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Art at the Office: How Atlanta’s Theater Companies are Transforming the Workforce

Posted by Jessica Gaines
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*Madison Cario, Georgia Tech’s Office of the Arts director, was walking across campus in the Spring of 2015 when she passed a career fair in progress.

 

After noticing how uncomfortable the students looked in their business suits and corporate attire, Cario’s mind flashed to Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo. The 40-year-old, all-male, contemporary ballet company — featuring men wearing makeup, tutus and wigs while dancing on pointe — was scheduled to perform at the Ferst Center in the coming weeks.

 

Who better, thought Cario, than performers who’d perfected the art of drag to teach millennials how to transition from uniforms of hoodies and flip-flops into young professionals whose wardrobes reflected their career aspirations.

 

One year later, a half-day seminar titled Drag 101 was offered in anticipation of Tech’s next career day. Brooklyn-based drag king Goldie Peacock, who has been performing and teaching the fundamentals of “power posing” for over a decade, was invited to lead the workshop.

 

GA Tech’s

Madison Cario

(Image courtesy

of GA Tech)

Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo

Goldie Peacock

 

“As with any performer,” says Cario, “students [preparing for job interviews] are not just putting on a suit. They have to put on a persona and adopt a personality. They must embody the confidence and poise needed to take up space in a room, and engage in conversation.”

 

The practice of nonartists turning to actors for guidance on how to adapt to unfamiliar situations and settings is not unprecedented.

 

The late-Margaret Thatcher worked with a tutor at London’s National Theatre to help lower the pitch of her voice after she decided to run for Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. By sounding more authoritative, she hoped to silence opponents who said, “Methinks the lady doth screech too much,” in response to the high, shrill tone that resulted whenever nervous energy strangled her vocal chords. Given the cognitive and emotional effects the voice has on listeners, and Thatcher’s subsequent victory at the polls, it can be argued that her lessons paid off.

 

The Alliance Theatre has institutionalized a program that teaches business clients how to apply the methodologies and mechanics of the theater to help improve presentation skills in corporate settings. The workshops, called Alliance@Work, are a natural evolution of the Alliance Arts for Learning Institute — a 20-year-old initiative designed to teach theater skills to general classroom educators to help engage students.

 

“The same skills that make for great acting also make for great presentations,” says Christopher Moses, the Dan Reardon director of education and associate artistic director of the Alliance’s education department. “People crave authenticity and connection, whether you are sitting around a boardroom table or auditioning as an actor. In order to connect with an audience, you must be yourself.”

 

Of course, being oneself does not come naturally once most people are out of their comfort zone. Stressors like having to impress the boss, making a sales pitch to a reluctant (if not hostile) audience or being required to address large gatherings only add to the tension.

 

“Most people would rather have [a] root canal than speak publicly, and most actors feel the same way,” says Tinashe Kajese-Bolden, an Alliance@Work coach and professional actress (Disgraced and Blues for an Alabama Sky at the Alliance, and HBO’s The Immortal Life of Henrrietta Lacks). “As kids, we’re fine speaking up without inhibition. But as society starts putting constraints on how we should look and behave, we will go to any length to avoid feeling vulnerable. We would rather have something unpleasant inflicted on us than be judged for making a mistake in public.”

 

Increasingly, corporations are placing a premium on hiring candidates who are better equipped as communicators, storytellers and collaborators. In other words, people with a high emotional intelligence quotient.

 

“The skills, which are pejoratively called ‘soft skills,’ are not taught on the job or at university,” says J. Noble, cofounder of Alliance@Work and communications specialist at the Alliance’s education department. “Some people are naturally inclined to be present, empathetic and self-aware, but the majority of us aren’t as much as we should be. And we’re not given opportunities to explore, rehearse and refine those characteristics.”

 

Borrowing from the actor’s tool box, accountants, scientists and bankers who enroll in classes can learn how to eliminate stage fright by taking deep, controlled breaths. They are encouraged to be mindful of body language, which can convey passivity and anxiety, or project self-confidence and what’s known as “executive presence.” Simulated group exercises help to highlight the unconscious, default setting participants tend to fall into when collaborating with others.

 

Atlanta-based companies including Chick-fil-A, Home Depot and TalentQuest have ongoing relationships with Alliance@Work — as do national clients like Adobe and Grant Thornton, a global public accounting and advisor services firm based in Chicago which has sent over 1,000 employees to participate in workshops since 2014.

 

“Soft skills can be the hardest to adapt and master, but they can be a game-changer,” says Julian Malnak, director of Leadership & Talent Management at Grant Thornton. “It used to be all about technical knowledge and prowess in our industry. But what matters is how people show up, their distinctive brand, and how they carry our culture.”

