Art is a representation of the human experience. It takes us through the spectrum of human emotions from laughter to anger; despair to hope. It taps our intellect by questioning or reinforcing our beliefs. It possesses the power to ignite our creativity and expand our view of the world. Art frames our perspective of the world.
The business case for fine art in a commercial setting (classroom, healthcare, government facility or professional office) is fairly simple. It helps define the business’ brand to employees, customers and vendors. In various studies, the results show that art increases productivity by 15%. Any savvy business person knows that if employees have some sort of voice in selecting workplace art from viable options, their happiness, job satisfaction and pride in themselves as well as the company increases. These types of results typically contribute to employment longevity.
After all, we spend the majority of our waking hours and life in some type of work environment. Job satisfaction is a big deal. According to Anne Stamats, Founder of Black Earth Gallery, “Original, fine art is exceptionally important in the work environment. It sets a mood that shows both employees and clients that their state of mind is important. It also supports artists locally, regionally and nationally. It can play a large role in attracting more talented and intelligent employees.”
Chart courtesy of International Art Consultants
Watch this interview for one company’s employees’ feedback to their fine art collection:
Most businesses are aware of some of these benefits, but are unsure about where and how to start incorporating fine art into the workspace. My art experts and I have collaborated on some starting basics, starting with style.
Fine art typically encompasses paintings, photography, ceramics and sculpture. The most common workplace styles are in the landscape/nature genre as well as abstract paintings and photographs. The style and type of fine art does vary between industries. According to Anne, “Different industries should think about what is appropriate in their work environment. for examples, healthcare spaces need to create calming environments for patients and visitors. Therefore landscape and nature images accomplish these goals and are easy to understand when viewed.”
In addition to the style of art, “The subject matter of the images is imperative to consider first. What you might place in a health care environment might not be the ideal artwork for a law practice,” states Ted Decker, Private Art Dealer/Independent Curator/Art Educator. Ted takes type and subject matter to another level for his corporate clients by establishing art curation and collection processes. “These include providing employees a formal way to provide their feedback to artwork that is especially placed by their space. This type of policy allows for employees to buy-in to the program and maximizes the benefits of placing art in the office.”
As with all purchase considerations, once you identify your style, then it is time to budget for acquisitions.
The budget to allocate filling space is a unique proposition. Several variables such as space, type of business and industry, overall interior furnishings budget, number of employees and work stations, meeting rooms and more factor into setting an art budget. Anne suggests starting at five percent of the building cost. Whatever the final percentage is, it is really important to dedicate funding for original, fine art.
Anne related that some companies express concern over investing in art for the fear of looking bad. “My response is to remind them that they are asking clients to spend a considerable amount of money with them. The type of art on the walls does correlate to the company’s product or service pricing. Companies that charge premium prices are essentially expected to reflect their standards with the interiors of their offices, including their art.”
“There is a way to provide high-quality, original fine art and pay attention to budget. Some of my clients have interwoven student fine art with the work of more established fine artists,” shares Ted. “This type of approach provides emerging artists the opportunity to receive both income and exposure, provides the company with the opportunity to support both local businesses and artists and can provide both their business and selected artists with public relations opportunities. These win-win scenarios are important and beneficial to all parties.”
Ted reminds clients to budget a framing allowance. In tandem, if art is purchased for shipping to your location, it is wise to invest in the proper shipping packaging and service to protect your investment.
Both Anne and Ted reiterate to their clients that fine art is an investment and can be treated like other company assets. As with other assets, the size, quality and investment of each piece should correlate to its placement.
Art in the office should have designated places. According to Anne, “when planning art collections and installations, I factor in peoples’ need to have their eyes rest on walls or spaces that don’t have anything on them. Too much art creates visual overload.” Visual overload can become distracting and draining for employees as well as visitors. “Even when I look at the blueprints and plan spaces, I still do a walk through to feel the space. During this process, I pay attention to walls that might “scream” at me for a work of art. When that happens I listen. That “feel” is usually accurate. This is advice I extend to people for their homes as well.”
Even though some art might be more visibly seen then others, such as the reception lobby versus an employee kitchen, it can be tempting to mix original, fine art with mass-produced art to save money. The result usually sends mixed messages and is not aesthetically balanced or pleasing. Mass-produced art can have its place, but it provides no true brand DNA distinction which is important to emphasis to employees, vendors and clients. Original, fine art is memorable; a desire of every company.
“Art is like the frosting on the cake. You can spend a fortune on a building or build-out, but we all know the real refinement of a space comes down to the frosting,” declares Anne. That frosting can be sweetened with time. You can start off with fewer, high-quality original fine artworks and expand the collection in increments. Ted creates strategic plans for his clients to assist them in building a long-term collection. His plans can include permanent and rotating pieces.
Investing in original, fine art, “gives your workspace a personality that truly distinguishes the company’s brand DNA. It shows community support and makes your business appear more intelligent. In today’s competitive talent race, the quality of life inside and outside of the office is a winning factor,” notes Anne.
Watch this video to see one of the most interesting, expansive and beautiful collections in an office:
Art in your workplace can literally improve your company’s bottom-line through the acquisition of the happy, intelligent, creative and productive talent and a reputation for community goodwill. Please reach out to the experts in this article to assist you in establishing your company’s visual voice.
Black Earth Gallery
Featured art ‘Listen’ by Beth Ames Swartz.