June 2, 2008

Idea: Corporate Artists in Residence

Many large corporations have philanthropy departments. They donate money for medical research, public television, city beautification, arts organizations, and more. But I’d like to see corporations use their philanthropy in part to spotlight individual artists through residency programs. It could give a big boost to an individual artist, and give a public face to the company’s support of the arts which may better promote arts in general.

Each company could pick one artist each year whose work exemplifies the company’s brand or ethos, provide financing for a year during which the artist develops a body of work, and then offer a performance or exhibition space — perhaps in a flagship store or corporate headquarters — to showcase the result.

For example, Apple’s first artist in residence could be a sculptor who integrates technology in his work, and they can display his pieces in select Apple stores across the country. Starbucks could pick an undiscovered singer/songwriter and finance her first album under their record label. Boeing’s artist in residence could be someone whose work is inspired by aviation, to be displayed in airport terminals.

I figure some corporations must already do this, but I was only able to find one example of a large company that has had an artist in residency program: Siemens, though its hearing aid division, has funded musicians through its artists in residence program, culminating in live performances in New York City. Are there others I’ve overlooked?



A dump’s artist in residence.

Another artist in residence, sort of. Link

Could we consider Margaret Bourke-White’s work in the Chrysler Building an example of this concept? Or did she have to pay rent…?

Oh, I could have also mentioned Laurie Anderson, who was NASA’s first (only?) artist in residence. Almost forgot about that. -David

Yes, it’s a good idea, something I’d love to do. Last year, Seth Godin had described an artist-in-residence at a corporation — this was my post on that: Link.

The environmental science (?) department at the University of Queensland has an artist-in-residence. Or artist-on-field-trips. There was recently an exhibition of his artwork in Brisbane.

Universities are already among the usual places where one would expect to find an artist in residence program. I really want to see major corporations step up to the plate. -David

Good idea, I like it. You should pitch the idea to some big companies. I bet if the idea got into the right hands, they’d love it.

Threadless has an artist in residence, Joe Suta. He does paintings based on that weeks winning shirt designs, he also did graffitti style painting all over the walls of their office.

Unbelievably good idea.

‘Course, I’m betting most companies (at least the ones that could afford to do this) would opt to go with someone who doesn’t need the exposure.

This isn’t a corporate artist in residence program, but you might be interested anyway: http://www.in-kamiyama.jp/en/art/

Great idea in theory. That being said, being a veteran of the “NEA Culture War” of the early 90s and given the contemporary fear of the unknown in corporate America, I’d be concerned with the possible limits (stated or otherwise) put on artists working within a corporation.

Sorry to be a naysayer. Support is good but there’s a lot of fine print floating around these days.

This is a great idea but hardly new. Most historically significant art was commissioned by governments.

The New York City Department of Sanitation used to have an artist in residence, and they may still have one. I remember that she choreographed a dance for street sweeping machines among other things.

NASA had an artist in residence

just that.

I believe each Trader Joe’s Grocery store hires a local artist to do their signage in store.

John Whitney, Sr. was an artist in residence at IBM in 1966. He (and Saul Bass) made the title sequence for Hitchcock’s [i]Vertigo[/i].