Companies around the metro are putting away the mass-produced décor and furniture art purchased from box stores for something with some local flavor. ArtsKC – Arts Council of Metropolitan Kansas City’s program, Now Showing, which started in May 2005, unites businesses with local artists to fill their corporate space and offices with the creativity and artistic quality traditionally only available in galleries and private collections. And the
benefits aren’t reserved for the artists, who enjoy an opportunity to exposed new audiences to their work and potentially make sales. Businesses report the program enriches their corporate culture and excites the workplace for employees and visitors alike.
For Roger Hoadley, Vice President and Director of Communications at Waddell & Reed, Now Showing has been part of the main building on the campus at Shawnee Mission Parkway and Lamar since May 2010. Upgrades to their space made company leadership realize local artwork would perfectly complete their renovations. “We really do give the employees and guests a chance to see some of the best local art. It’s also another chance to get engaged in a variety of work,” he says. The art is rotated quarterly and promoted through the company intranet. Hoadley says internal communications often includes a brief story about the artist, allowing an opportunity for employees to connect more deeply with the pieces exhibited in their space. “We want our employees to spend time with the art. As a consequence, several have purchased individual pieces.” These first-time art buyers are one of the core program goals, according to the Arts Council, which hopes that area employees will realize they can have private collections of their own for a much lower cost than one might expect.
Waddell & Reed has been part of the Kansas City community since 1937. “We are a long-time community supporter and believe it is important to give back to a variety of organizations,”” he says. The company, an asset management and financial planning firm, may not seem like a place that encourages art, but art is found everywhere. “I suppose folks would see us as a seemingly more academic place, but we all have creative aspects to what we do.” The campus houses about 1,200 employees.
The Now Showing portfolio includes artists working in a variety of mediums. “We have featured photography, sketches, watercolors, oils, acrylics and more. The pieces are vibrant and really do appeal to everyone from the senior executives to the new employees. It simply livens up the work place.” While company coordinators are encouraged to review the portfolio and make artist selections of their own, Arts Council staff is also available to assist those first-time participants in choosing the right work for their workspace. “We have had traditional and impressionistic pieces, as well as those that are very contemporary. That variety has been fun.” For broker Mike Stolberg at Lawing Financial, the Now Showing program has gone hand in hand with the company’s participation in the Art@Work competition. And similar to Waddell & Reed, when the company made physical changes including a move to the College Boulevard location, Now Showing seemed to fit. “We are more than bricks and mortar; we are a great group of people. Kerry Lawing,
President and CEO of Lawing Financial, allows us to have those sparks of creative fun.”
Stolberg has a diverse background, thoroughly immersed in the arts, which includes musical theater and piano. He grew up with family members involved with The Western States Arts Federation, including a father who was a broker and returned to school to become a choral conductor. He sings lead for the
company band, Toxic Assets, which includes three guitarists, a bassist and drummer. They won last year’s Art@Work performance category. The success there turned into gigs at the company Christmas party and a few local venues.
The Lawing Financial team is another group, ensconced in giving to its community, while having fun in the process. The 60 employees have held their own sorts of corporate challenges and other creative events to generate interest in the arts.
“Creativity really does begat creativity. People may not see themselves as artists, but you never know what the person in the office next to you can do,” he says. “It helps the office and the power of the team approach. Now Showing just adds to that. Our clients can see what local artists do. The art has also started conversations about the art people like and don’t like. We even have clients who want to know what artists we are bringing in. With all these aspects, we are raising awareness of the local art scene.”