The Artist Group

July, 2007

Jessica Jolin (Specs)
styled by Alissia Marciano
photography: mooishi
There's a well lit space on Adelaide Street, easy to miss if you don't know where you're going, but kind of special when you get there. Head inside, up the stairs, through reception area and past the giant tree, and you'll notice a bar where some of Toronto's top industry types get together every few weeks.

Surrounding the bar are offices where phones ring into the evening hours, even on Fridays. Those that generally occupy those offices take shifts slinging Jim Beam or vodka, pouring white or red. Veggies, fruit, pita, hummus, cheese, crackers and sweets line the table top. This is Fabulous Friday. This is one part of Julie Miller's grand vision.

Miller is a businesswoman that loves to entertain. She entertains with her stories. She entertains with her munificence. She entertains with her bar, conveniently built into the office. I spent a couple hours with the owner of The Artist Group one afternoon, sharing a bottle of vino, learning she is pretty sure she doesn't own a single pair of pants; hasn't worn jeans, in fact, since sometime in the 1980s.

The Artist Group isn't a lounge, but Miller's glass is, proverbially at least, always half full. She's grand, but she's lucid, and it shows in her success.

Started in 1992 with a roster of 21 artists, 15 years later The Artist Group represents more than twice that number working in all the usual areas: makeup, hair, fashion styling, direction, etc. But there's also something unique about this collection. The Artist Group has a culinary division. Not to be confused with a food styling division - yes, they have that too - but this is an agency that represents chefs and the like. "So many artists are on reality shows, and the market for culinary artists is just exploding," says Miller. "It's been happening in the U.K. for years, where chefs are becoming rock stars. From a Canadian perspective it's another area where they are artists, and no one is speaking on their behalf."

Michelle Valencourt and Irina Funtikova
Michelle Valencourt & Irina Funtikova
makeup & hair by Lisa Aharon
photography: Alvaro Goveia
The potential for the culinary division, Miller explains, is vast. Her vision sees these artists tied in to corporate functions, working with food stylists, and riding the wave of the public's fascination with wine and food.

And this is Miller's way. Throughout our conversation - and it was a long one - the quote that best summed her up was "To me, the brilliance of 'have you ever thought about...' has led to so many great things."

Pitch, pitch, pitch. This is what Miller does. If a client is booking one of her artists, she's looking for ways to grow the campaign (and potentially involve more artists). She isn't shy about telling me this either, because, she assures me, the client only swings at the pitch if they see the potential to knock one out of the park. "You have to hit all different aspects for a campaign to be successful. Because we're creative people we can throw it into the air and 'pop' they've got something they haven't thought of. We've now assisted our client in a way they never expected, while creating more work for our people. At the end of the day that's what it's all about."