“Hey, listen to this!” I was over helping Oswald unpack some of his belongings had been in storage for a couple of years. He began to read to me from a copy of the newspaper which until this moment had been protecting his grandmother’s cup and saucer collection. “This is by Richard Florida, a brainy think-tank type, who is writing about Montreal: ‘Its genuineness and history are in sync with the social and economic pendulum’s swing away from opulence and hyper-consumption. (Yay, us!) People today, especially creative people, are looking for authentic creative places that are affordable and allow them the openness and social space to do their work. Urban thinker Jane Jacobs long ago said that “new ideas require old buildings.” Montreal has old buildings in spades, many of them in stunning historic neighbourhoods.’” “That’s us!” I burst out – it’s sounds just like the Montreal Art Centre!” “Well of course, it’s exactly the Montreal Art Centre. That’s why I’m reading it to you.”
Oswald just got a new job as a window washer and has been bringing light into the old Caledonia Ironworks on William Street in Griffintown, now the home of the Montreal Art Centre. So, he knows it’s true that our centre offers this new and authentic idea of providing affordable studio space and social space to artists in Montreal – in an old building – in a stunning historic neighbourhood. He says he feels like Curious George (if anyone remembers the book where the little monkey becomes a window washer), looking in the windows watching the artists work. He has become quite fascinated with the place.
“And”, I said, “we are in good company. The C2 conference is happening just down the street from May 22nd to the 25th at the New City and Gas building (which is actually old, built around 1860) at the corner of Ottawa and Dalhousie Streets.”
“What’s the C2 conference?” asked Oswald diving into another one of his boxes.
“It stands for Commerce and Creativity. I have the blurb here on my phone: “Ahem. ‘Set in the creative hotbed of Montreal, C2-MTL is a collaborative and immersive conference that inspires right + left brain thinking through a smorgasbord of exhibitions, multimedia presentations, conceptual spaces, projections, collaborative workshops and a creativity boot camp. The multifaceted event site will consist of an “innovation village” where participants will be challenged to explore new ideas, in various forms. C2-MTL is reinventing the business conference to find Creative Answers to Commercial Questions.’”
“ Well, that sounds right down your alley.”
“I know, I know! I wish I could afford to go – it’s for corporate types and so a bit pricey for me. However, I do want to get in touch with them and let them know about their kindred spirits in the neighbourhood. And about our event that is coinciding with theirs. It’s actually quite synchronistic.
“What’s our event?”
“It’s called Meet the Artist – and it’s happening right in the middle of their event on May 24th. People can come to the centre and meet the artists while they are working – you know, have a bit of a visit, ask questions, buy art, drink coffee, eat cookies, etc. Not to mention that many of the artists will be serving treats in their personal studio spaces. All that hard work you’re doing to brighten up the inside of the building will be much appreciated, I”m sure. I hope lots of people come.” Oswald was not listening anymore, he had found his box of old New Yorker magazines.
So now, this is when I stand up on my soap box, dear readers, because I’m really keen to tell you that one of my pet projects as an art therapist has been to design a corporate art therapy programme. If only I had known that Francis Ford Coppola, La Huffington and Michael Eisner were going to be in our neighbourhood, I would have offered my services. But please, read on for my take on art and the corporation.
Now that the world is entering a globalized and rapidly changing era of business and commerce in the twenty-first century, it appears that new skills are becoming necessary; innovation and creativity are the buzzwords. I read that cutting-edge industries are turning to the arts for inspiration and guidance. State-of-the-art business schools are including arts-based learning in their management classes.
Emerging new business models are showing us that companies are increasingly discovering that the traditional corporate way of thinking, where the needs of the institution hold sway over the needs of the individual, is giving way to a new perspective on business practices, employee relationships and the workplace. Employee satisfaction has never been so important; creative thinking is in demand; the bottom line and the common good are becoming counterparts. Visionary leaders of major corporations are employing ideas like right brain thinking, flow, and aesthetic organization, traditionally the domain of the artist, to encourage new ideas and business strategies. Neuroscience research and current business scholarship back this up.
Workers now want freedom at work, not freedom from work as in the past. More and more people in our society aspire to the traditional values of the artist: to experience the freedom to be oneself, to contribute to making the world a better place, to understand and participate in their own inner lives. A new sensitivity regarding what defines a meaningful life is emerging at the same time as uncertainty about the future affects us all. As the “real” world has come to embrace a new, virtual world, so do more and more individuals seek knowledge of their personal “virtual reality”, the life just under the surface of day-to-day realities. As our private worlds and work environments continue to be interconnected and, at the same time, perceptibly affected by global events, the need for inner strength along with a secure and productive workplace becomes more and more important. Learning to always improve the ability to focus attention and use time and skills wisely is tantamount to success these days. One way to master all of this is by becoming deeply involved in enjoyable and challenging creative experiences such as those engendered by participation in the arts. Or, at least, that is what I think. I would ask Oswald what he thinks but he has just dashed off to his window washing job.