Interview with Gwen Sprague, photographer and Clinical Medical Librarian, TMC Lakewood.

Why did you get involved with the Art@Work program?
They made the announcement for an in-house competition and some friends asked if I was submitting, so I did sort of on a lark. I had so much fun the first year I started planning and thinking about what might be a good submission in advance of the next year.

In which arts disciplines are you involved?
So far, I’ve only submitted photography, but I am thinking about doing some writing for next year in addition to the photos.

Tell us about your talents and how you are using them through Art@ Work.
My interest in photography has always been about sharing how I see the world in the hope that what I find interesting will interest others. When I am selected to exhibit at the Art@Work event, I’m looking to make that connection with the people who will tour the exhibit.

Was there something from your childhood or your past that linked you to the arts?
I was a math and sciences geek when I was in high school, but I always tried to take an art or drama class to balance it out. I’ve found, as an adult, continuing involvement in the arts as my hobby keeps my mind fresh and that creative expression is a great stress-reliever.

How has Art@Work changed the corporate culture at your company?
TMC has always fostered the belief that the healing arts include more that the medical skills of its staff. Creativity and the arts can play a real role in healing the patient. I think that our involvement in Arts@Work lets us take this philosophy outside our physical facilities and into the community. It provides the opportunity for our staff to participate and embrace that important philosophy.

How has Art@Work changed your perspective of your employer and colleagues?
Our workplace has always been involved in the Kansas City Corporate Challenge and I think Art@Work gives more opportunity to people whose interest are less fitted for athletic skills and more for creative skills. Art@Work allows more people recognition by their peers. It also lets us show the community what kind of people work for TMC — that we aren’t just “health-care providers;” we are well-rounded people involved in our community.

In what ways has Art@Work inspired you at work?
The creativity I use in my photography and writing is not isolated to “skills I use away from my job.” I use that creativity every day. I try to think creatively when confronted with a problem, when engaging in interpersonal communication and when doing long-range planning for my department. I don’t think it is possible to separate the “art” in my life from my “work.”

In these challenging times and with challenging budgets, do the arts still have a place in the business community?
There is more to “work” then showing up for eight hours — at least there should be more. Well-rounded employees bring more to the mission of the company than a specific marketable skill. Art creates an environment of creativity. Support for the arts can link the employees to that mission by fostering that expressiveness in the employees, how they do their work and how the company relates to their customers as well as the community.

What is one of your favorite memories of Art@Work?
Seeing the installation at Union Station for the first time is my favorite memory. To see your work hung on the wall is exciting. Watching people look at what you’ve done is even more satisfying, and to see it there along with other good pieces is an honor.

Why do you think other employees should get involved with Art@Work?
I think Art@Work empowers employees to show to their peers and their administrations that they are rounded people, that they have lives outside of work and skills other than their job duties. It makes them better employees to be more than clock-punching automatons. Also, by fostering creativity outside of work, it encourages it on the job as well. Creativity on the job can be used to problem-solve and implement change. And, like I mentioned before, learning to express yourself creatively can be a great stress-reliever. l

Kellie Houx

Kellie Houx is a writer and photographer. A graduate of Park University, she has 20 years of experience as a journalist. As a writer, wife and mom, she values education, arts, family and togetherness.

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