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Welcome to The JoyPowered® Workspace Podcast, where we talk about embracing joy in the workspace. I’m JoDee Curtis, owner of Purple Ink, an HR consulting firm, and with me is my friend and co-host Susan White, an international HR consultant. Today our topic is arts and culture and the workspace. According to new research by Viking, more than half, or 53%, of workers say having art in the office makes them happier. Another 54% said art should be in every workspace, and 50% of the people say art in the workspace reduces stress.
You know, JoDee, I have to tell you, I’ve never even thought about what was on the walls in the places that I worked.
You know, I will tell you that for 90% of my entire career, I didn’t either. Even at one firm that I worked at for six years, art was a pretty big deal there, like, the the firm had invested in some very nice art. And I liked it, but I – it never, I never thought about it. I never – I won’t say it influenced me at any – by any stretch of the imagination except to say, I thought it was pretty.
But I will say when we opened the ink pad a couple of years ago, and now we show art in our space. I love it. And I don’t – I can’t even articulate what’s different now. Maybe it’s because it’s my own space, or the art is different than it was before. But I really do feel like it has had an impact on my on my mood and my excitement when I come in the door. I love it.
That is wonderful. I do have a client, in fact, that you referred me to, who is an art-related company and they have the most fascinating art. I honestly, I look forward to going there. I do, because they move their art around. It’s so well lit. It’s something that just never occurred to me most of my life. So I’m really glad we’re doing this episode today.
Yeah, I know what client you’re talking about, and I’ve been there too, and they do have some really cool, not only just art on the wall, but sculpture type things, too, which I think is super fun. Well, studies of most effective work environments found that people who worked in an office featuring art and even plants –
Oh my gosh.
– worked 15% quicker than those containing only the things necessary to do the task.
I wonder if they’re working quicker so they can go water those plants. That’s interesting.
I don’t know, but I can tell you at this firm I worked with before, we did have a lot of plants and we had a service that came in and took care of them. But I did always really enjoy the plants. I thought that was powerful.
That would be the only chance those plants would survive with me! Is if we had a service.
Yeah. Oh, me too.
Well, researchers in a study from the University of Dallas found that 75% of employees had new things to discuss and formed new lines of communication with colleagues, and the interest in art increased over time among workers and brought creative stimulation to projects.
You know, that – I kind of see that. I would rather employees talk about the art, the plants, those types of things instead of politics or things that could actually get us in trouble in the workplace. Right?
Right, right. And certainly decrease productivity.
So providing art might create a competitive advantage for the business, the employees, and the communities we live in. Investing in local art programs and artists contributes to the well being and culture of the company.
It can create a unique experience for workers. Going to work, you might feel like you have a free museum access by seeing what’s there, what’s different, what changes. And some companies are actually investing in an office art collection.
It can also – being exposed to art allows for creativity and innovation, and art can promote diversity and inclusion by allowing workers to see something through another’s point of view. I like that idea too.
I’ve noticed here at the ink pad you really work hard at making sure you rotate artists and rotate types of art. Tell me about that.
Yeah, so that I have to tell you my, my inspiration for having artists in our office really came from a local coffee shop that was doing that and promoting a lot of high school artists’ work, and I just thought it was fun that every time I would go in there, I would see new and different things every time, and that’s what I’ve loved about having the art in our space. It has – selfishly, it was a free way for us to get stuff on the wall, that I didn’t have to pay for art, and – but, it also has just been fun to see the change, and of course gives the opportunity for the artists to have a place to display their work as well.
And nicely, JoDee was kind enough to have my husband, who’s a photographer, kind of his avocation, he actually teaches college, but he loves photography and making different types of photos. And my daughter who is an artist, she, avocation of her as well, but she does painting, was on display here early in the ink pad’s history, and it was just fun for them, right?
Oh my gosh, it was so fun for us, too, they both were fantastic artists and fun to have in. Our guest today is Jill Lehman. Jill is a wife, mom, business executive, art advocate, and entrepreneur. I love that already. Jill has worked in just about every industry and has enjoyed them all. Jill was raised on a farm in northern Indiana. She’s a Purdue alumni and fan, and most of the things she owns, even her pets, are black and gold.
I know. I love it. So welcome, Jill. Thanks so much for joining us today.
Hi, good morning. Thank you, JoDee and Susan, for having me on the podcast this morning. I’m really excited to talk about the topic we’ve got today.
Yeah, fun. You have such an interesting career background. Can you briefly share your journey with our listeners?
