By Cerise Marcela, Senior Vice President, CBRE and Amy Lalezari, Director of Client Services, Environments at Work
The Impact of Art in the Workplace, A Conversation with Mari Silipo Cook from TurningArt
This year the Education Committee featured a program series around the Impact of Art in the Workplace, shining a light on creators and innovators to help us better understand and even rethink all the ways art can impact people and places.
As part of this series, Education Committee members Cerise Marcela, CBRE, and Amy Lalezari, Environments at Work, sat down with Mari Silipo Cook, President at TurningArt, to discuss her perspective on this subject.
Can you tell us about your mission at TurningArt?
At TurningArt, our mission is to create a future where art is an enriching and expected part of our daily lives.
We are working to extend meaningful experiences with art beyond the walls of galleries and museums to make artwork from working and emerging artists accessible to everyone.
We firmly believe that art has the power to enrich our lives, and by bringing it into the places we encounter daily – whether it's at work, the doctor’s office, or in public spaces – we can unite people, spark conversations, and bring inspiration to individuals and communities alike.
What are some examples where you have seen an impact through art?
As you take in the design of a space, art is often the most direct and emotional element to that experience. Art not only frames the feeling of a space but is also a connector, providing a sense of community through the piece's narrative or the artist’s background. Here are some examples of impactful art use in the workplace:
Artist painting challenge in the lobby of a corporate office building
Recent Boston mural installation at the Southline development
Rotating Art is a way for organizations to explore new ideas, styles, and themes on a regular basis, making the space as dynamic as the end user.
Art can reflect our values, honor our heritage, and foster community. This client engaged an artist to celebrate San Francisco's rich cultural history of Chinese immigrants and indigenous roots.
Art installation at a San Francisco office space
Check out more inspirational client case studies here.
How have you seen or been part of impacting Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) through Art?
DEI is important to everyone at TurningArt, and we firmly believe that embracing diversity in the arts is essential for fostering creativity, representation, and understanding.
We take pride in being responsible supporters of both our clients and our artists. By being attentive listeners and respecting each artist's vision, we strive to tell their stories authentically and ethically.
Many working and emerging artists need help gaining access to meaningful exposure and business opportunities for their work. To address this, TurningArt’s platform is entirely free. It equips artists from various backgrounds, races, genders, and abilities with tools to track their activity and expand their reach to new audiences.
In building an inclusive community of artists, we aim to contribute to a more vibrant and representative art landscape. TurningArt's DEI commitment is a testament to our belief that art can bridge gaps, drive positive change, and unite people from all walks of life.
Artist Vicky Barranguet in her studio
What advice would you give to an organization looking to integrate more art into its space?
We encourage clients to start by asking some high-level questions. What do you want the art program to achieve? What story do you want it to tell? What about your brand, values, and mission do you want to promote? How do you want the art program to connect with employees or tenants?
Our process typically starts with a visioning discussion to understand the client’s aspirations for the art program. We would then work together to develop critical aesthetics and layer the kind of energy they expect for each space type. Throughout the curation process, we calibrate the direction with art examples and make sure we find alignment, and make it fun no matter your vocabulary.
Think about your story and the desired first impression to rethink the line item in your budget. I think of art as the punctuation in the sentence of the design experience.
Consider rotation programs. Flexibility is an important factor when building out environments today; thoughtful curation through rotation affords you the freedom to experiment.
Are there tools or mechanisms to engage employees in the art selection process?
I think the best collections incorporate end user feedback. We have developed an online voting tool for our clients to give their community a voice in the process. Ultimately assisting with a diverse output and thoughtful curation that feels relevant to space and culture.
Once a project is completed, we often see clients building events around art. Art provides a forum for discussion to bring different people and backgrounds together to connect and share through artist talks, mural side chats, gallery-style openings, or a collection tour… making memories and creating positive experiences around the art can help make the investment go even further.
With the increased emphasis on hybrid work and the new role of the office, do you see any shift in client priorities and art programs post-pandemic?
Yes, there is a greater focus on local artists. Local stories and community artists are in higher demand as clients try to create a more authentic experience for their people to get them back together—a shift from high volume to high impact via more kinds of artwork.
How do you feel about digital art, AI-generated work, and what about those NFTs?
Art making, like anything else, has continuously evolved with technology - digital art is a new form of expression, and I support it. AI-generated work is here now, but is it art? Art is the expression of human creative skill - of which there is no shortage, in my opinion - so I’m delighted to witness how this all unfolds. If I advise on a personal collection, I always tell clients to buy what they love - I’m less inspired by the world of NFTs and moments where value is driven only by scarcity and exclusivity. I’m more excited by art as an experience than art as a financial investment. That said, I love hearing stories about artists becoming millionaires in the metaverse or elsewhere!
A note from Cerise and Amy…
We really enjoyed connecting with Mari and thank her for the conversation, time, and perspective.
Any feedback to share? Interested in other topics you would like to see the Education Committee cover? Please email Amy Lalezari at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you missed this series, members can access a recording through the member content center.
To learn more about Turning Art, on their website.
Interested in becoming an artist with TurningArt? Apply here.