Bringing art from local artists into Columbia businesses.

You know you are in Columbia when you notice artwork for sale on the walls of places you visit when stopping for a morning coffee, meeting a colleague for lunch, or making an afternoon bank run. Our robust, working artist community has likely brightened your wait in line, but art can have an even greater impact in your business environment.

Surveys of businesses around the world consistently show the benefits of workplace art like increased productivity and creativity and general well-being. It’s not surprising that the physical environment employees work in for approximately forty hours a week has an impact on their mentality; however, office aesthetics are frequently overlooked by employers.

Take a look at these numbers from a survey of 800 employees from 32 different organizations conducted by the Business Committee for the Arts, Inc. and the International Association for Professional Art Advisors.

  • 94 percent of employees agreed art enhances the work environment
  • 78 percent of employees agreed art helps reduce stress
  • 74 percent of employees agreed art helps to build community relationships
  • 67 percent of employees agreed art helps increase productivity
  • 64 percent of employees agreed art increases creativity

The University of Exeter’s Dr. Craig Knight studies the psychology of working environments and has found a distinct difference in productivity in respect to the working environment: employees in offices with art and plants – enriched environments — work 15 percent quicker than those in offices containing only the things necessary for required tasks – a lean environment. Also, fewer health complaints were reported by those working in enriched work environments than those in lean work environments.

A study by the Cass Business School explored perceptions of employees toward workplace art, and their results said that 80 percent of women and 66 percent of men agreed that art at the office could reduce their stress levels. Ninety-nine percent of women and 71 percent of men stated that art affects their general well-being.

For business owners wanting to improve the public-facing work environment in their organization, the Columbia Art League has operated the Community Exhibit Program to supply art from local artists to area businesses since 1959. The program is directly related to the art league’s mission to “provide the community with a stimulating environment for experiencing the visual arts through exhibitions, education, appreciation, promotion, and creation of art.”

Through the Community Exhibit Program, businesses receive a rotating selection of art to display, and local artists in return have their work exposed to larger audiences. Any business with a secure, well-lit, public area with ample wall space can be an exhibiting venue.

Businesses can also form a workplace environment team to brainstorm ideas for bringing in art to their workplace and beautifying the office. Employees should feel empowered to design and improve their own environment with art.

In future columns, I’ll share more ideas on how the arts can be used to build camaraderie, improve morale, and incite creativity in the workplace.


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