Sure. It has been an interesting background, and it is one that started after I graduated from Purdue with the Kroger company. Tremendous experience learning retail operations, and from running stores, taking a rotational assignment in human resources, where 20 plus years later, here I remain today. But along that journey has been time in retail, HR, manufacturing and supply chain, HR across the food and consumer products organizations, into medical device, and now technology. So, Fortune 500 all the way to privately held private equity, local businesses. So it’s been a journey and it’s been a wonderful experience.
Great variety, really. So you were an HR executive, and I think – is that where your passion about art started? And why are you passionate about art in the workplace?
Sure, doesn’t art and HR go together all the time?
But no, my journey with art started many years ago. I have always been around creatives. I myself am not an artist, but I have a family of artists, my daughter’s an artist, my husband’s an artist, I’ve grown up around artists and musicians, and I think it’s one of the things that’s balanced me out over the years. Kind of disrupts me from my, you know, economics and business background and has helped me be more creative in work and in play and, and I think that’s why I gravitated to art at such a young time. It’s just always been a part of my life. And I’ve seen the value in it, and what it’s done for me.
Yeah. Susan and I were talking earlier about how we really had not been inspired by art before. So I love that that has been a part of your journey for such a long time. For me, it’s been very recent and having our ink pad office here and having art, which I love that, so, proud of you for getting – understanding that earlier, and I also – I love your comment about that it brings balance to you. What a beautiful statement. And what do you – tell us more about that, about it – that it brings balance to you.
Sure. Sure. You know, I’m in, I’m in business, I’m an entrepreneur, HR, and you – when you think about problem solving, and you think about the stress of the day, I always found when I was looking or needing that downtime or that mindful time, or when I needed to problem solve, I would find myself wanting to gravitate to my home office, or when I go and need to think or refresh, I would go and visit an art gallery or an art museum when I traveled. And I never really made the linkage as to why it worked when I felt stressed or, or I needed to problem solve would I go to my home office, or why when I needed to relax, and when I traveled did I go and explore art galleries and art museums or art fairs. It’s just because it was a very peaceful, mindful, and creative space and places for me, and that’s when I started the journey of bringing it into the workplace.
How can art be a strategic advantage in the workplace?
So many ways art can be a strategic advantage in the workplace and in a lot of different things, and I’ll start off with some of the basics. The basics are, you know, artists and entrepreneurs are really the same DNA, the product that comes out just manifests itself in a different mien, that when we think about our workplaces today, and some of the challenges that we were faced with, the challenges with the ability to acquire talent, the ability to retain talent, to have the creative class of talent working for us and the millennial talent working for us today. It’s all about thinking. It’s all about problem solving. It’s all about using your creativity, your ingenuity, your innovation, and art has such a great linkage into all those things. So that’s kind of, first and foremost, where you can use art as a strategic advantage, and when you look at great entrepreneurs, many of them are artists themselves, or later in life, become artists because it is such a close linkage and it’s another output and way to get out that thinking and that creativity, and, and problem solving into something that generates meaning, and visual meaning. So the reason that I think when we think about those things in our workplace, and I brought an article because I like to do a lot of reading, and I know you’ve done some sharing, too, with me and with other listeners, the general stories and articles that you can find on art in the workplace, but this is a basic one, and this is from the Washington Post, and you can Google these and they’re out there. But when you think about the top 10 skills that children learn from arts and art education, it’s no different than the things that we value in competencies in our workplaces today. So this article talks about those top 10 skills and many of them being, and I won’t go through all of them, but you can Google it, and if you go to my LinkedIn, I shared it out there today. But first one being creativity, confidence, problem solving, perseverance, things like receiving constructive feedback, collaborating, account, accountability. And when you think about if children can learn those things from art, what can we learn by bringing art into our workplace and not only being exposed to it visually, but bringing it into programming, like we do with wellness programming and other training and development program that we bring. And when we do those things, it’s amazing what transforms not only visually, but cognitively with our people.
I love it.
I have to tell you, the thing that gives me the biggest hope in what you just said is the fact that JoDee and I are entrepreneurs, and we’ve not discovered any art talent, but it could happen later in life.
Right? I might just be a wonderful draw, or painter, or something like that.
You know, talking about entrepreneurs and their connection to art reminds me of a YouTube video I just watched of Steve Jobs giving the graduation speech at Stanford. So this was many years ago, but I’m sure if you go to YouTube and search for Steve Jobs and Stanford, he talks about as, as many of our listeners will know, Steve Jobs did not graduate from college, but he did go to college, and one of the most impactful classes that he took while in college was a calligraphy class.
I heard him speak to that, yes.
