Michael Bzdak

Gary Snyder

Carol Schierbaum

Brian H. Peterson

Art in the Workplace

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This article was published by U.S. 1 Newspaper on

September 22, 1999. All rights reserved.

Corporate Art — Cherish It

Conceptually, art and business are antithetical,"

says Johnson & Johnson’s Michael Bzdak, who for more than a decade

has resoundingly disproved the conceptual schism. And, when you think

about it, so have quite a few other area corporations. Whether from

pure altruism or other motives, any number of major corporate entities

in our area — from health care producers to hospitals, and

educational

institutions to law firms — sponsor significant art programs that

include exhibitions, collections, or both. In many cases, enjoyment

of corporate art is not limited to corporate employees — the

public

is invited in, too, by appointment or at specially scheduled events.

Art in the corporate world sculpts a much softer edge on the

stereotypical

cold-hearted image of business, with its CEOs and corporate raiders,

suits, image-spinners, and cut-throats. (Did we leave anyone out?)

Except that corporate art collecting and exhibiting is so commonplace

— even venerable, given the long history of patronage of the arts

— it could be viewed as cutting-edge, what enlightened business

people do. But just recall years of tobacco company advertisements

about underwriting of this or that art exhibition. See? Softer edge.

Regardless of motive, in these days of government scrutiny of the

arts and arts funding fraught with divisive debate and restrictive

conditions, of public schools’ seemingly reflexive arts cuts in

response

to budget woes, every visual art venue must be cherished.

At the world headquarters of Johnson & Johnson in New Brunswick, a

company that calls itself "the world’s most comprehensive and

broadly-based manufacturer of health care products," it is evident

that the company believes its statement that "the arts are a vital

component of a healthy community." Art shows are integral to this

workplace and also open to the public by appointment.

Bzdak, originally curator of the corporation’s art collection, and

now director of corporate contributions, with oversight of the art

program, cites the company’s belief in a safe and

esthetically-pleasing

workplace. The outward signs of this philosophy are not one but two

art galleries in the building; a corporate art collection of some

2,000 pieces, predominately works on paper by living artists; and

displays of art throughout the corporation’s national sites. Johnson

& Johnson also links its art program to philanthropy, encouraging

employees to learn about and give to other arts organizations.

Beyond a wide, windowed hall rimming the cafeteria, the headquarter’s

main gallery area comprises three long walls that showcase, through

September 30, an exhibition of Chinese woodcut prints from Jiangsu

Province. Assembled by the Printmaking Council of New Jersey, this

exhibition illustrates how the gallery operates. Often used for shows

traveling from other sites, its location makes it easy for employees

to see the art on their way to and from the cafeteria. Wall signage

is brief and clear, each piece is labeled, and a catalog is at hand.

In a nearby rotunda off the same corridor, a small exhibit of art

constructions by Lawrence Saul Heller are on view. As part of J&J’s

ongoing "New Jersey Artists" series, the work of this North

Brunswick resident and consulting architect was selected for a month’s

show, complete with an introductory artist’s statement.

The corporate cafeteria itself presents another mix of visual art,

a revolving exhibition of works selected from the collection. This

month these include large, framed color photos of J&J products —

"Meet you under the blue toothbrush for lunch!" — to a

wall of three large paintings on paper by New Jersey artist Deborah

Weier, to a wall-size acrylic color grid by Robert Swain, hung under

skylights, that serves in effect as a screen between those eating

and the food-preparation area. So, at J&J, there’s regularly changing

art on display and a permanent collection comprised largely of work

by New Jersey artists.

Employees can request art from the collection for their

offices, enhancing their personal work environment. "Those who

inhabit the area can choose what’s displayed," Bzdak says. There

is also corporate membership in a number of museums, and an appealing

quarterly newsletter that lists highlights from area museums. Launched

10 years ago and delivered, by request, to about 50 employees, it

now goes out to a request list of just over 1,000.

