Infusing Art Into Our Coworking Spaces
Let me preface this by saying, I don’t have any artistic abilities. I grew up with no exposure to art. And it wasn’t until I moved to Washington, DC after college that I discovered art. As a young, single, 23-year old staffer working on Capitol Hill I started to visit museums in our nation’s capital on weekends. I didn’t know anyone when I first moved to D.C. and weekend hours were generous. Riding my bike around town, visiting historic sites, and touring museums was a good way to fill long stretches of time. Also, I quickly found out that all the art galleries and museums were free. This was a critical life hack at a time when I could pay my rent and Metro fares, and a night out here and there, but not much else. After a few years of exploring our nation’s various galleries, I even brought a few dates to them (high quality and low cost!). This period of intense exploration kicked off a 20-year interest in something I spent the first half of my life knowing absolutely nothing about.
Emotionally, my experiences with art are like all novice appreciators — ranging from love to confusion to extreme dislike. Like so many similar onlookers and fans, I’ve also stood in front of piece and gotten frozen with chills. My passion for history initially drove me to galleries and museums to visit and view masterpieces. But, my time living in New York City quickly opened me up to many art forms. I lived in the city when great orange “Gates” took over Central Park and the myriad of debates ensued. And, I’ve been fascinated with the city’s graffiti since I was kid taking the train to Yankee Stadium. Living there gave me time to see and recognize the difference between a tag or throw-up or something much more artistic. My time in New York also resulted in attending sponsored events at a variety of art venues. Over time I have come to appreciate the great balance of art available in New York.
Gratefully, my public relations firm Gramercy has even worked to promote a variety of regional art projects and exhibits in the Albany, NY area over the past 15 years — Tulip Fire, Breathing Lights, Capital Walls, Summer Square.
As I expanded my business and personal travel, I have sought to expand my exposure to art, which previously was limited to the few cities I had lived in.
Pragmatically, art has given me destinations no matter what city or country I visit. It was this destination, itinerary-making is how I first introduced myself to murals and public art projects. I started to add murals and known street work to my “must-see” stops along with the galleries.
When I bought and renovated the building in downtown Troy, N.Y. that became Troy Innovation Garage, I knew art had an important role to play. As a home for the creative entrepreneurs, we wanted to infuse opportunities in our project for local artists too.
Right from the jump, when I met with the first artist who was trying to determine what we might want, I said “do your thing.” And, I could see the change in his demeanor. This wasn’t going to be a forced commission job, but something that let some originality flow.
The moment was important to me. It crystallized a value system that we “let creative people do their thing.” The results are always stunning.
Now, I’ve hired a lot of people in my career, and you can’t let everyone do “their thing.” It would mean chaos, and many times letting someone who maybe isn’t that talented do harm. It’s an important distinction. When you find someone truly talented, you have to let them create without trying to micro manage or stifle their creativity. I’ve even done this kind of free form approach to planning projects with craftsmen who helped me physically build the spaces. Letting a carpenter leave the plans and get a little creative has led to much better finish work.
Beyond the visual aesthetics and the immediate energy brought into an office environ, the art in our spaces is placemaking. Similar to a public mural, using our office walls as a canvass also creates a spirit of openness and belonging. The creative expressions throughout the spaces encourage creativity and collaboration. The most common thing I hear from people who come into our communities the first time is that “the energy is amazing.” Art is an important part of it. So we’ve brought this same creativity to our new spaces as we develop them and build the communities.
Practically speaking, more people who design, develop or manage workplaces should budget for art. The hard truth is that you can exchange a collection of colorful, overpriced chairs and tables for something that will really matter to people.
About Aurelius Coworks: Aurelius Coworks is a socially responsible company that develops, owns, and operates coworking communities and startup ecosystems in middle markets and downtowns undergoing revitalization. Aurelius Coworks connects its members to the surrounding ecosystem and contributes to the regional economy where its properties are located. The company’s spaces are meticulously built, the communities carefully cultivated, and a focus is placed on infusing the right mix of business and social programming in each community. Current properties include Troy Innovation Garage in Troy, NY, Bull Moose Club in Albany, NY. and Westwey Club in Providence, RI.