 

“People just want to see the truth,” says Kajese-Bolden. “Despite the onslaught of reality TV and social media profiles [which tend to be more grounded in fiction than fact], people can see past anything that is false, fake or put on.”

 

For Noble, a former director, mining the principles of authenticity, empathy and connection as an Alliance@Work coach is indistinguishable from his work with actors. “In both cases, the work is transformational,” he says. “I feel like I’m fulfilling the Alliance’s mission of expanding the hearts and minds of people on and off the stage — giving them new ways to think [thereby] making their lives, and the lives of their team’s and family’s, better in the process.”

 

*This article, written by Gail O’Neill, originally appeared on ArtsATL. Link to the original article is here and appears with permission from Executive Editor Laura Relyea.

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Graffiti and Street Art Corporate Team Building Workshop

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Graffiti USA, a nationwide collective of professional graffiti and street artists who specialize in corporate office murals as well as live art for events, commercial and residential murals, and interactive art, worked with E.&J. Gallo Winery (Prophecy Wine) on a corporate workshop and team building event for their sales teams in multiple cities (New York, Hoboken, Chicago & Boston.)

 

Prior to the event, Graffiti USA created custom murals based on the Prophecy wine label that each team would try to recreate within 45 minutes. Providing each team with the materials (water based spray paint, stencils, protective gear, and fabricated walls or canvases) the Graffiti USA team were able to encourage creativity and judge the teams on team work and execution.

 

These art challenges are a unique and fun way to engage employees and bring together individuals from different departments for team building and enhancing workplace culture.  

 

More Companies that Love Graffiti Art

 

 

Lyrical Asset Management’s Interactive Sound Mural Activated by Touch


Investment company Lyrical Asset Management positions that their sole aim in crafting

 their investment program is to maximize long-term investment returns.The video above showcases the painting process, finished product, and how employees can use the mural as an instrument itself to compose their own music in real time. More details and video here.

 

 

Weber Shandwick’s coy fish 

 

Weber Shandwick is one of the world’s leading global public relations firms with offices in major media, business and government capitals around the world. Their midtown NYC office boasts a few custom murals.

 

 

 

 

Eisai Inc.’s molecular structures 

 

Pharmaceutical company Eisai Inc. has custom office murals that depict formulas and molecular structures of their drugs reacting inside the human body.  

 

 

 

All works of art above are brought to each company by Graffiti USA.

 

Photos: Graffiti USA

 

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Trips to the Art Museum are Good for Business

Posted by Jessica Gaines
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Trips to the Art Museum are Good for Business

In the pARTnership Movement, we affirm that when a business partners to support museums, (theater, music, dance or public art), they help to make the community more attractive to current and future employees. And, happier employees make for a happier workplace. We also share stories about Panasonic bringing exciting new technology to the museum world or merchandise collaborations between museums and the private sector.

 

In the article “Can a Trip to an Art Museum Ignite Creativity in Business?”, author Jon Darsee, Executive Vice President of Health Policy and Payer Relations for iRhythm Technologies, Inc. (a privately held digital healthcare solutions company that works in cardiac arrhythmia information) offers “One way to facilitate out-of-the-box thinking is by viewing art.”

 

And, we totally agree.

 

Darsee interviews Jim Leach, the former 15-term Iowa congressman and former chairperson of the National Endowment of the Humanities who is now the interim director of the University of Iowa Museum of Art, who says “A good museum, for instance, displays art that stretches the imagination and expands cross-cultural understanding.”

 

In our essay “Foster Critical Thinking”, we explore how the arts can harvest success toward business goals. When strengthening innovation, progress, competitive advantages and more, including the arts, perhaps museums, is a great way to improve your company’s position.

 

 “Without innovation, without the ability to continually develop new ideas, a business is lost. Art museums can help develop this aptitude in multiple ways; they open doors to thinking that were not open before. Museums, through the art they present and interpret, are transformative mechanisms. The concept of innovation can transfer to other arenas of activity, including the business world,” says Jeff Fleming, Des Moines Art Center Director, in the article.

 

Make note: sometimes, to get a big creative spark, you might have to reach FAR outside of your organization, to a museum.

 

 

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Samsung Put Art In the TV

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Samsung Put Art In the TV

Samsung is a global leader in all things technology, from consumer electronics to semiconductors to information systems and more. The cutting-edge company continues to boost their brand by acutely including the arts in the scheme.

 

Last year, we shared a story about Samsung’s Summer Speaker Series and the Pipeline to the Workforce hosted at Samsung837 that brought in speakers and leaders from the creative and artistic industries. This Spring, Samsung will debut a new TV known as The Frame, a flatscreen that can camouflage itself as a piece of art when not in use.