Top Of Page
Michael Bzdak

The goal of all this? Bzdak says J&J’s art program aims to "expose

our employees to a wide variety of art from outside to better

appreciate

the art inside." People can see art all around them at work, they

have input and involvement, and they can expand on their interest

beyond the corporation. Then too, art in the workplace creates

dialogues

and promotes diversity. There is also an educational component. With

special exhibitions, Bzdak organizes lunch-time lectures by museum

representatives, and he sometimes supplements the wall text with other

printed materials.

As for how such a thing happens in a corporate setting, it starts

at the top — shades of Management Principles 101. "Over the

years at J&J," Bzdak says, "a culture change has occurred.

The first thing is that upper management must believe [in a workplace

art program]." Then, "it takes a commitment by the company;

it’s part of its social responsibility." He makes modest mention

of the advantage of an insider who can talk with and involve employees

— "once they know you’re serious about it." Apparently

since 1983, when then-curator Bzdak came to J&J, they have learned

he is serious about it.

Top Of Page
Gary Snyder

Private art dealer Gary Snyder is another veteran of

the corporate art scene. Involved since its beginning with the program

at Stark & Stark, the Lenox Drive law firm, Snyder remembers how in

the 1970s, his parents, then owners of a Princeton gallery, helped

curate the first art shows at Squibb, Western Electric, ETS, and other

sites.

Snyder describes Albert Stark, one of the legal firm’s principals,

as "a real supporter of art" who opened the door to what has

happened since the collaboration began, and he cites David Botwinick,

another senior partner, who also played an active role. At first,

for the pleasure of employees and clients, Snyder advised on placement

of purchased art in the Stark & Stark venue. Then, with newly

available

lobby space, they realized that permanently placed art could quickly

become static, whereas revolving art exhibitions would assure variety.

Now what Snyder calls "a marvelous program" has allowed Stark

& Stark to commit to showing art from the tri-state area in the course

of some six art shows a year, in the firm’s first and third floor

lobby-galleries. Visitors are welcome to stop by and see the works

from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Gallery talks are also open to anyone

interested. Snyder notes that for corporations that support art

programs,

the benefits include an altruistic aspect — giving back to the

community, giving back to employees — as well as the certainty

that art nurtures ideas and stimulates conversations.

The Art Group of Princeton is currently exhibiting, through Friday,

November 5. The annual show of the Garden State Watercolor Society

opens Thursday, November 18, and runs through early January. (Snyder

is once again located in the Princeton area, planning the

repositioning

of his Snyder Fine Art gallery from West 57th Street to a new site

in New York’s Chelsea section. He is also excited about the virtual

art gallery he will build this fall to mirror the actual place. By

early next year, he expects to have an Internet address and may offer

eight to ten exhibits before even opening the physical gallery.)

Two gallery spaces on the Educational Testing Service campus offer

additional exhibition venues for area artists — and art that

employees

and visitors alike can enjoy. Artists selected through a slide-jurying

process can show — usually works on paper — for periods of

about six weeks. Work hanging in Conant Lounge, an extension of the

cafeteria, can be seen from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays, while for art

in the Chauncey Conference Center, the shows are open to 9 p.m.

Currently hanging in the Conant Gallery Lounge is a show of oil

paintings

by Randolph Husava. Samuel Lapenson’s watercolors and mixed-media

works are on view in the Chauncey Center through October 14. Jeri

Bogan, ETS manager of assets and properties, has oversight of the

galleries and the company’s art collection that began in 1973.

Top Of Page
Carol Schierbaum

With an assured flow of employees and visitors — and miles of

corridor wall space — area hospitals have increasingly concluded

that, as music soothes the savage breast, art can also make a positive

difference for employees, patients, and visitors alike. With

enthusiastic

Carol Schierbaum coordinating what happens in two exhibition venues,

the Medical Center of Princeton is a kind of prototype of what we

might call "managed culture care."

