On a beautiful sunny afternoon, Gene Pellegrene walks jauntily along St. Ben’s school neighborhood from one lamp post to another. From his bike messenger bag, he pulls either a pink or baby blue flyer – shiny, on really good paper – and, with gestures that suggest so much practice it’s second nature now, he expertly tapes it to the post at Byron and Bell. The lower edge of the flyer flutters with phone tags.
Pellegrene is actually a CEO. His company, Artist Painters, does exactly what the flyer promises: custom paint jobs, faux finishing, deck weatherproofing and all kinds of exterior and interior work. But his workers aren’t just any joes off the street.
“The idea is to take relevant artists and give them a means to support themselves,” he says. “We treat them as individual contractors but on, say, a five day job, they can earn at least $1,000.”