 

Samsung collaborated with Yves Behar, a renowned Swiss designer, on this TV innovation to offer consumers an elegant masterpiece that seamlessly blends into the interior of any home. Dave Das, SVP Consumer Electronics Marketing for Samsung Electronics America says, “The Frame empowers you to think about TV in a new way, bringing art and entertainment into new parts of your home. This is how television transforms—and becomes an essential part of your lifestyle.”

 

 

The Frame’s "Art Mode" will enable users to select from more than 100 art pieces in many different categories -- from architecture, landscape, wildlife, drawing, and more -- for it to display when not in use as a conventional TV. Paired with numerous options for visual layouts and colors, as well as accessories like a stylish TV stand designed like an easel, the product is ideal for any artist-inspired living space.

 

This brand, long known for creating technology that powers the future, is innovating products that help users reimagine their home in an artful presentation, that like a gallery.

 

Take a look here at Samsung837's year of Art and Tech!

 

Photos: Samsung

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Classical Movements Uses a Fellowship to Encourage Diversity and Promote Access

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Classical Movements Uses a Fellowship to Encourage Diversity and Promote Access

BCA 10 honoree Classical Movements is driven by a love for music and the performing arts. The company arranges more than 50 concert tours per year for choirs, youth orchestras, and professional ensembles to more than 140 countries around the world. Yet, while working in nearly 145 countries across seven continents, during Classical Movements’ 25 years of business, India has remained a rare musical destination.

 

For Founder & President Neeta Helms, growing up in India she observed that there was a tiny population of people there who loved Western classical music. More recently, though, perhaps due to increased globalization and/or the larger number of Indians studying abroad, Helms came to realize that India’s interest in Western classical music has been steadily growing. In fact, the Shillong Chamber Choir, a Western-style singing group founded only in 2010, won top prize on the popular television competition India’s Got Talent.

 

 

Despite that ever-increasing number of music schools for children, in India today, there is no university course that teaches choral singing, or even a program to teach teachers how to teach choral music. “When I visited my homeland in December of 2015… I was struck by how many Indian singers were want for vocal training, desperately seeking skilled teachers to come and teach and conduct,” Helms shares.

 

January 2016, Classical Movements made a big announcement, calling for choral luminaries to go on retreat in India. In January 2017, Classical Movements has officially launched the India Choral Fellowship (ICF), featuring award-winning singer, conductor and educator Kevin Fox as its inaugural recipient engaging the cities of New Delhi Mumbai and Chennai.

 

With Classical Movements’ ICF, Helms hopes to help inspire future Indian musicians blend with the ancient traditions and forge a new horizon for classical music in India.

 

More stories on businesses using the arts to encourage diversity can be found in the pARTnership Movement essay “Embrace Diversity & Team Building”.

 

Want more on this topic from another corporate leader? Read “Diversity + Inclusion = A Winning Strategy” from Floyd W. Green, III, Vice President and head of Community Relations and Urban Marketing for Aetna, 2016 BCA Hall of Fame and 2011 BCA 10 honoree.

 

Photo: Headshot courtesy Classical Movements. Group photo courtesy Shillong Chamber Choir.

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Legend of Leadership

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Greater Fort Wayne Business Weekly honored Chuck Surack, founder and owner of BCA 10 honoree Sweetwater Sound, as its 2017 Legend of Leadership.

 

 

Chuck Surack is an entrepreneur, philanthropist, community volunteer, pilot, musician, husband and father who has spent his career not only serving as a leader in his profession but also as a servant leader for non-profits and the community.

 

Surack has served on the boards of Greater Fort Wayne, Inc., the Fort Wayne Philharmonic Orchestra, WBNI/WBOI Public Radio, Unity Performing Arts Foundation, the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Museum, Tower Bank, the National Association of Music Merchants and other organizations. He is currently a board member for Easter Seals ARC of Northeast Indiana, the Fort Wayne Children's Zoo (where he was previously Board President), the Boy Scouts of America Advisory Board, Lutheran Hospital, Lutheran Health Network, and Indiana University Jacobs School of Music Office of Development. 

 

Surack and his wife contribute to more than 500 nonprofit organizations annually; they also established the Chuck and Lisa Surack Endowed Scholarship for Music Technology at the University of Saint Francis.

 

“I’ve been a musician for as long as I can remember. From my success in business as a music technology retailer, to the joy I experience playing with my band every week, it’s difficult to count up all the blessings that music has brought to my life. For my wife Lisa and me, supporting the arts is a way of paying forward all those blessings, and a great pleasure.”

