Where Culture Meets Commerce

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"Mike Kelley 1" by Jennifer Steinkamp, Video Installation, 2007. Photo by Steve Travarca, Cleveland Clinic Center for Medical Art & Photography

How art in the workplace can positively influence organizations.

As a growing number of employees are able to work from practically anywhere, drawing them into a brick-and-mortar office can be a challenge for business owners. But the physical office is arguably central to a company’s culture, so it stands to reason that the more employees can interact with that culture, the more productive, engaged and fulfilled they will be.

Many organizations are designing office spaces to entice remote employees to work on-site, including perks like open-office workspaces, meditation rooms, fitness centers and game areas. Other organizations also see artwork as a way to keep their employees inspired and to convey their ethos. “But art can do more than draw people in,” according to Kristin Rogers, art education and communications manager at insurance giant Progressive Corp.

“Pumpkin” by Yayoi Kusama, Fiberglass-reinforced plastic and urethane paint, 2016. Donated to Cleveland Clinic by Robert M. Kaye.

“We look to our collection to be a cultural asset first and foremost,” Rogers says. “The worth of an individual artwork is measured anecdotally by its capacity to incite curiosity and encourage thought.”

Since 1974, Progressive, headquartered in Mayfield Village, Ohio, has collected more than 10,000 pieces of art from about 2,000 contemporary artists around the world. The company’s art education program, which is spearheaded by Rogers and implemented by a team of five, aims to reach all 34,000 employees across the country.

“Our acquisition philosophy is anchored by our passion for what an artist is ‘saying,’ not what they are ‘selling,’” Rogers explains. “The incredible diversity of our workforce and customer base is mirrored and even accentuated by our equally diverse art collection.” In 1998, Progressive also began sponsoring a companywide juried art show every two years where close to 250 employees submit over 500 works of art.

“Our acquisition philosophy is anchored by our passion for what an artist is ‘saying,’ not what they are ‘selling.’ The incredible diversity of our workforce and customer base is mirrored and even accentuated by our equally diverse art collection.”

Kristin Rogers

Art Education and Communications Manager at Progressive Corp

Progressive Corporate Headquarters Hallway, Mayfield VIllage, OH, 2005

Despite their widespread impact at Progressive, art exhibits still are not typically expected at an insurance company – so imagine what a pleasant surprise it would be to see them in a hospital setting. But the Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio, is not just any hospital. It is one of the largest not-for-profit medical centers in the country and was recognized as the nation’s No. 2 hospital by U.S. News & World Report last year. It also has a contemporary art collection that many museums would envy.

“We wanted to change the paradigm of being in a healthcare setting,” says Joanne Cohen, executive director and curator for the Cleveland Clinic Art Program, Arts & Medicine Institute. “It is all about empathy and the patient journey. So anything that will bring a human element really helps and makes sense. People gravitate toward that.”

To achieve this mission, Cohen and her team of eight have made art a core aspect of the clinic’s identity since 2006. Art is not just in a few designated spaces, but spread throughout 33 million square feet of the hospital’s worldwide facilities, even in patients’ rooms.

“It is all about empathy and the patient journey. So anything that will bring a human element really helps and makes sense. People gravitate toward that.”

Joanne Cohen

Executive Director and Curator for the Cleveland Clinic Art Program, Arts & Medicine Institute.

Cleveland Clinic wants to emphasize its culture and values (like diversity, empathy, innovation and collaboration) to its employees through its 6,500 pieces of contemporary art, but it also aims to help soothe and heal the hospital’s 7.6 million annual patients.

After studying this desired effect, the clinic published its research in the Health Environments Research and Design Journal in 2014. The clinic was successful in demonstrating that art can enhance patients’ satisfaction with their care: Of the 826 survey respondents who noticed the clinic’s artwork, 73 percent said their mood somewhat or significantly improved while 61 percent said the artwork somewhat or significantly reduced their stress levels.

Art helps both Progressive and Cleveland Clinic improve the lives of their employees and the people they serve. By making an impact on thousands of people, the two institutions show that art can serve as a source of culture and identity that puts an organization in a favorable light. And that kind of work, artwork or otherwise, is invaluable.

In Good Company

A look at today’s most noteworthy institutional art programs.

"Three Swans" by Sarah Morris, household gloss paint on wall, 2008. Photo by Thom Sivo Photography.

Photo courtesy of Cleveland Clinic

Nineteenth-century industrialist and Standard Oil founder, John D. Rockefeller, is credited as the father of modern corporate art collecting.1 Since then, many other organizations, such as Progressive Corp. and the Cleveland Clinic, have followed suit. For example:

  • Mayo Clinic

    For over 30 years, the not-for-profit hospital has collected and showcased work by artists such as Andy Warhol, Alexander Calder, Joan Miró and Dale Chihuly at its locations in Minnesota, Arizona and Florida.2,3

  • Microsoft

    The technology company launched an art collection in 1987 that now includes nearly 5,000 artworks on display in over 130 buildings throughout North America.4

  • Samsung

    The electronics titan opened a museum in 2004 in Seoul, South Korea, that houses traditional Korean art and modern and contemporary art in two exclusively designed buildings.5

  • The Natural Resources Defense Council

    Since 2014, the New York City-based environmental group has hosted an artist-in-residence program to spark dialogue between environmental artists, policy experts and the public.6

  1. “How and Why You Should Start a Corporate Art Collection,” Forbes, 2016
  2. “Photos: A Walk Through Mayo Clinic’s Healing Art,” MPR News, 2016
  3. “Center for Humanities in Medicine," Mayo Clinic
  4. “About the Art Collection,” Microsoft
  5. “About Leeum,” Samsung Foundation
  6. “Acclaimed Chicago Artist Jenny Kendler is NRDC's First Artist-in-Residence,” Natural Resources Defense Council Inc., 2014