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The 2023 holiday mug from the Pizzuti Cos. is on the bottom right shelf.
Tim Johnson/Columbus Monthly

The real estate development firm commissions original artwork for its annual gift to customers and colleagues, making it a sought-after cup and collectible for 30 years.

For more than three decades, Ron Pizzuti has tried to turn sipping a cup of coffee into an artistic experience. The founder and chairman of the real estate development firm the Pizzuti Cos., along with his wife, Ann, is widely recognized for his avid appreciation of modern art. Works acquired by the couple form the basis of the Pizzuti Collection, an exhibition space that is now part of the Columbus Museum of Art. 

One playful expression of Pizzuti’s art appreciation is his business’ annual holiday mug. For all but one year during the last 31, the Pizzuti Cos. has brought out a coffee cup bearing a work by a contemporary artist. 

The tradition had modest beginnings. “The first two mugs were the Pizzuti logo,” Ron Pizzuti says. “The first one was the Pizzuti logo on a white mug with a blue dot, and then we reversed it the second year and did a black mug with a Pizzuti logo with a red dot. Then we decided that we would go to an artist.” 

Artists ranging from Victoria Lavorini to Ric Petry to Karen Snouffer have contributed art to the mugs, which never repeat art or artists. “We give no directive to the artist other than size, and that’s it. It has to fit on the mug a certain way,” Pizzuti says. 

Today, the bulk of the mugs go to Pizzuti customers, tenants and professional colleagues—more than 1,500 mugs a year. Numerous recipients collect the cups, though Pizzuti hopes they have practical applications, as well. “We’ve had people requesting a second copy so their husband or wife can have coffee with them in the morning,” he says. 

One year, the Pizzuti Cos., feeling financial pressures, suspended the tradition, leading those on the mailing list to assume they had been snubbed. “Oh my God, the grief we got,” Pizzuti says. “People were calling: ‘Why did you take me off the list?’ ” With that lesson learned, Pizzuti resumed the tradition, which he considers a good calling card for his business (now run by his son, Joel). 

The identity of each year’s mug artist is a closely held secret through Thanksgiving, though Pizzuti was willing to share this year’s artist: Beverly Fishman. Those on the coveted list of recipients should watch their mailboxes. “We like to give them,” he says, “before they get all their Christmas junk in the mail—fruit baskets and everything else.” 

— Peter Tonguette

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