Yeah, which actually is when he then was the one to later create different fonts and the writing on the computer, the Mac was the first computer to allow for different fonts, and that came from his love of that calligraphy class he took earlier. So I think that’s a neat connection.
That’s, that’s interesting. When I really started to explore what I was going to do with art and the story behind High Frequency, when I, when I volunteered in different art galleries and art not for profit organizations here in town and shows, I would go and speak to many of the patrons that came through the door and just inquire about why they were there, what they saw in art, you know, anything that they wanted to share with me, and one of the most impactful ones was a actual, he was a plastic surgeon here in town, and he was staring at a piece of art in one of the galleries and I just asked him if, you know, his experience with art was he an artist, a collector, and, you know, what was his story? And he had said, no, I’m actually a plastic surgeon and I’m not an artist, but I have a great appreciation for art. He was a very similar story. He talked about one of his mentors in med school had requested and recommended that he take an art class, and he said, you know, when you’re a surgeon and you’re in school, you don’t get very many mentors, or counselors, or anyone else that you go through talking to you about taking an art class, and he said, but I did, and I listened to that advice, and it was one of the most impactful classes that I took. And I said, well, can you share a little bit of that with me, and he said, you know, I’m a plastic surgeon, we always look for beauty on the outside, but there’s so much beauty on the inside, and he said, I, I really got to understand the depth of beauty, and the depth of what that beauty can translate to when I looked at art, and from that day forward, I’ve always been, and exposed myself to art. And as I mentor now, at the, and he’s with IU, as I, and I mentor those med students, and it’s one of the things that I’ve recommended to all of them. So that’s just another story of where art can have such great impact in our lives if we open ourselves up to it.
I love it. I love it. So. And Jill, what are a few misconceptions about art?
Hmm, gosh, there’s a, there’s a couple that I think are out there, and one is that art’s expensive or fine art is expensive, and I think art and fine art comes at all price points. I think that’s one of them. Think another that I hear, and when I moved back to Indiana, and I’ve been in art museums and art galleries, across the US and really across the globe, it’s just my thing and what I like to do, but when I moved back here, and I still here, to this day, when I meet and talk to people about art, that there’s no good art, quote, unquote, in Indiana, and there’s some amazing artists here in Indiana. And so I think those are a couple of misconceptions and, and the biggest one, and the one that I spend a lot of my time talking about, is how do you value art? And how do you find ROI that you make it a strategic advantage in your workplace, because in our workplaces, and even in our homes we struggle with, you know, there’s a lot of things you can buy from a common decor standpoint, and it’s – can sometimes be, yes, a lot cheaper than to go out to then invest in a piece of artwork, because we just don’t understand and translate the value associated with it, and I think there’s a misconception and misinformation about, is there value in buying a piece of original artwork?
And you mentioned that you can find good art in Indiana, I bet you could say that about anywhere in the world.
Anywhere in the world.
Wherever you are, you can find good art.
So Jill, what type of art actually inspires you and why?
Well, I love to view all forms of art, but what really inspires me is abstract art, and whether that’s more of a figurative or objective piece or a non objective piece, and the reason that it inspires me the most is you have to look harder at it. Right? It requires you to go to a different cognitive depth, maybe when you’re looking at a landscape piece or a portrait piece of a figure, if it’s a little bit more abstract, if you have to try to really think what was that artist thinking about? What are they trying to interpret? What do I see in it? And make that connection. So I guess I’m really drawn to more of the abstract artworks and the modernism, and they can be very simple or they can be very complex.
And how does a company interested in strategically using art go about that process?
