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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
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
is invited in, too, by appointment or at specially scheduled events.
Art in the corporate world sculpts a much softer edge on the
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
Betty Hirschmann’s watercolors will remain on view at Merwick until
"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,
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
— Pat Summers
732-524-3698. "The Woodcut Printmakers of Jiangsu Province,
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.
609-921-9000. In the Brodsky Gallery of the Chauncey Conference
Samuel Lapenson, watercolor and mixed-media with watercolor, to
14. High School Student A-P Studio art show, October 15 to 21.
Sax, charcoal drawings, October 26 to November 29. Joan Shrager,
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.
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
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.
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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