I begin with a bit of disclosure... I've worked for several high-tech companies over the years, including Apple and Autodesk, and I've also had the opportunity to exhibit my art in a number of corporate environments, perhaps most notably at Intel's worldwide headquarters in California. So as I sit here in my current role of full-time artist, it will come as no surprise that I advocate the acquisition and display of local art in the workplace.
The topic of the tension between high-tech companies and local artists as it relates to displacement, rising rents etc. is not a new one and frankly is not the focus of this piece. My only goal is to communicate why I feel it is good-business for companies to show direct support for local artists through the purchase and display of their work.
Everything, when done well, involves creativity.
And by that I mean everything - art, music, food, physics, coding...the list goes on. By surrounding a workforce with the creative fruits of those working in proximity in the visual arts, employers are infusing their offices with an almost undefinable spark of creative energy. By contrast, I would argue that the sometimes impotent generic mass-produced and brand-appropriate art that covers many corporate office walls can have a tendency to suck the creativity right out of the room. If you make widgets, that's fantastic, and they might be the most aesthetically pleasing widgets on the third rock, but that does not mean it makes for good art. It actually runs quite the opposite way. Creativity is fueled by the integration of disparate and new experiences, not by the self-obssessed "re-consumption" of previous output.
And what about the artists?
Well, I'm glad you asked. Artists have depended on the support of patrons from the beginning of time...whether it be Medici and Michelangelo, Stein and Picasso, or Madonna and Basquiat (OK that last one doesn't really count, but I love that they dated). There should be no negative connotation to the word depend in this context. Simply put, artists survive and thrive when people both enjoy and purchase their work. So in addition to super-charging your teams with a jolt of creative juice you are also helping an entirely distinct but complimentary segment of the economy succeed as well. In business-speak, you might even call this a win-win. Of course, if you want to call it "giving back" or "community support" that's fine. As Picasso once said, "great artists steal", so I'll steal from Nike and say, "Just Do It.". Your employees and your local artists will thank you.
So now what?
There are a number of ways to connect with local artists in your area. It can include contacting local art consultants or engaging with established galleries. But for my money - and here is the oh so predictable punchline, I suggest you search out artists in your geographic area and invite them to present their work to you either at their studio or in your office. Begin a direct relationship with one or two or three local artists whose work feels like a good fit. For those in the San Francisco Bay area, I strongly suggest attending the upcoming Art for AIDS Benefit Art Auction (September 16, 2016) as well as ArtSpan's upcoming SF Open Studios (each weekend in October and early November, 2016). These are fantastic ways to see some amazing local art and connect with local artists.
I welcome any questions or comments and wish you an art-filled Fall.
John Kraft, Artist