Arts & Culture

MindBody co-founder quits company — to sell 7-foot statues of a naked woman in a yoga pose

The co-founder of San Luis Obispo-based MindBody has left his job to invest in a bold new venture selling 7-foot-tall, bronze sculptures of a naked woman called “Shakti” that will be priced at close to a quarter of a million dollars.

Blake Beltram, who co-founded the health and fitness software company with CEO Rick Stollmeyer in 2001, is partnering with San Luis Obispo artist David Van Zandt to take the first creation of the towering woman in a tranquil yoga pose on a 1,000-mile tour of the West Coast.

The journey to reveal the statue at several large technology company campuses, going as far north as Seattle, will showcase the first of 18 planned 500-pound bronze sculptures of identical form and inspire a broader business venture they’re calling Shakti Enterprises. The sculptures will sell for $225,000.

The new business model will blend art, yoga, an online community and meditation. The concept is based around connecting with nature, intuition and inner tranquility, Beltram said.

MindBody co-founder Blake Beltram and San Luis Obispo artist David Van Zandt have created a 7-foot-tall bronze sculpture called a “Shakti” that they plan to take on a tour to West Coast tech companies and sell for $225,000. Laura Dickinson

From tech to art

Beltram officially left his MindBody position as a corporate evangelist on July 4 to begin on this new pursuit, and the figure was unveiled Saturday at East Wellbeing & Tea in SLO.

“I became an admirer of David’s sculpture once she was completed in the original clay form, and actually spent time coming over and meditating with her and bringing small groups to come over and meditate with her,” Beltram said. “We started having these profound experiences when we’d meditate with her. And things just kind of progressed out of that.”

Beltram and Stollmeyer launched MindBody out of a SLO garage, and Beltram’s latest role involved connecting with clients, including forming an online community.

Beltram, a close friend of Van Zandt over the past five years, said that the Shakti sculptures may go to auction, and believes the final price tag of the bronze figure could be in the millions.

MindBody co-founder Blake Beltram, left, and San Luis Obispo artist David Van Zandt have created a 7-foot-tall bronze sculpture called a “Shakti” that they plan to take on a tour to West Coast tech companies and sell for $225,000. Laura Dickinson

Beltram describes the statues as a spiritual, meditative presence “in concert with nature,” which aligns with many corporate technology environments that encourage employees’ well-being, he said.

“At a time where there are so many distractions where we’re addicted to our phones, where we’re addicted to social media, and we’re seeing a lot of bad news and a lot of against-ness in the world from politics to business, she represents a moment of pause and connection with nature,” Beltram said. “The idea is if we can all find that space, we can do better in our own personal lives, relationships and communities and hope to create a world and community that’s a little more connected and based on love and cooperation.”

West Coast tour

As part of his “Mindfulness Tour,” Beltram plans to make stops at tech hubs such as Silicon Valley, Portland, Seattle and San Diego. He’s planning to embark on his journey in September with the statue strapped to a trailer.

Beltram has formed relationships with leaders of some of the nation’s most successful tech companies, he said.

Already, a CEO of a Seattle-based technology company has expressed interest in buying a Shakti statue, Beltram said.

Public viewing of the statue will be part of the “Mindfulness Tour” and also is expected to include yoga and meditation sessions.

Beltram purchased the first Shakti from Van Zandt for $60,000.

The company will include an online community that interacts based on the principles and meditative qualities of Shakti, the term from the Hindu symbol of the divine feminine being.

Artist David Van Zandt, left, and and MindBody co-founder Blake Beltram are partnering as Shakti Enterprises to sell the 7-foot sculptures of a naked woman in a yoga pose. Nick Wilson

Sculpture honors ‘divine feminine’

Beltram describes the sculpture as “a life force” and the “rise of the divine feminine” in favor of more balance, adding it’s not a replacement of masculinity but an equilibrium of the feminine spirit with masculinity.

Van Zandt said that sculpture is “not religious in nature, but it’s energetic in nature.”

“The pose itself is suggesting the entry into a very deep state of peace,” Van Zandt said. “And in yoga, sometimes it’s referred to as the breathless state. It’s basically a depiction of someone in a state of deep connection and a sense of deep well-being. The intention is that it’s an energetic beacon and it transmits that feeling to help uplift us to be inclined to feel that state of peace.”

Van Zandt said that it has taken him years to fully develop the 7-foot-tall statue, and the Paso Robles-based company Genesis Bronze Foundry is using a lost wax casting method to a duplicate the original sculpture in bronze.

The process to produce the finished bronze work takes about two months, and the second sculpture is currently under production at the foundry with more to come.

Open to interpretation

Van Zandt said he was inspired to create the statue from multiple human models of various ethnicities. The work is not meant to be associated with any religion, ethnicity or culture.

“One person told me they thought I’d used an African-American model, but I said I didn’t use any African-American models, but it’s interesting they thought that,” Van Zandt said. “I want there to be room for interpretation.”

Beltram said he believes the statue emits a sense of the divine feminine healing of wounds in line with the Me Too movement.

The business partners also envision creating small bronze statues of 18 to 22 inches priced in the $5,000 to $10,000 range.

Van Zandt is also a painter with an educational background as an art major at the College of Creative Studies at UC Santa Barbara. He also studied religion there.

Van Zandt lived as a monk for 10 years, taking a vow of celibacy, before transitioning into a career as an artist over the past eight years.

“This is meant not to shock people, but make no mistake, it will grab people’s attention,” Beltram said.

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Nick Wilson covers the city of San Luis Obispo and has been a reporter at The Tribune in San Luis Obispo since 2004. He also writes regularly about K-12 education, Cal Poly, Morro Bay and Los Osos. He is a graduate of UC Santa Barbara and UC Berkeley and is originally from Ojai.