What Art and Your Mental Well-Being Have in Common

Martha Weidmann of NINE dot ARTS makes the case for increasing health and happiness at work through the inclusion of inspiring art.

Bonfils-Stanton Foundation

The idea of experiencing the new (and old) joys of life are exhilarating to many as the world reopens following over a year where much of society was confined to their homes. On other hand, this prospect makes some wary.

This wariness is evidenced in a recent study, which found that more than 70% of Americans are at least slightly apprehensive about embracing our traditional way of living, especially when it comes to returning to the workplace.

Because employers and employees alike are at a heightened sense of the emotional toll of the workplace, the question becomes: how can employers ease concern and appease this anxiety? What resources are necessary to alleviate the inherent stresses of a new environment? One solution – art.

The effects of art on everyday life are evident – with a huge portion of the population agreeing that art boosts their mood and considering it to be a “positive experience in a troubled world.”

That means that one way back to enjoying the office and revitalizing the sense of a safe community is to incorporate imaginative and inspiring artwork through a myriad of spaces, settings and environments.

McWhinney Offices

Art generates an affiliation with a shared mission and vision

Artwork can be a visual vehicle for creating a sense of connection to a workplace or public space that otherwise is detached from the broader community. In fact, the State of the Art report by NINE dot ARTS found that 92% of people say art installations elicit positive work-satisfaction.

Utilizing a variety of mediums and types of art elicits fellowship among co-workers, and encourages camaraderie beyond the water cooler.

Let’s use the Gates Family Foundation for example. Throughout the 20,00 square feet office space spans 25 artworks focused on the intriguing story of Colorado’s history and natural resources. The rejuvenated space serves as a reminder to employees of the brand’s mission to positively influence and enhance the quality of life in Colorado.

Bonfils-Stanton Foundation

Art organically encourages association and a sense of place

Urban Land Institute reports that seven in 10 Americans say the arts not only improve the quality of life of their community, but also its image and identity. Lively art fosters relationships to a space, teaching bystanders about the history of the area and facilitating conversations about the art.

Of course, public art is the lifeblood of placemaking. Art encompasses the areas we inhabit daily. Art enlivens the common spaces we frequent for a quick lunch, or a mental break. Art fascinates, sparking creativity to continue working. A perfect case of public space using art to inspire is Dairy Block in downtown Denver. The activated alley cuts through the middle of the block, formerly inhabited by a dairy farm, allowing pedestrians, neighbors and employees to explore works by various local artists using a variety of mediums. The artworks reflect Dairy Block’s past, while nodding to the future of the space and its neighborhood. From restaurants to hotels to corporate office space, Dairy Block is an ode to art’s ability to enliven what once was a void and undefined area.

Dairy Block elevators

Art enhances productivity and collaboration

Work productivity increases by 17% when art is incorporated into a workplace according to The University of Exeter. It is known that art fosters creativity, serves as a foundation for new perspectives and fresh ideas, and encourages conversation.

As workers continue to return to the office, organizations should be open to creating social spaces free of the constraints of the typical work environment. Spaces that feed collaboration and support positive interactions with coworkers. Facilitate areas in your office space like a social lounge dedicated to team bonding. Or rejuvenate a space specifically designed for brainstorming. The key to a successful space is to look for art, furniture and other items that will cultivate a strong bond and partnership among colleagues.

Overall, discover ways to nurture relationships and connection to your brand. Tap your team to incorporate them in the design process, feature elements to tie in with your brand story, elevate your space by using local artists to connect with the community.

Take Denver Water’s recent redesign of their headquarters for example. At the beginning of the design process, they asked employees for direct feedback and help with creating an authentic collection that would accurately portray the story of how Denver’s water flowed into the city’s faucets. In collaboration with a local artist, the employees combined their ideas into a signature work that now serves as a staple in the exterior collection, making it a key part of the company’s public presence.

Denver Water

Art fuels economic growth and strength

Making an investment in art is a strategically sound business decision. The arts industry has proven to be a positive indicator for the health of the broader economy, even in times of decline. Research by the Urban Land Institute suggests that creative placemaking provides financial, social and environmental benefits.

By supporting the arts, organizations not only help make employees happier and more productive, but also secure a healthy bottom line, boosting the greater economy. Arts and culture, including public art, further community buy-in and promote brand awareness and recognition. Art boosts quality of life and serves as an attractor to the space.

Bonfils-Stanton Foundation

Art produces memorable encounters

Want to encourage a visitor to see a space from a different perspective? Art. It lures customers and creates an intangible link to your facility. From a hotel lobby to a parking garage, art can amaze and surprise.

Americans for the Arts reports that overwhelmingly Americans believe, “the arts provide meaning to our lives.” 69 percent of respondents stated that “the arts lift me up beyond everyday experiences,” 73 percent mentioned the arts “give them pure pleasure to experience and participate in”, and 81 percent say the arts are a “positive experience in a troubled world.”

This is the case for workers in the Bonfils-Stanton Foundation office. With the newly renovated space comes ample opportunity to make art come alive. Bonfils utilized a transparent garage door in the conference room corridor to showcase artwork within additional spaces. The open layout and industrial space connects to the vibrant arts community that surrounds the office in Denver’s Santa Fe Arts District. A repurposed garage door can be opened to the small patio at the back of the building to create a hybrid space for employees to enjoy fresh air and the office simultaneously. Several custom murals adorn the interior and outer facade, with odes to the surrounding area and the organization’s mission.

In a time when the fog of the virtual world is being lifted, these types of shareable moments, that can only be captured by the eye in reality, remind us of what we have missed in person. Art bridges us to others, to our past and to the course forward as we navigate our new existence.

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