This under-30 is making his mark
Gary Solomon Jr. grew up in a family deeply invested in the Louisiana business world. His late grandfather, Teddy Solomon, who died recently at age 93, was famous as an early leader in the regional movie multiplex industry. His father, Gary Solomon Sr. is a well known banker and entrepreneur. So one could assume Gary Jr. would want to follow in their successful footsteps and become a “suit”.
Not this Gary. After graduating from St. Martin’s Episcopal School and the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts, his dream was to leave New Orleans, attend New York University, become a famous theater lighting designer and never come back. But a couple of years into the dream, he was forced to face a nasty Big Apple reality.
“I realized there was a ton of directors a whole heck of a lot better than I was and they were making no money,” he recalls. “That scared me.”
So he started looking into other sectors of the entertainment industry, like corporate events and museum environments, where he might be able to incorporate what he loved to do. Along the way, he discovered a whole world of other technical and client needs in those sectors. So he changed his focus to accommodate all of them and, at 22, was ready to take on the world.
Like so many New Orleanians in recent years, Gary came home to help in a post-Katrina world. While here, he saw that the city was becoming the hub of a vibrant, new Louisiana film industry, and that creative young people his age were returning or moving in to work in film or set up their own entrepreneurial activities as never before. So he hooked up with some of friends and they started the Solomon Group, a company that works in entertainment design and technology. After landing a series of small projects, they were handed their first really big one: the design and installation of the Stage Door Canteen at the National World War II Museum.
Now, five years later at the ripe old age of 27, Gary runs a business with more than 100 employees that is becoming a real player in the national entertainment and production event market. In New Orleans some of the highly visual results of Solomon Group’s many creative projects include the design and installation of the Super Dome exterior lighting; the build out of Champion Square; the re-design of WDSU’s television studio; and with other partners the renovation of the historic Civic Theater.
On the calendar for the rest of this year, is the launching of another major project for the National World War II Museum; the installation of a sports television studio for CBS in Ft.Lauderdale; and the technical design, lighting and creative storytelling for a major client’s 12,000-person meeting in Las Vegas.
On the road almost half the year servicing such clients has made Gary very grateful that he’s living back in the Crescent City. “The pace is not so grueling here, but it’s fast paced enough,” he says. “I love living in New Orleans. I feel like we’re progressive and forward thinking. I feel like this is a city that’s open to new ideas and, certainly, that is what we are full of. Being in an environment that’s receptive to that feels great.”
Sharon Litwin is president of NolaVie. Email her at [email protected]