–Chuck Surack, Founder and President, Sweetwater Sound, Inc

 

Sweetwater Sound, Inc. is committed to serving the arts in order to give back to the community from which it derives its support. While much of the music industry is centered in Nashville and Los Angeles, the company established its headquarters in Fort Wayne, IN, where the cost of living and the quality of life in the city would be attractive to potential employees. Since it was established in 1979, the company has supported local arts organizations through donations; sponsorships; and in-kind products and services, including free musical instruments and equipment, free recording time, both in-studio and at performances.

 

Sweetwater is the fourth largest retailer of music instruments and music technology in the United States. The vast majority of Sweetwater employees are musicians, which means that its operating culture is immersed with music and musicmaking. More than half of Sweetwater’s employees are recruited from out of state and the high quality of the Fort Wayne arts community is one of the incentives provided to candidates.

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VIDEO: Business Leaders Discuss Arts Partnerships

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Every year, Americans for the Arts, through its Business Committee for the Arts program and BCA 10 Award, recognizes 10 businesses of all sizes for their exceptional involvement with the arts that enriches the workplace and the community. These companies set the standard for excellence and serve as role models for others to follow. 

 

In this video, hear from business leaders on why the arts matter, how the arts have brought value to their communities, and why these businesses partner with the arts. This video supports the powerful message about how the art changes lives, helps people go beyond work to leave a legacy, and helps create traditions and new ways of achieving purpose.

 

The following BCA 10 winners are represented in the video via speakers and/or pARTnership projects:

 

Aetna

Austin Energy

Auto Zone

Badger Meter

CopperPoint Insurance Companies

Corning

Dealer.com

Dogfish Head Craft Brewery

Duke Energy

Dunlap Codding

Jorge Perez/The Related Group

M Powered Strategies

NV Energy

Prospective

US BANK

 

More information on the BCA 10 here.

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Guide for Business Districts to Work with Artists - An Invitation to pARTnership and Creativity

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Knowing that businesses are seeking out ways to participate in community efforts and contribute to the economy and quality of life, we should discuss Creative Placemaking. As National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Director of Design and Creative Placemaking Programs Jason Schupbach shares, “Creative placemaking is an important intersection of the creativity of artists and the vitality of business communities.” Creative placemaking is the act of people coming together to change over-looked and undervalued public and shared spaces into welcoming places where community gathers, supports one another, and thrives.

 

Recently, Springboard for the Arts released a Guide for Business Districts to Work with Local Artists. This free guide for place managers to learn how to work with artists on creative placemaking projects, covers “how to get started” and essentials like identifying goals, collaboration, funding, and budgeting.

 

In the words of Springboard for the Arts Executive Director Laura Zabel, “Sharing the tools to build cross-sector relationships, grow audiences and create more resilient, vibrant communities is a win for everyone.”

 

For more information and to access the guide visit the site here.

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Celebrating Culture Through Art

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Coca-Cola’s Refreshing Style

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We all know the Coca-Cola Company for its many beverage products, catchy commercial jingles, and unmatched red and white logo. It’s no surprise that a company with such global staying power and industry prominence would look to elements and influences of art.

 

Here are just a few ways Coca-Cola keeps their business refreshing and top-of-mind:

 

The #TrayArtProject

Together with 12 artists from around the world, Delta and Coca-Cola have created an art gallery in the sky – transforming the tray tables on one of the airline’s 767 aircraft into one-of-a-kind works of art.

 

Each artist brought their own personal style and taste to their trays and drew inspiration from some of the airline’s most popular destinations, including: Amsterdam, Atlanta, London, Los Angeles, Mexico City, New York City, Paris, Sao Paulo, Seattle, Seoul, Shanghai and Tokyo. Each piece of art celebrates themes of optimism, travel, refreshment and happiness. 

 

 

Post-Pop Artist Burton Morris brings the iconic bottle to life

In his ongoing search for objects with cultural significance, Burton Morris saw Coca-Cola as a natural subject. A lifelong fan of both the Coca-Cola beverage and brand, he was always enamored by its visual identity. “I loved the bottle design… the red and the white, and the shape itself,” he explains. “It just has such a classic feeling… the bottle and topography themselves are art. As an artist, when I look at it, dozens of ideas run through my mind.”

 

In 2015, to honor the 100th anniversary of the Coca-Cola bottle, Morris channeled those ideas onto his art by creating 100 unique renderings of the iconic package for display in a gallery show and a traveling exhibition that went around the world.

 

 

In-House Art Curator

Caitlin, the company’s Brand and Fine Art Manager has a pretty cool job. She manages their corporate fine art collection and determines what pieces are placed on their walls. “So here at The Coca-Cola Company we want our associates to know that you are in a unique place. And you’re in a place that really values your presence every day. We want to express that through art installation.”

 

Photo: Coca-Cola

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