Corporate ArtCorporate Art Force

Innovation in Corporate Art: Chicago


Pt III: Chicago

 At what point do “business sense” and appreciation for aesthetic and design meet to foster a more fruitful company culture? For decades, we have observed traditional relationships between the two concepts shifting toward something more cohesive. Work dynamic, even a couple decades ago, used to mean disciplined work practice, with sound tried-and-true perspectives, and an ability to minimize risk and not step on shoes.Today’s professional expectations have evolved though, art is a staple of forward-thinking companies, open floor plans are becoming common sense, innovation is crowd-sourced among staff, and the borders of horizontal and vertical communication structures have disintegrated. Through all of this, we at Art Force would like to highlight the companies who not only invest in art for their facilities, but see it as a tool for innovation in the workplace. This week’s edition is on a number of companies fostering this perspective in ‘The Windy City’ Chicago.

“Art has created the hyper-stimulating environment that it takes today to foster the kind of innovative and collaborative thinking — and just plain excitement — which sets those businesses apart which will be the new leaders in the digital revolution. The best business leaders I know are great storytellers and the arts (in all forms) are how we best tell stories, connect facts and data with real emotion. Art stimulates us and leads us forward in all things.”

Howard Tullman, CEO Tribeca Flashpoint Media Arts Academy

Most innovation in the corporate setting comes from a “shock” within a innovator’s environment, fundamentally changing the landscape for a problem which they are encountering and providing an observable opportunity for improved product or systems. This sort of shock can come in many forms, a collaborative conversation among coworkers in which the pieces align correctly or highlight a flaw, a change in economic landscape within your market which opens up an opportunity, or even with an introspective moment between projects to glance at a understated and purposive print which your company has had installed in the accounting department. We are the sponges of our physical environment, and art has an ability to remind ourselves of our investment in ourselves and our profession we have purposefully chosen to pursue.

“Today’s business environment demands innovation and creativity today more than ever. Executives, as well as other business leaders, need to draw this innovation and inspiration from a number of everyday creative sources […].Those who appreciate creativity in these forms are often more inspired and open-minded to non-linear approaches to business problem thinking. And having art pieces around them and in the office can spark those creative inspirations, thus aiding the business.”

Mark Tebbe Entrepreneur in Residence at the University of Chicago’s Booth School

The Art Force Take

We who appreciate art are choosing to invest in it, and unfortunately there are a number of strategic decision makers who don’t believe they can understand art. For anyone’s office, there won’t be a golden solution for your art needs; however, whatever you choose to hang, it should be something that you truly enjoy and feel reinforces your mission for being in business for the first place. Let’s not forget that art is there for you to enjoy. Plain and simple, art is procured so that viewers will have a positive affect toward the piece and by association your facilities. This effect can lead many different ways for actionable Art direction. In the case of certain companies, such as the Chicago company DocuSign, it has been used to benefit local communities via philanthropy through a rotating local art collection. Others benefit their clientele by providing art that resonates strongly with finance entrepreneurs, such as the Metropolitan Capital Bank and Trust of Chicago. Whatever your vision is, innovation comes from a choice for non-convention.

“We’re on the cutting edge of software so we should be on the cutting edge of art.”

Ann BellSenior Office Manager DocuSign

Metropolitan bank

1Image Source: Huffington Post

What separates conventional from innovative business is an aspect of risk. The Metropolitan Capital Bank and Trust, headquartered in Chicago, accepts the risk of an ideology which believes that art is a pillar of their business model as a financial institution. Their business chooses to innovate in a multitude of ways, aligning their services to their main clientele, 62% of which are comprised of entrepreneurs. Creativity and finance are commonly considered to be mutually exclusive; the Metropolitan Capital Bank has developed one of the more extensive art collections in Chicago, rotating three times a year through its offices. This bank even chooses the Tree Studios building for its downtown location (commonly known as a prominent artist colony). An article by the Huffington Post even explains that the company views its art as a reflection of their values for open dialogue, creative processes, and the free flow of ideas. Their business model over in the Tree Studios building reflects the same mission across their channels, giving considerations to their facilities.

