Alumni Profile: Paintings Pay Dividends for Walter Manninen '78

By Andrew Cardinale '09

With roots in the artsy communities of Cape Ann, Walter Manninen '78 was a graduate student at Suffolk University in 1983 when, for the first time, he saw a painting he "just had to have."

Manninen borrowed $2,000 to buy the painting, Theresa Bernstein's Lilies of the Field (1914). With a well-founded appreciation for creativity, Manninen knows a work of art when he sees one and he currently owns 150 paintings.

"I see the collection as an investment," points out the well-liked business counselor at the North Shore Regional Small Business Development Center housed at Salem State. "You have to be very knowledgeable, and have good advisors when looking to invest in art, but if you're willing to put the time in, it's worth it."

Manninen says that his art investments have always out-performed his stock investments. "In times like these, nothing is fully recession proof, but the value of my art has never dropped as much as that of my stocks. In fact, my collection as a whole has never gone in the red."

Manninen brought this love of art with him when he joined the staff of the Small Business Development Center, a component of the Enterprise Center located on Central Campus. Here, start-up companies take advantage of resources such as seminars, conference facilities and office space to help their businesses grow and succeed.

"When I got here [in November 2005], the offices were a mess," recalls Manninen. "The first thing I did was paint the walls bright colors so people would feel happy about working here."

The office is a testament to Manninen's love of art. For Manninen, though, collecting art  is not about the money. "I do it because I love it. For me, it's always been about finding something nice to hang on the wall."

Andrew Cardinale earned a bachelor's degree in English in May, and wrote this piece during an internship in Salem State's Office of Marketing and Communications.