During her nine years on the job, Schierbaum has tried to show the

work of area artists in both the hospital dining room area and the

library of the Merwick Rehabilitation Unit, off nearby Bayard Lane.

With two-month runs, the hospital exhibitions change more often than

those at Merwick, but shows at both sites are marked by wine and

cheese

opening receptions, and, of course, the works on view are also for

sale, with a modest 20 percent going to the hospital auxiliary.

That Etzer Desir, of the Medical Center’s environmental services

department,

is also an artist quickly became clear with his hugely popular show

of Haitian scene paintings. Since that debut, he has kept his day

job — while moving on to other galleries and, predictably, moving

up in price. But it all started at Merwick, and curator Schierbaum

proudly mentions still other exhibiting artists whose work has been

purchased by various state government and fine-art figures. One of

them, Kathy Shumway-Tunney, is currently showing pastels in the

hospital;

Betty Hirschmann’s watercolors will remain on view at Merwick until

December 9.

Top Of Page
Brian H. Peterson

"There is a long and glorious tradition of corporate artistic

patronage, going all the way back to the Renaissance era Italian city

states, and including a long list of businesses and business families

whose names are prominently associated with artistic patronage (Getty,

Carnegie, Mellon, Rockefeller)," to quote Brian H. Peterson,

senior

curator at the James A. Michener Art Museum. Although he was writing

in the context of the Merrill Lynch corporate art collection, his

words could as well describe this area’s corporate culture, which

"has recognized both the importance of creativity in our lives

and the positive impact of the presence of art in the workplace

environment."

— Pat Summers

Top Of Page
Art in the Workplace

Johnson & Johnson World Headquarters Gallery, New

Brunswick,

732-524-3698. "The Woodcut Printmakers of Jiangsu Province,

China,"

a show organized by the Printmaking Council of New Jersey comprising

work by 30 artists of Jiangsu, a southeastern province adjacent to

Shanghai. The art technique that remains basically unchanged since

originating in China more than 2,000 years ago, has prospered in the

region since the 16th century. To September 30.

Also, in the New Jersey Artist Series, "Constructions" by

Lawrence Heller, an exhibition of relief works in matteboard, paper,

plywood, and copper, inspired by his work as an architect with Rothe

Johnson Fantacone. To September 27. Free by appointment.

Educational Testing Service, Carter and Rosedale roads,

609-921-9000. In the Brodsky Gallery of the Chauncey Conference

Center:

Samuel Lapenson, watercolor and mixed-media with watercolor, to

October

14. High School Student A-P Studio art show, October 15 to 21.

Alexandra

Sax, charcoal drawings, October 26 to November 29. Joan Shrager,

acrylic

collages, December 1 to 31.

In the Conant Gallery Lounge B: Randolph Husava, oil paintings, to

October 20. Gary Peterson and Roger LaPelle, oil paintings, October

22 to November 19; Elaine Lisle, paintings, November 23 to December

29. Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Medical Center at Princeton, Witherspoon Street,

609-497-4192.

Kathy Shumway-Tunney, pastels. In the Merwick Unit Library:

Landscapes and house portraits by Betty Hirschmann. Part of proceeds

benefit the medical center. Open 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily, to December

9.

Stark & Stark, 993 Lenox Drive, Building 2, Lawrenceville,

609-896-9060. "Departures," an exhibition by the Art Group,

featuring Princeton area artists Liz Adams, Nadine Berkowsky, Eva

Kaplan, Edith Kogan, Judith Koppel, Stephanie Mandelbaum, Helen Post,

and Gloria Wiernik, and curated by Gary Snyder of Snyder Fine Art.

In the reception area galleries through November 12. Exhibit is open

Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Summit Bancorp Gallery, 301 Carnegie Center at Route 1,

609-987-3200. "The American Indian Artists’ Exhibition," a

group show that continues to November 29. Exhibition is open daily,

9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Free.


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