Arts and business news from around the country.


ARTS on Display at The Standard Insurance Company

Posted by Brooke LaRue
ARTS on Display at The Standard Insurance Company

In May 2015, The Standard, an insurance company with nearly 2,200 employees, held its 5th annual ARTS Project. The ARTS Project, short for Artists in Residence at The Standard, is a weeklong pop-up gallery running in a former law library in the Standard Insurance Center in Portland, Oregon. From attorneys to actuaries and marketing and IT professionals, 35 employees exhibited 60 original works of art, including visual and textile art, as well as jewelry and fashion pieces. This year the Standard added a culinary arts category to the mix.


According to an article on, ARTS Project began in 2011 as a graduation requirement for company lawyer, Akira Heshiki, who was attending a corporate leadership class sponsored by the Center for Asian Pacific American Women. Heshiki was tasked with developing a program that would enable her to become a better leader by incorporating her “whole self” in the workplace. Heshiki, a photographer, first thought she could share her photographs with her coworkers, but then realized the idea would be most effective if her colleagues could also get involved.


"This is just an opportunity for us as employees to gain a fuller picture of the people we work alongside, to see each other as more than just our job titles," Heshiki said. "When you view somebody's art, you get to see their point of view, their struggles, their experiences, and that helps us treat each other better. The added benefit is that we're encouraging innovation and creativity and learning different ways to be problem solvers."


According to the article, staff from The Nines, a luxury hotel in Portland, attended one year and was inspired to create their own employee art show. Additionally, members of the Portland community are taking a positive note of The Standard’s project. An associate professor at Portland State University’s School of Business Administration, Ellen West, told, “A lot of people equate creativity with being an artist…but everybody has the capability to be creative. I think a business is missing the boat by not offering activities like that. It’s fun and it celebrates the human spirit.”


Read more about The Standard’s employee art gallery.


Photo credit: George Rede | The Oregonian/OregonLive.


Corporate Diversity Training Takes the Stage

Posted by Emily Peck

Bloomberg Businessweek recently featured an article on the Mirage Hotel & Casino's new diversity training program. Instead of cajoling employees to participate in the optional diversity training program, the company had employees singing, dancing and putting on a show.



MGM Resorts "Inspiring Our World" from MultiVu Video on Vimeo.



Read an excerpt from the article:


"Roxanne Ramirez usually manages the card and gaming tables at the Mirage Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, but today she’s dancing for her paycheck. “I have no idea what I’m doing up there,” she says backstage at the Mandalay Bay Events Center, where she’s just finished singing and making jazz hands in front of 7,000 co-workers. Ramirez is one of 70 MGM Resorts International (MGM) employees who wrote, produced, and are now starring in their own production, Inspiring Our World: A Musical Journey, which explores MGM’s commitment to diversity and sustainability. It just may be the only corporate training program that involves sequined leotards.


The show, led by motivational speaker Ondra Berry, features all the corniness of a typical company event: group handshakes, mission statements, and claims that the employees work for “the greatest company in the world.” But instead of using PowerPoint slides, MGM has decided to set its spiel to music. It’s a one-shot attempt to get all of its 62,000 Las Vegas-based employees through its corporate diversity program, a voluntary two-day course that attracted only a fraction of MGM’s workers in the past. “We just couldn’t get our message out there fast enough, and we needed a way to reach everyone,” says Patty Coaley, director of diversity education at the company. Jim Murren, MGM’s chief executive officer, agrees. “People think ‘diversity’ just applies to stuff that happened in the 1960s, but we really wanted to broaden the scope to apply to everyone,” he says.


More than 120 employees auditioned to be a part of the show, which had 10 performances over three days in mid-December. Coaley and two other organizers didn’t ask for specific talents—they just had people arrive and do whatever they felt they did best. Ramirez sang Etta James’s At Last during her audition, while Joel Heidtman, a butler in the luxury suites in the Monte Carlo, juggled. “It was just like America’s Got Talent,” he says. “Everyone did something different.”"

Read the entire article at


Corporate Culture Goes Cultural

Posted by Jessica Stern
Corporate Culture Goes Cultural

A sample of the pieces created by employees of The Standard. (Photo by Liang Liang)


I’m not going to lie, I really don’t know much about visual art. It’s embarrassing as an “arts” administrator because my brother is an accomplished artist, my mother is a wildly creative interior designer, and my father fashions some of the most impressive urban development project management documents around.


