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Ian Grant

Guest Speaker

Professional affiliation

Creator and Host of PBS’s “Culture Quest”

Full Biography

Ian grew up in two worlds. The son of immigrants from Scotland and Ireland, he grew up in Duluth, Minnesota, in the 1970s and ’80s, but he spent much of his childhood living overseas – his father a professor – on sabbaticals and study abroad programs or simply going “home” to spend summers with family in various parts of Europe.

As an adult, his childhood is reflected in his professional life: He travels for a living. With degrees in history and art history, he spent a decade searching for unusual artifacts and objects around the world, meeting and working closely with artisans themselves to purchase, and even create, products that are environmentally and culturally sustainable. He then shipped them back to the United States and sold them to retail shops, interior designers, and collectors around the country and the world. Ian’s passion is objects that tell a story, those objects and stories serving as an introduction, a connection between the cultures and people they come from and the people he sold them to in the United States.

Ian has traveled to places like Vietnam’s Mekong Delta, the mountains of Laos, the coast of southern India, Thailand, and Nepal, as well as the coastal region of Ghana, Togo, and Benin, and over to Costa Rica, the headwaters of the Amazon River in Peru, and the Amazon jungle in Surinam. Ian’s specialty is finding objects that are truly unique, which means his buying trips regularly took him to remote villages and bazaars—by truck, motor-scooter, dugout canoe, on foot—whatever it took.

In 2009, Ian won an Emmy for a series he had on the Travel Channel, “The Relic Hunter with Ian Grant,” which followed him around the world giving a first-hand look at what he did for a living.

Also in 2009, Ian’s business went through a renaissance. During the economic crash, Ian decided to change the way he did business: He started searching for salvaged and reclaimed materials around the world, turning it all into furniture in his workshop with his team in Minneapolis. His company now thrives in the reclaimed materials world as well as artifacts and objects. Working mainly with salvaged lumber and building materials, he doesn't just exchange emails with his sources – he jumps in, working side by side with salvage operations and reforestation projects in the most remote areas of the United States and around the world, coming home every day with cuts and bruises that he can’t remember getting during the day.

Ian is now back in the television world with a series of his own creation, airing nationally on PBS. It’s a show that looks at life through the lens of the world’s artists, artisans and keepers of culture. In its first season, the series took viewers to places like Western Mongolia, East Timor and the North Coast of Australia, giving viewers a behind-the-scenes look at how people around the world express their struggles and their successes through art and culture - and earned an Emmy nomination for their work.

Ian lives in Minneapolis with his wife and son and their dog. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minnesota. When he is not racing around the world running his business, he spends his time playing hockey and doing mixed martial arts, as well as playing the violin and guitar, running adventure races, waterskiing and writing.