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