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Robyne Robinson: Growth, Change and The Arts

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“Jewelry is a great communicator,” Robyne shared. “It allows people to talk about where we’ve been, what we’ve done and who we are.” Women in particular love to tell stories, to provide a narrative, in Robyne’s experience, and she believes jewelry helps us to do that. As she has studied the history behind design and the wearing of jewelry, she has grown in her appreciation for the place of significance that jewelry has held in the lives of women and society.

“Everybody has a second act,” declared Robyne Robinson, Arts and Culture Director for MSP International Airport Foundation, and former Emmy®-award-winning anchor for Fox 9 News.

Raised in what she refers to as the “personal freedom” generation, Robyne has never felt that life should revolve around one singular passion or be confined to a narrow path. She grew up in a home that was active on many fronts. Her parents were teachers and political activists who instilled a love of learning in Robyne and her sister. Art forms were always present, and Chicago politics were a real and important part of their community culture.

Robyne grew up during a time of significant change in American culture, particularly in the African-American community, and television became the primary medium through which she witnessed these changes. She was fascinated by the powerful influence available through broadcasting, and especially the orchestration and teamwork involved in television production.

Robyne graduated from Loyola University of Chicago with a bachelor of arts in communication arts and journalism. Her first few years as a journalist involved the typical shuffle from one station to another, always advancing to a more prominent position. Her fifth and final move was to the Twin Cities, where she was hired as a reporter and anchor for KMSP-TV 9, a position she held for more than 20 years.

“I wouldn’t have done anything else,” Robyne said of her choice of journalism as a career. “It’s an opportunity to communicate with people about what is going on in the world. How people can take it from their own minds and build community on it is something that is a principle of journalism.” Robyne’s work as a journalist, both in broadcasting and as a freelance writer, has shown her how small the world really is and how similar people are in their basic goals in life. “People all want the same things,” Robyne reflected. “They want a good way of life; they want a bright future for their children; they want to be happy.

The transition out of broadcasting came through a need for change. Robyne left Channel 9 and made a brief detour into politics. She was asked to run for lieutenant governor of Minnesota on the Democratic ticket with Matt Entenza in his bid for governor. For Robyne, this was a culmination of years of involvement on many fronts working to enhance and improve the lives of people in Minnesota. Working for social change was another facet of her life molded in her early years by parents who taught her to speak out on behalf of others and give back to your community. Robyne’s mother, in particular, made sure her daughters understood that societal changes required intention and effort, teaching them to never take the benefits they enjoyed in life for granted. “Some Sunday afternoons after church, our mother would drive us right into the heart of the projects,” Robyne recalled. “And she would make us sit in the car for about 30 minutes and wouldn’t say anything. The only thing she would say was when she turned off the ignition. ‘You know, your father and I could have let you live here, but we wanted more for you girls. Just think about that.’”

The newest chapter in Robyne’s life revolves heavily around the arts, but in no way excludes her passions for journalism and political activism. Her love for and involvement in the arts community is nothing new; it has just moved to a different level. Robyne has an uncle who was a recital pianist for choreographer Agnes DeMille, cousins who are musicians and a sister in Los Angeles who is in the film industry. When they were young girls, her mother would drive Robyne and her sister to the bead store or an art store to purchase supplies. The girls often made gifts for their friends for Christmas or birthdays. Even during her years at Channel 9, she was assigned to cover arts and culture in the Twin Cities.

“It was really the blossoming of my own personal foray into the arts as a profession, really learning about the business side of art and about the arts culture in Minnesota,” Robyne recalled. As a child, Robyne always saw herself as being involved in the arts later on in life. That intuitive vision has now fallen into place. Another one of her dreams, when she was young, was to own her own art gallery someday, a dream that also came to fruition in her adult years. Robyne owned and curated Flatland Gallery, a contemporary fine art gallery featuring the work of Minnesota artists. She enjoyed commissions from Northwest Airlines and the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, and she served on various boards, from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design to the Walker Art Center. When Mosaic, the citywide arts and diversity festival in Minneapolis, was established, Mayor R.T. Rybak appointed Robyne as the first co-chair. In addition, her personal art collection has been shown on national television and in museums.

It was during times traveling abroad that Robyne’s individual creativity began to resurface. Greece, Turkey, Egypt—in all of these places, design was important in every aspect of life. She began fashioning jewelry from semi-precious stones, local metals and gemstones. She gave her pieces away as gifts to friends or wore them herself. She was wearing one of her bracelets while sitting in a restaurant in Greece when she sold her first piece. Her boyfriend sold the bracelet right off her arm to a lady who was captivated by the piece of jewelry. “Jewelry is a great communicator,” Robyne shared. “It allows people to talk about where we’ve been, what we’ve done and who we are.” Women in particular love to tell stories, to provide a narrative, in Robyne’s experience, and she believes jewelry helps us to do that. As she has studied the history behind design and the wearing of jewelry, she has grown in her appreciation for the place of significance that jewelry has held in the lives of women and society.

ROX is the name given to Robyne’s jewelry line. It can be found in fine jewelry shops and boutiques in the Twin Cities, but also in other cities in the United States, as well as in Greece, the Caribbean, Vietnam and Kenya. Each piece reflects the exotic lands and cultures that inspired it. The description of the metals, stones and charms used within each piece adds to that mystique: Tibetan beads, Nigerian brass, Afghan silver, Indonesian wound glass. Her ROX creations have been displayed by high-fashion models in the pages of Nylon, MOD and L’etoile magazines, and sold on the ShopHQ network.

In addition to her design work and business leadership of ROX Minneapolis Jewelry, Robyne serves as Arts and Culture Director of the MSP Airport Foundation, overseeing multiple projects, including exhibitions at the new Thomson Reuters Concourse C Art Gallery. She’s currently selecting short films, documentaries and original programming for the grand opening of MSP International Airport’s film screening room, the first cinema house to be situated in a U.S. airport.

Robyne’s belief in a life that is constantly evolving necessitates that there will always be a “next thing” to add to her list of accomplishments, interests and passions. Rather than asking Robyne the traditional question of “What do you do?” you might be better asking her, “What will you be doing next?”