Innovation and artistic vision with regard to finance is imperative. You can’t underestimate the power of a stimulating environment, and the artwork itself, in fostering that approach. […]

Michael Rose – CEO and Chairman of Metropolitan Capital Bank & Trust

2Image Source: Bates

Altoids: Curiously Strong Collection

3Image Source: Soovac

In 1998, the Mint company Altoids began their Curiously Strong Art collection, a venture that would culminate as one of the shining examples of a corporation’s involvement in the production of art and its overall community. Although originally a European brand, the Altoids brand is currently held by Chicago headquartered Wrigley company. So what do Mints have to do with art and why should we care? Altoids in the 1990’s recognized that one of their strongest markets was young adults in the Pacific Northwest, who were currently in the midst of a cultural explosion. This initial spark has blossomed into a premier corporate art collection which exclusively features emerging artists. This art highlights US and International pieces of art that featured either innovative processes of creation or innovative designs.

Although this writer believes the program to have ended around 2009, their collection had nonetheless a lasting effect on the corporate art world. Their process started with a fresh set of eyes for selection, done by a 10-person selection committee, comprised of prominent art figures of varying fields. Each member selected up to 5 artists, and in turn two artwork pieces culminating in a selection of 20-25 pieces of art. Not only does this corporation pay the costs of procurement, and ownership over new pieces, they also pay to tour the collection in major U.S. cities with the typical final stop (Donation) in the Manhattan “New Museum”. Through the work they’ve done, they’ve put themselves front and center as intended for their target consumer. The Altoid company could have taken the easy decision to source conventional art that appeals to just about everyone, but instead decided to highlight innovative processes.

Exchange Bank / LaSalle Bank / Bank of America

4Image Source: Newcity Art

One thing that is always hanging in the balance within the nature of corporate collections is what becomes of the collective body of work across time. A company can liquidate its assets in the case of management change, or in the case of Bank of America, acquire a collection that has spanned two other acquisitions. The collection saw its start in 1967, when a chairman with a background in photography led the company’s board to invest in 250 vintage 19th and 20th century prints whose artists spanned Europe as well as America. However, the position of the collection was put in flux 22 year later when its leadership changed and it was rebranded “LaSalle Bank.”

The collection endured for some time, however in 2004 their fate was in jeopardy again when a fire swept through the skyscraper office that Lasalle. With certain photographs dating as early as the 1840’s, this incident had many in the art community hanging on the word of whether the photographs had survived. Even after a rebrand, and a fire, the now named “LaSalle Collection” was on the negotiating table when LaSalle Bank was sold to Bank of America in 2008, the collection had at that time reached a size of over five-thousand photographs. Concerns in this instance however were unwarranted, as Bank of America is known as an avid art collecting financial institution itself.

LINC Group

5Image Source: Gallery400

The LINC Collection started in the 1980’s by CEO Martin Zimmerman, ultimately growing it to more than 400 contemporary pieces. His eye was attenuated to great architectural designs, which he felt like best represented the city. Once the industry began to move away from hand-drawn imagery, however Zimmerman wanted to do away with conventional paintings, and opted toward innovative contemporary styles which were intended to reflect the integral structures of our environment. According to an article by the Chicago Tribune, the pairing of Zimmerman with curating partners acquired especially provocative conversations pieces that eventually even culminated in a company-wide vote to either “burn it, sell it, store it, rotate it among sites where people weren’t offended, or veil it.” The art served it’s purpose, to keep new innovative thoughts front-and-center within the organization. Not every company needs the same sort of controversy, unique imagery, or even abstraction, but truly innovative companies source art that encourages free thought and feeling.

As a last note, blank walls yearn to speak, as do the employees within your enterprise, Art is a tool that can function to pass along ideas and concepts that can un-stifle interaction. Thank you for reading; we look forward to bringing you our next installment on “Innovative Corporate Art”