When the word “office” is used it often still invokes images of cubicles and motivational posters. Walter Fedy had a different idea. They approached Cathy Farwell of BOX asking her to help them bring some art into their office space. Ms. Farwell informed me that WalterFedy is well known and have even been awarded for their support and advocacy of local arts and culture as community building is very important to them. “I put together a proposal which I hoped would address a number of needs in the local arts community, as well as those of this creative design-based office. Visual stimulation is important to their staff, and building a sense of community using art as a vehicle is also a key objective.”
Cathy suggested a Curator-in-Residence program and to kick start it in the first year with three art shows running 12 weeks each. These shows are designed to be a win-win situation for both sides. The first curator, Suzanne Luke, has not only arranged and installed the shows, but has also designed a number of interactive works, artist talks, and demonstrations for the WalterFedy staff to help get their creative juices flowing. WalterFedy in turn provides the space both rent and commission free, manufactures the display labels, and has designated staff members acting as art liaisons.
The artists have the use of the WalterFedy exhibition and meeting spaces to host receptions, open houses, artist talks, sponsor appreciation gatherings, etc. during the first 4 weeks called the Public Period. For the last 8 weeks, called the Private Period, public activity ceases and WalterFedy pays the individual artists 8 weeks of rent on their artworks. A small percent of all BOX artists’ sales from these BOX-generated opportunities comes back to them to help fund BOX 12, based on the principle of paying it forward for the next generation of BOX artists.
“The success of this innovative approach to art in the workplace intrigues and inspires me personally – and hopefully others! – to look at creative, new ways to bring the arts into daily life.” Cathy also informed me that it has also been exciting and rewarding to see the BOX artists’ degree of engagement and professional development. She said the artists love to talk about their work and encourage all and any questions.“We’re very much all about lowering the ‘arts intimidation’ bar; being inclusive.”
As there is a public period, our overall community benefits as well. BOX hosts public open houses at the WalterFedy exhibition space where individuals “will have the opportunity to talk to very receptive, welcoming and friendly artists who are hugely invested in helping people enjoy visual art.” BOX have received feedback in the past indicating that a chance to view art outside of the traditional institutions has been a great starting point for checking out local art for many as it’s less intimidating. BOX’s hope is that this will help promote those to check out local art institutions which have so much to offer. “As a community, more enjoyable exposure to the arts helps to ramp up the level of local ‘arts excellence’, and public demand for arts and culture. We’re trying to create arts appetite!”
BOX also hopes that this art in the workplace program at WalterFedy will be an example and inspiration for others to consider a similar program for their own organizations and workplaces. “We hope that Encore visitors will see that art can and should be an enjoyable part of our daily living, and be in evidence in common spaces such as the workplace – even if it challenges us at times.”
There are two upcoming Public Open Houses for the current Encore exhibition on Wednesday May 9th and 16th from 5 to 7pm. They take place at WalterFedy’s office located at 675 Queen Street South, Suite 111 in Kitchener. Admission and parking is free. The art is available for purchase by cash or cheque. The exhibition features 21 artists who will be in attendance for the open houses.
Ms. Farwell closed out our conversation with the following recommendation to those who will be attending the Open Houses: “Communication is key to enjoyment; talk to the artists. It can be as simple as asking ‘What are you interested in here?’ or ‘How did you do this?’ or ‘Why did you use this colour?’ Honestly, get engaged!!!”