Now, I could tell you all about Romantic-era composers, and go on about West African beats and argue why their current grooves are an aural history lesson of the slave-trade and post-colonialism, but when it comes to visual art, I just really don’t know a lot.

What I do know is, 1) generally speaking, I like visual art a lot and 2) I love seeing art by people who don’t consider themselves professional artists.


Enter reason #17 or so why I love my job: The ongoing charge to recognize businesses that make a special effort to unleash the inner artist in their accountants, actuaries, techies, and administrators.


So, naturally I was overjoyed to receive an invite last month to attend the opening of The Standard’s 2nd Annual ARTS (Artists in Residence at The Standard) Show.


The Standard, a financial services company, is one of Portland’s largest private employers, with approximately 2,200 individuals working in the state. This 106-year-old Oregon-born company was founded originally as a life insurance company with a goal to “champion the needs of the local community.” That value of being a community champion still rings true and The Standard is continually recognized for its charitable work, in addition to being a great supporter of arts and culture.


Always on Business for Culture & the Arts’ (BCA) list of the Top Business Donors to the Arts, The Standard ranked as the #1 Business Donor to the Arts in 2010 in the Portland Metro Area and #2 in the state of Oregon. Last year, in BCA’s cumulative study of 10 years of data, The Standard ranked #6 in the state of Oregon (having contributed over $1.8 million to arts and culture in 10 years).


Whether it’s through volunteerism, employee team scavenger hunts or direct giving, in addition to insurance, this company does something exquisitely: they honor their employees.


But back to ARTS…I’m familiar with programs that other Business Committees for the Arts run in other cities like On My Own Time (Denver) and art@work (Kansas City), but I hadn’t realized that some companies take it upon themselves to highlight the artistic talents of their staff.


I wasn’t able to make last year’s ARTS opening event and so I didn’t have an expectation of what I would encounter in an insurance company’s employee-only art show. Imagine my delight when I got off the elevator and saw that this was not just a room blocked off for some drawings and paintings; The Standard dedicated an entire building floor to showcase the creative fruits of their staff!


A sample of the pieces created by employees of The Standard. (Photo by Liang Liang)

Once inside, I had to continually pick my jaw up from the floor. The employees of The Standard are TALENTED! Every medium was represented: painting, pen and ink, stained glass, quilting, beading and jewelry, photography, sculpture, you name it. I was especially delighted to see one of BCA’s Board Members showing off two exquisite oil paintings. I had no idea!


And therein lies the beauty of what The Standard has done for the second year in a row for their employees.


When you’re not a self-described artist, or you have a day job that maybe you love (maybe not?), often our time to create gets put into another box outside the workplace. That creativity tends to become part of our “other” self; separated from the time we spend in the “real world” doing “grown-up” things. By creating a space to showcase employee art, The Standard has bridged the gap between personal and professional in an inspiring way.


It takes our thinking from, “Oh, there’s Joe over there, he’s a claims analyst,” to “There’s Joe over there, he’s an analyst and also makes really interesting mix-media collages. I saw them at the employee art show last year.” We learn to appreciate our colleagues for all of themselves, not just the person we see at a desk for eight hours a day.


This experience of showing one’s art in the workplace gives employees an opportunity to open what is normally a very private part of their lives for their colleagues in order to appreciate one another’s talents.


It’s been proven that companies who blur that personal/professional line and focus on the whole self and well-being of their employees see greater productivity and less turnover. We also know intrinsically that corporate art collections make for visually stimulating work spaces, which also keep employees happy.


At a recent testimony before Portland City Council to refer a public funding measure for arts education and access to the ballot, a gentleman implored City Commissioners to imagine Council Chambers without the paintings and sculptures that enhanced the space. He encouraged them to imagine their difficult jobs without that creative inspiration.


This was a poignant moment, and one that I think about when visiting businesses. I realize how much more uplifted I am when I’m surrounded by beautiful or challenging art, even though I don’t know much about technique or the great artists that came before to inform a certain style. I appreciate the companies who provide stimulating surroundings for their employees and think about how much more pleasant a workplace it must be.


