How Pete Scantland Went From Billboard Bad Boy to Columbus Museum of Art Benefactor
The Orange Barrel Media CEO’s recent gift will help the CMA maintain its relevance in the world of contemporary art.
When the Columbus Museum of Art moves one of its most recognizable pieces across town to make room for new artwork, it’s a fair guess that its leaders are excited to show off the acquisition. The new work, “Stockroom Ezekiel” by Brooklyn-based artist Derek Fordjour, is a room-sized installation. The piece that it displaced, “Nocturne Navigator,” Alison Saar’s monumental blue female figure, is headed to the Pizzuti Collection, the museum’s Short North outpost.
The Fordjour installation is an immersive work that references the letters of Ezekiel Archie, a Black man unjustly imprisoned in Alabama in the 1880s. It’s part of a new exhibition, Present Generations, composed of 27 artists’ works given to the museum by Orange Barrel Media CEO Pete Scantland and his family. These gifts, along with the promise of future donations, are part of what will become the Scantland Collection, with its donor, a once-controversial outdoor advertising innovator, becoming the latest in a line of museum benefactors that includes Ferdinand Howald, Phillip and Suzanne Schiller, and Howard and Babette Sirak.
Tyler Cann, the museum’s curator of contemporary art, calls the Scantland gift transformational. “It holds the potential to catalyze what this institution can really do in the space of contemporary art,” he says. “The ambitions are really to develop a representative picture in our collection of what is happening in art now—in this generation. And that’s huge for any museum.”
The Scantland gift—which Pete says is currently worth $5 million and will grow, supported by his parents, Alan and Peggy, his sister, Susan Littleton, his twin brother, CoverMyMeds co-founder Matt Scantland, and all their spouses—includes an endowment supporting community education.
Pete Scantland, 42, was always interested in art—in fact, he studied it at Elon University. But he did not begin buying art seriously until about four years ago, he says.
In 2020, Scantland caught the attention of the art world. “My goal is to build one of the best collections of artists of this generation,” Scantland recently told Artsy, the online magazine of an international art brokerage. “And he’s well on his way to doing that,” the Artsy writer commented.
In a recent interview with Columbus Monthly, Scantland elaborates. “What I’m most drawn to are artists who share our values. So many of them are dealing with social justice, many of them are dealing with politics, many of them are dealing with identity and globalization.” Present Generations includes works by Jerrell Gibbs, Somaya Critchlow, Louis Fratino, GaHee Park, Lauren Halsey, Deana Lawson and others. It reflects, Scantland says, today’s “heightened visibility for and representation of people from diverse backgrounds, of women, of people who’ve been overlooked in the canon of art.”
Asked to draw a line between collecting art and his other passion—huge, attention-grabbing Downtown billboards (remember the giant soccer ball or the lime-green-painted wall and parking lot?)—Scantland grins like this is the question he’s been waiting for. “A big part of our early success was designing things that people like to look at.”
Recently, Orange Barrel has been collaborating with artists on its outdoor displays. “I think, honestly, we have a huge opportunity to elevate the city culturally,” Scantland says. “That’s one of my goals.”