When Cedar Rapids builds another hotel, I want to work with students to put their art into the rooms and into the hotel, versus the $19 prints they usually put in hotels. The students would get the money and exposure, and it would give them a coup to know they are able to proceed in the art field and pursue their passion. I can help direct them, too, as to what would be appropriate, what would be the right pieces. I could even give them a few tidbits as far as to let them know what sells, and what people are looking for — because you have to be realistic.”

Though her dream of being a full-time teacher passed when she fell into the world of creating and selling art, working with students is something she’s always wanted to do.

“I think it’s important for students to know that they can make a living off of this. Artists I work with are full-time artists. This is their job. This is what they do.”

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