That The Standard opened its walls to its own employees not only tells me their corporate culture is one that wants to keep people happy, it tells me that they know creativity and appreciation for a colleague’s work will continually boost company spirits, encourage people to know one another a little better, and appreciate the multi-faceted lives we all live.


It tells me that by using art as a means for connection, we infuse our daily surroundings with inspiration that can only inform and encourage progress in the daily cycle of business and work.


*This was originally posted on ARTSblog.


Art@Work in Southern Arizona

Posted by Marisa Muller


“Ventana hosts Employee Art Exhibit with opening reception July 19” was originally published on Read an excerpt below:


The connection between artistic creation and scientific innovation can be experienced this summer as thirty Ventana Medical System, Inc. employees showcase their works of photography, origami, writings, watercolor, acrylic, jewelry, clay, stained glass, mixed media in the second annual Ventana Employee Art Exhibition and Competition in Tucson, Arizona.


 “As innovators, our role is to push the envelope on novel and creative ways to diagnose cancer,” said Ventana Customer Experience Manager Cathy Gawronski. “The Annual Employee Exhibition provides our employees the opportunity to share their personal creative expressions in two- and three-dimensional works. As an organization, we hold creativity in high esteem and wish to honor our employees by creating this public annual exhibition.”


Through a progressive partnership with Southern Arizona Arts and Cultural Alliance (SAACA), the arts have been part of the daily work experience for the 1,300 employees who work at Ventana through quarterly gallery exhibits from local to world-renowned artists.


The partnership between Ventana and SAACA exemplifies the art@work initiative of the Southern Arizona Business Committee for the Arts (SABCA), an affiliate of Americans for the Arts. Art@work provides SABCA member businesses with the resources needed to organize art exhibitions and programs where employees can bring the visual, literary and performing art they create to the workplace to share with for colleagues, visitors and clients.


“The presence of art in the work environment is not only aesthetically pleasing,” Gawronski said, “art inspires employee creativity and collaboration in many cases.”


To view the original article, visit


*Photo courtesy of See-Ming Lee

Kansas City Celebrates Artists at Work

Posted by Kelly Seward
Kansas City Celebrates Artists at Work

Spring is my favorite time of year because companies across Kansas City begin luring artists, writers, musicians, dancers, and filmmakers from their cubes for the sixth annual Art@Work corporate arts festival.


When the program began in 2007, I believed Art@Work was about showcasing the arts in all of its various forms. I know now that it’s about showcasing people.

Two years ago, Pat Wigley, a cable lineman at Kansas City Power & Light, created a sculpture of a wind-bent tree using the overhead line he works on every day. His co-workers awarded Into the Storm a first place ribbon and advanced Pat’s sculpture to our city-wide competition.


During the opening reception, I was approached by a teenage boy who saw the piece and wanted to know more about it. After we found Pat and his wife in the crowd, the boy energetically shook Pat’s hand and exclaimed, “It’s an honor to meet you, sir. You’ve inspired me to become an artist.” Pat looked confused but his wife absolutely beamed.

The two talked for a while about electricity,  wire-bending techniques, and inspiration. Before he left, the boy shook Pat’s hand again and said, “I’m going home to start making art right now.”


Pat told me that Into the Storm was the first piece of art he had ever made…he had always wanted to be an artist but had just never tried.


He then carefully took out of his backpack two cloth bundles and carefully unwrapped his latest work. The pieces were delicately sculpted flowers made from antique sterling silver forks and spoons that Pat had painstakingly polished to a Tiffany-like luster. They were absolutely stunning.


Many more sculptures soon followed as I received photographs of dancers, hummingbirds, and more flowers.


This past December, Pat shared that the Kansas Grassroots Art Museum wanted one of his sculptures for their permanent collection.


Art@Work allows cable linemen, database analysts, security guards, and CEOs to be artists; to inspire and to be inspired.


Many employees say that they feel more visible and respected at work after sharing their paintings or poetry. Others say that new friendships are formed as co-workers discover they hold a shared passion. Some say that they dust off guitars and paintbrushes and rediscover a long-forgotten love. Transformations occur.


Over the next few months, many Kansas City companies will discover the hidden talents of their workforce. My hope is that they will also discover the invigorating energy, passion, and imagination of their artists.


This blog was originally posted on ARTSblog.


*Photo "Against the Wind" by William 'Pat' Wigley


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