The Art is Secondary

It happened again. I was attending a social function when an old friend – very enthusiastic upon learning of the team building successes of ReimagineArt – insisted that I tell her husband about my business. Her husband works for a large apparel company in town that offers fantastic team building opportunities for employees, so naturally my friend thought to connect us.

While I was flattered by my friend’s endorsement, I do not make assumptions when one person tells me that another will LOVE my business concept. Some people get it immediately — this idea of bringing the interactive creative arts to the workplace for team building, de-stressing, and bonding. Others start plotting their exit strategy as soon as they hear the words ‘art’ and ‘workplace’ in the same sentence.

I approached Nate with the usual curiosity, wondering which direction the conversation would go : “Hey Nate! Kristi thought I should tell you about my business!” His brows lifted inviting me to continue. As I soon as I began my spiel, I had my answer: Nate stiffened, broke eye contact, and downshifted his smile. Along with the telltale stance, he uttered no affirming sounds nor asked any clarifying questions. “I imagine the designers would like something like that” – exit stage left.

No hard feelings Mr. Nate. At this stage of the game, I smile knowingly inside thinking “We make converts out of the likes of you….”

The Nate’s of the world are my absolute favorite clients – the ones who know for a hard cold fact that they are NOT creative and never will be. Let me tell you a little secret… it’s not about the art. While the art likes to prance around like it’s all that, it’s really just a means to an end, a medium to get to the meaty stuff of how employees approach challenges, how they navigate conflict, if they possess the fixed or growth mindset, if they are the ‘Give me a challenge and I’ll figure it out!’-ers or the ‘Give me clear guidelines and I’ll do it’ types. Watching how people approach art tells more about them than they reveal in months on the job.

ReimagineArt never forces anyone to engage in art sessions. Participants are invited to interact to whichever degree feels comfortable. Maybe they pick up a paintbrush, dip it in a favorite color, and observe the paint glide across the paper. Maybe they experience the tactile sensation of pinching the edges of a clump of wet clay. Maybe they snip out an eye-pleasing image from a magazine and glue it to a piece of canvas. Our objective is to provide a safe, non-judgemental, performance-free time and space to explore the arts and thereby fire up parts of the brain that may be a bit rusty or even dormant.

While the overwhelming majority of participants enjoy their creative arts exposure, it is our most reluctant participants who walk away with the greatest of gains. When asked what was the primary benefit of their ReimagineArt experience, we typically hear, “I did something I thought I couldn’t do!”, “Brought back great memories,” and “Being proud of something that we created together that initially didn’t think I would be good at.”

If ReimagineArt were a new technology, it would be accumulating followers. But what’s even better is that it’s not and that it pulls to the center an age-old pastime and hands-on techniques proven across centuries, cultures, generations, aptitudes, interests, and personalities. The creation of art in the workplace is the great connector, developer, and teacher it has always been, only in a new setting.

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