Paul Soderblom’s decorated career has taken him from New York City to Saudi Arabia. He recently joined the team at McCullough Creative, where he is embracing the company’s collaborative spirit.
This marks the latest in a series of blog posts highlighting new hires and recent promotions at McCullough Creative.
NEW HIRE: PAUL SODERBLOM
Paul Soderblom has been just about everywhere and tried just about everything. His decorated career has taken him from New York City to Saudi Arabia, allowing him to work on a series of influential and groundbreaking projects. He was recently hired as a senior account manager of displays, exhibits, and events at McCullough Creative, where he is embracing the company’s collaborative spirit. Creative copywriter Jeff Montgomery sat down with Paul to learn about where he’s been — and where his career will take him next.
Jeff: Hello, Paul. I am excited to be sitting down with you today. Please tell me a little about what you do here.
Paul: Hi, Jeff. Happy to be here. I am a senior account manager for displays, exhibits, and events. My job involves working on exhibits, with a focus on museum exhibits, visitors’ centers and that type of thing.
Tell me a little more about that career background. What kind of path led you here?
Back when I first got out of high school, I started working in professional theater and I did that for a while. Years later, I kind of stumbled into doing museum exhibits. There were some big similarities with theater — you’re still building things for the public and it’s a very collaborative form of work. I’ve been doing museums for a long time now.
What are you most passionate about when you work on projects? And what does that ultimately bring to the clients you work with?
I think what I share with the client, and by extension the person who visits the exhibit, is a sense of excitement. What we’re doing is fun. An exhibit can be a catalyst. It can spark a lifelong interest or inspire somebody to learn more about a subject. What you’re doing is taking a topic and making it fun and accessible.
Is there a type of work that you’ve really enjoyed over the course of your career?
I think the favorite things I have done are children’s museums. I feel like I can relate to the audience. Whenever I am working on a project like that, my goal is to harness my inner 11 year old. (Pausing and smiling) I recently came across a quote that I absolutely love: “Creative adults are children who survived.” That reflects my feelings. Every child is a dancer or a writer or musician or artist, and that slowly gets taken away from you over time if you let it. My goal is to not let that happen.
Any other big projects that come to mind?
One of the biggest projects I have ever done — and one that had a pretty profound effect on me — is that I was the design project manager for the 9/11 museum in New York. I worked on that for two years. That was an incredibly challenging project. There were days when I came home and did not want to go to work the next day. But when I was finished and I actually saw the museum, I was pretty pleased.
I understand the latest chapter in your career took you to a whole other part of the world. Can you tell me about that?
About a decade ago, someone emailed me a listing for a job in Saudi Arabia that involved developing exhibits. I remember asking my wife, ‘Want to move to Saudi Arabia?’ And she said ‘Sure, why not?’ About 10 months later, I got an offer. We had six weeks to pack up everything and move to Saudi Arabia. Much to my surprise, I ended up being there for 9 years.
Fascinating. Can you explain what you worked on there?
I worked for Saudi Aramco, which is the Saudi oil company … And they had a big project to create the first cultural center in Saudi Arabia. I was there to help them develop exhibits for their various galleries.
So almost a decade where you were living in Saudi Arabia. What was that like culturally?
It was a challenge working in a different culture, but in the end, the opportunity to bring the arts to a new audience was very appealing to me and very exciting. They were seeing some of these things for the very first time, things that were never accessible before in the country — the idea of an art exhibit or science museum was new to them.
You are also a music guy, right?
I was in a full, 20-piece big band when I was in Saudi Arabia and played the trombone. (Smiling) I can honestly say we were the best big band in Saudi Arabia, because we were the only one in Saudi Arabia. The public performance of music was illegal in Saudi Arabia up until three years ago, so we had an audience that was desperate for any kind of performance. And we actually got a whole lot better over time.
What brought you back to the U.S.?
My family is what brought me back. My wife, Jennifer, and I have been married for 27 years. We have a daughter named Zoe who is 18. They moved back to the States a few years ago and I wanted to be closer to them.
And the job is part of what brought you here. What is it that made you feel McCullough was the right place for you?
After meeting with (President) Pat McCullough and some of the people here, it felt right. I’ve liked everyone that I have met. There is definitely a strong sense of collaboration. I think it’s very important, for any artistic endeavor, that it’s not just one person. Any time when it looks like someone is supposedly doing something on their own, it’s likely they actually have a huge support group around them. Collaboration is hard but it is extremely worthwhile. You have to listen to the people around you and work off of what they do.
Reading between the lines here, I get the impression you might want to start a new big band right here at McCullough. Any thoughts?
(Laughing) I think we have what it takes.