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  • The Facebook Artist in Residence Program

    Art and the Corporate Life



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    You might be surprised to know that Facebook has an active and ongoing Artist in Residence Program. Not only that, but it's also among the most innovative corporate art and artist programs anywhere. Now in its second year, artists have become a regular fixture around the Facebook campus. According to the program's founder and curator, Drew Bennett, artists are active within the Facebook community during the periods of their residencies and besides making art for exhibition, display and dissemination around the campus, they also have ongoing opportunities to observe, mingle and interact with the people who work there.

    Bennett tells me that the mission of the program is to create a corporate environment rich in art, and more specifically, rich in a way that positively impacts the work experience. The selection process for artists is currently done largely in-house, but once the structure of the program becomes more formalized, he expects that process to evolve as well. His longer term vision is more along the lines of being able to demonstrate that a workplace filled with art and with access to artists can actually benefit a company in tangible ways, particularly with respect to how much employees value working there, and how productive they are. But he goes even further than that as he shares his thoughts about integrating art not only into the culture at Facebook, but also more broadly into people's everyday lives. As for the current creative state of affairs at the facilities, there's plenty of art to enjoy, as you'll see in the images below, and plenty more on the way. It's installed in reception areas, hallways, stairwells, on the surfaces of floors, hanging from ceilings, and even some of the furnishings and decorations have been made by artists.

    Art appears at every turn, sometimes when you least expect it, enriching the most mundane experiences like walking down a hallway or up a flight of stairs. Going from point A to point B becomes more of an adventure than simply a mindless interlude where there is nothing to see or think about along the way. That's the difference between this art program and other art programs-- the focus and emphasis on integrating art into the workplace in such a seamless way that people don't necessarily distinguish it from its surroundings. It's not that the art fades into the background, but rather that it becomes an essential part of the environment, where the people who work in these buildings almost come to expect it as a fringe benefit of their jobs.

    The workforce is continually exposed to different and unconventional ways of seeing and thinking, thereby creating an atmosphere that has the potential to yield positive and productive results. Will the ways artists conceptualize, create and present their art enhance production or innovative skills and abilities of Facebook workers and if yes, how? Answers to questions like these will hopefully become increasingly clear over time.

    As for the artists themselves, Bennett says they're pretty much free to make whatever they want. They're encouraged to immerse themselves within the culture, architecture and landscape of the company and to create art in response to what they see. There is a certain amount of trust involved, he adds, and admits that not all art has turned out to be ideal, but says that once the artists understand the parameters of their residencies, the results have been overwhelmingly positive. They are allowed to explore the buildings, find specific locations where they would like to create and display their art, and once they decide what to do where they want to do it, they have access to a large fully stocked studio with all the equipment and materials they need.

    Perhaps one of the most significant benefits for the artists is that they have opportunities to experiment with new and different ways of presenting their work to an audience that doesn't necessarily know much about art, and to see what happens and how they respond. It's almost like Facebook is a laboratory, where artists and non-art people coexist in the same space, the object being for the artists to figure out how to bring others into the conversation, to get them involved with the artistic process in ways they can understand and appreciate. In the same way that social networking has changed how we communicate and interact with one another, the Artist in Residence program at Facebook may help change the ways that artists relate to people, and that people relate to art and artists.

    Bennett tells me that as the program progresses, he hopes to develop a range of ways or framework that all companies and businesses, and not only Facebook, can use to integrate art and artists into their communities and cultures. He believes that artists can work within corporate settings and observe and learn enough about how they operate to figure out how to make positive differences with their art. He sees residence programs as an exercise in art as communication, in art as demonstrating how creative endeavors can be beneficial to a company's employees as well as to the overall workplace environment.

    In addition to the obvious aesthetic influences, the Artist in Residence program also represents an attempt to see whether an art dense environment can create measurable benefits for everyone involved, both artists and employees. We all know that art upgrades, beautifies, enhances, enriches and improves our quality of life, but can specific ways or methods be advanced to actually facilitate that happening and quantify the results? And whether they or not they can, are artists and their endeavors worth supporting at the corporate level in tangible ways? So far, the answer appears to be a resounding yes. And that's what the Facebook Artist in Residence program is all about.

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    Thanks to Drew Bennett and Kaye Sklar of Facebook for their assistance with this article.

    And now for the visuals...

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    Here we are at Facebook. Time to check in. Art by David Cho.

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    Ready to start the tour? OK. A look across the campus.

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    First stop is the studio facility. This is the power tool room.

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    Hey-- it's Robert Minervini on the first day of his residency.

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    Posters and prints by various artists in above image closer.

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    Artist studio signage at Facebook.

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    Stefanie Posavec, Facebook's first overseas Artist in Residence.

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    Test piece for art on the floor by Stefanie Posavec. Now for the art tour...

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    Art by Charlie Callahan (like it).

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    Nat Russell art.

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    Art by Rich Jacobs.

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    Kelly Ording art.

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    Long art by Tucker Nichols - Facebook Artist in Residence Program.

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    Sign painter art by Jeff Canham.

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    Facebook Artist in Residence curator Drew Bennett - art by Paul Morgan.

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    Wonderful stairwell painting by Isaac Lin.

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    Brand new whimsical sculpture by Thomas Wold being installed.

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    Top of Thomas Wold art in above image closer.

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    Art by Anzfer Farms - Facebook Artist in Residence program.

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    Tiny art by Anzfer Farms.

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    Mural by David Choe.

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    Not sure who this dude is by.

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    Paintings of native Bay Area birds by Jane Kim.

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    Jane Kim art in above image closer.

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    Stairwell embellishment c/o Facebook Artist in Residence program.

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    Art by Jordi Fornies - Facebook employee turned artist.

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    Art by Jessalyn Aaland.

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    Art around the corner by Thomas Wold.

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    Stairway mural in progress by Serena Mitnik-Miller.

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    Triangle collage art by Paul Morgan.

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    Recycled wood lathe wall sculpture by Barbara Holmes.

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    Jumbo intricate collage art by Artists A+B.

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    Artists A+B artist statement for art in above image.

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    Light well paper installation by Val Britton.

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    Another view of Val Britton paper installation above.

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    Art in the alcove Jane Kim.

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