In Great Company

Prophetic Stewardship and Space

Part of 8 of in
By Adaobi Ugaogu with Carl Choi
Photography By WONHO FRANK LEE
May 01, 2016 | min read
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AS YOU APPROACH the southern part of the Los Angeles Arts District, you come across a narrow back alleyway where warped monsters and psychedelic fonts jump off the wall of a large building. A fallen angel with its spray-painted mouth agape stares quizzically at you. Appearances are far from deceiving in this case; through the angel's mouth is the entrance into The Great Company, a creative studio founded by Carl Choi that dedicates itself to being the liaison between artist communities and brands.

It was a vacated toy warehouse before Carl and his team reimagined it into a studio. The freight elevator takes you up to the second floor loft, revealing a warm environment with remnants of its industrious structure, now married with the more contemporary urban feel of honey brown floors and brick-and-mortar walls. Time feels at rest here — as if the floorboards, furniture, and other relics have traveled from the past, present, and future to lend their wisdom and depth. They call the building the Seed Center, a retrofitted space where artists, brands, and creators can join forces, play with ideas and visions, and more importantly, form community as creatives.

In Great Company

In the lobby, three floor-to-ceiling scrolls hang grandly in view, vividly marked by impassioned strokes of ink. Carl suggests that 
I consider changing my perspective. Tilting my head to the right, my eyes adjust, then widen as I read "The Great Company" spelled out by those same strokes, a calligraphy in Eastern script but read left to right in the 
Western tradition.

"The idea is that The Great Company is defined by the great company you're surrounded by," says Carl. The Asian font pays homage to the encounters Carl had while working with governmental bodies in Asia, and embodies the company's global outlook that embraces work wrought by a diversity of perspectives. Artists are likewise invited to adjust their perspectives in order to discover mutual understanding and higher, common ground.

"The Great Company is defined by the great company you’re surrounded by."

The futuristic Pangean font, created by the artist David Chang, is accompanied by smaller quotes and verses contributed by the core team members to decorate the scrolls. One particular rabbinic quote, written by Ray Lin, the production manager, was influenced by the book of Esther: "You can't fulfill your destiny until you help someone else fulfill theirs." Such is the bedrock of The Great Company, and the scrolls watch over in blessing over the various rooms, waiting for the destined to fill them.

In Great Company

Carl introduces the performance area as The Communion, the heart of The Great Company, where neighboring communities are invited to share the space. At night, the real work takes place in the meeting of minds, hearts, and souls, whether it be through a game night or their increasingly popular open mic night.

This sustainable method of opening up the space for others to commune and find sanctuary prevented The Great Company from almost going bankrupt three years prior due to their initial model of exclusively managing artists. An ever-expanding tenet of the Company, "Unity is Strength, A Cord of Three Strands is Not Easily Broken" is prominently displayed in one of three picture frames in the Culture Lab. It's Carl's favorite verse from Ecclesiastes, coupled with a depiction of a fist held up with ropes wrapped around the wrist.

"Stewardship is a mentality," he shares. "If we think of things as something we own, we become individuals who are selfish and don't care about each other. We all have different cars, networks, and resources. But the one thing we all share is the limited time we have here on Earth. So here at The Great Company, we share our resources and are intentional about who we're giving to. We protect the creative endeavors of our artists through stewardship and investment in their lives." No matter appearances, whether a casually dressed artist or a clean-cut business mogul, people from all walks of life gather at the Seed Center to co-produce big ideas.

"We share our resources and are intentional about who we're giving to. We protect the creative endeavors of our artists through stewardship and investment in their lives."
In Great Company

The scale of Carl's vision is elegantly captured by the Company's 1940s-styled airship logo, which presides as a backdrop to the stage and was inspired by the story of Noah bringing the animals of the land onto his ark. Carl imagined what a modern-day ark would be: "We invite creatives and people who want to be a part of the future to board this ship. If you believe you are from the future, you also must honor your past to really understand how it applies to you in the present."

He's referring to the history regarding the Asian population in World War II America and how that past created a culture of Asian people becoming silent under the shame and pressure of being labeled and categorized. While it's largely a forgotten past, Carl emphasizes that it currently affects the new generation of Asian Americans that isn't able to communicate and is keen on taking the safer route out of caution. His understanding of the past shapes how he's chosen to articulate himself in the present as he's purposefully built the culture and voice of The Great Company.

His understanding of the past shapes how he's chosen to articulate himself in the present.

The airship uncannily looks as if it were about to glide out of the frame, boarded by people moving on from a silenced past and into a future when they are able to flourish more fully and imaginatively. As Carl believes, "you cannot see something materialize if you don't already believe that it's happened." Apparently, it's already happening now, with the Company stewarding future dreams into the present.

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Learn more about Carl and The Great Company by checking out his podcast interview with Ken Fong at asianamericapodcast.com.

Adaobi Ugoagu

Adaobi Ugoagu is a Los Angeles-based fashion blogger who has a deep passion for design, social justice, and Jesus. Her eclectic writing background includes: producing an ethnography on the institutionalization of the American Church, and publishing content for the beauty and entertainment aggregator BeautyCon. She is a recent graduate of the University of Southern California.

Carl Choi

Carl Choi is a producer and entrepreneur, establishing a number of entertainment and marketing ventures in both Los Angeles and Hong Kong. In 2012, he founded The Great Company, an LA-based creative studio producing visual, audio, and experiential content through adventurous collaboration with forward-driven creators. He is a graduate of USC’s Marshall School of Business.

Wonho Frank Lee

Wonho Frank Lee is a freelance photographer who primarily shoots for Eater LA and recently received his MFA from Cal State LA. Follow him on Instagram @WonhoPhoto.

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