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VOL. 126 | NO. 107 | Thursday, June 2, 2011

Office Art

Memphis businesses use local art to enhance environment


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When Stacy McCall, president of ServiceMaster by Stratos, walked into the Memphis College of Art’s South Main Street graduate school on its opening day, she didn’t realize she’d be making a business deal.

Joshua Brinlee, a graduate student from Memphis College of Art, hangs some of his artwork at the Resolution Resource Center of the Mid-South, 545 S. Main St.
(Photo: Lance Murphey)

McCall, whose 32-year-old contract janitorial firm was in the midst of opening its new Downtown office, studied the student art adorning MCA’s ground-floor gallery space thinking how nice it would be if her company’s own cavernous facility were as aesthetically pleasing.

Catherine Pena, (the school’s) public programs coordinator, was in the gift shop at the time,” McCall said. “We struck up a conversation about my desire to have an opportunity to display local artists’ work in our Downtown office. I invited her to come down to my office to look around.”

Pena took McCall up on her offer, and a partnership was born. ServiceMaster by Stratos installed a hanging system along its plethora of bare walls and had pedestals made for sculptures. Now, the 7,400-square-foot office facility serves as a satellite gallery space for MCA’s graduate student artists.

“We probably have filled three-fourths of the facility with work from the students,” McCall said.

That’s a boon for the students, whose work is seen by passers-by who stop in after noticing the artwork from the street, McCall said. Many of the works are also for sale.

But there’s an added benefit to the arrangement, one that any business can take advantage of: A curated collection of art can do wonders for a work environment.

Just ask Doug Wright, member and chief financial officer of CPA and consulting firm Cannon Wright Blount.

When the firm decided six years ago to undertake a massive rebranding effort, Wright saw art as the linchpin.

“We wanted to reflect a progressive, modern approach to accounting and financial services,” Wright said. “We moved into new offices and created a look for ourselves that more reflected our beliefs and our philosophies. Our space reflected that new look, and the accompanying art reflected a more progressive, out of the box, not-your-dad’s-CPA-firm feel. And it created a fun place to work and helped get rid of the typical stodgy accounting atmosphere.”

With the help of interior designer Virginia Norman of The Crump Firm Inc., Wright and his firm procured art by artists including Rana Rochat, Jay Etkin, Michael Hildebrand and Kat Gore. All art displayed on the firm’s walls is local and meaningful to Cannon Wright Blount’s staff, Wright said.

“Besides creating this space for people to work in and achieving the image we want to achieve, this is personal for me,” Wright said. “I’m a huge art fan and I know the amount of work and diligence that goes into these pieces. And it’s important regardless of what business you’re in to support the local art community.”

Cat Pena, left, hangs paintings by artist Carl Moore at the Resolution Resource Center of the Mid-South. From right is Nicole Crowson, Lindsey Gwaltney and Joshua Brinlee. 
(Photo: Lance Murphey)

It’s a philosophy that’s heartily shared by Robert Shaw, president and CEO of Memphis-based Paragon National Bank.

“One of the ways we knew we could emphasize our commitment to the local community would be to support local artists,” said Shaw, whose company embraced the idea from its inception in 2005. “We included art that was Memphis-based in all our facilities. The theme of our grand opening celebration when we started was even called ‘The Art of Banking.’”

As the company has grown, so has its commitment to local artists and local galleries. Paragon also hosts a yearly reception and exhibition at its corporate offices for senior art students at St. Agnes Academy.

“We introduce the ladies and they’re able to invite family, friends and associates to tour our facilities, and we keep their art up for about a month every year,” Shaw said. “It gives them a chance to display their works and also adds to our offices.”

And Paragon staffers love it, he added.

“It creates a great working environment for our employees,” he said. “That’s important because our employees are our most important resource.”

ServiceMaster by Stratos also hosts openings and art events for the student artists whose work it displays. The company plans to rotate its works each year as students enter and exit the program.

“We wanted to become part of the fabric of the community,” McCall said of the company’s commitment to the arts. “So we started looking for ways we could add value as a member of our micro-community. This gives us an opportunity to introduce ourselves, and we’re really pleased because we see people slow their walk as they go by the building, and that’s exciting.”

For Wright, the community bond formed through the shared viewing experience is a priceless benefit.

“To keep it close to home, where you know or mix and mingle with these artists, it creates a bond to the art community, the creative community, and it helps others,” he said. “These artists work really hard to establish themselves and sell their work. To put a local face on this has made it extra-special.”

MORTGAGES 0 79 1,199
BUILDING PERMITS 146 146 2,571