What – there’s a lot of different ways that you can go about it. I’ll walk you through a little bit of the journey that I went through and why I ended up creating High Frequency Arts is, you know, for a business who’s thinking about considering art, there are a lot of things that you really should think about, and I share with potential clients of ours and our clients kind of a tip sheet that I’ve put together from my years of being responsible for facilities and going through art projects. And, and it’s all the things of, just like any other project that you’re thinking about, you know, what outcome are you looking to achieve, you know, how do you think about your budget? If you’re thinking about bringing in art, you know, who, who want – who do you want to select that? Who are the decision makers, because art can be very personal. If you have art in your existing collection today, what are you going to do with that? Do you want to incorporate it? Do you want to try to transition it? What are all those things? So there’s a lot of pieces. There’s pieces that can designers can help you with, although, you know, find a designer who really thinks about it strategically versus as an afterthought or secondary piece of decor. You know, there’s art consultants out there at all different levels. I wanted to find someone who thought about it strategically from a design perspective. I thought about it strategically from an employment and employment value proposition perspective, and I really struggled to find that out there. A traditional art collector is going to think about how do you bring a collection into your organization and you know, traditional designer is going to think a lot more about how you bring it in as a decor that matches and goes with the design elements. What I felt was missing and why I created High Frequency Arts is I wanted it to be used as a strategy is part of what I was trying to do with my overall work environment and my people and culture strategy. And, and it tied into all the things that we talked about, the values that art can bring, and when you only get so much time to – if someone coming in your door and to see your space and may – and sum up who you are, you know, using art in your space has great impact and that it shows, you know, the different depth and breadth and level of who you are as an organization. It also shows the personality of an organization, you can show the brand of an organization, like when I’m here at Purple Ink, all of your art is, you know, it matches and emulates the brand of who you are. You know, I wanted someone that could help me through the procurement process with that, and when we used real and original art in our workplace, then the value it brought back to the life and career of an artist, and then what that in return does to foster art and the art community, and I really just didn’t see that way of thinking out there. And it’s not that, you know, the designers and the art consultants out there, they are really, really good. I was just looking at art in a very, very different lens. So that’s when I started to do it for myself and started then to do it for friends, family, and their homes, and their businesses, and then just got the crazy idea to start talking about people about what if, what if I started to put this together as a business service for others? Is it something that would resonate? So that’s how I think you should think about art if you’re bringing it in the workplace or even in your home and your home office environment or home environment.
So you’ve mentioned High Frequency a couple of times, but you haven’t really said that is what you’re doing now, as your entrepreneurial business. You’re working with customers and clients to help them bring art into the workspace.
It is. So you know, I’m very fortunate that I’m at a place where I get to do the two things that I’m passionate about the most, is human resources and art, and so wearing the hat of a, a HR consultant, wearing the hat of an art consultant, and blending the two together, but the the piece of High Frequency Arts really does allow me to do that. It’s a business that, from an entrepreneurial startup, that I started about two years ago, and really started to put a lot more energy and effort into it in the last 12 months. Before it was just kind of a thought and an idea and, and a few friends and, and family, you know, projects, but it’s really designed to bring HR and art consulting into one. And I’ve been very fortunate to, you know, do what all good HR people do, stalk LinkedIn and find some, you know, emerging talent that was out there, that were Herron art graduates and they’re very diverse in their backgrounds, so they have, you know, one of them is a artist, and she creates a lot of commission work. She’s a professional photographer. She worked in the Herron art galleries, and has ran, you know, her photography business and has been a great addition to help us do a lot of the custom projects that we have and lead some design projects on the team. The other is also a Herron art grad, and I should mention the the person I was just talking to, which is Rebecca on my team. She’s also an art therapist and has a degree in art therapy, and, and has done art therapy programs in hospital settings as well as in education, so she brings another element into the dialogue and discussion as well, from an art and a healing perspective. And then Kailyn on the team, she worked in the Herron art gallery, she has been an apprentice with artist, she’s an artist herself. She’s done a lot in printmaking, and she also worked at what’s now Newfields as a gallery guide and assistant and spent some time even in, in HR as, like, in customer service. So, you know, they’re, they’re very diverse in their skills, but they’re artists and help with a lot of the project management and the design work that we do, and it’s great because, you know, having them join me in this journey, one of the things I get to hear from them is, I went to school for art, and I’m an artist, and I get to work in it every single day. And, and that is a dream come true, and that’s the things that keep me going and, you know, getting to expose people to art, and getting to expose people to the broad array of artists in this region, because there’s artists that have studios that you can go and visit and you can see their work on display, but there are so many more artists that work out of their homes and their home studios and don’t have that platform, and they do amazing work, and not only do they produce the work, they sell their work, a lot of them sell it more out of state than in state, which I want to change that equation for them. You also have artists that have been artists their entire life, but they work day jobs, right, because they, they dream of being full time artists, so they’re nurses, they’re teachers, you know, they’re in IT, they’re, they exist all over, and when you get to expose them to someone interested in buying art and they make that connection, and then you in turn get to tell that artist you’ve been able to help them, you know, with their dream and selling their art and having it somewhere in someone’s home or in their business, it’s just something I just can’t help myself from, from you know, making those connections I’m doing today. It’s just been a – it’s a dream come true to do both HR and art and you know, take that career mentorship and you know, put it to use in a little bit different way.
Nice. So if our if our listeners are interested in learning more about how they can bring art to their workspaces or home offices as well, how can they reach you?
Sure, we’d love to help you. I think it’d be a very different experience for you, and one you’d enjoy, and you can reach us at – on our website is highfrequencyarts.com. You can reach out to me and you can contact me at 317.585.ARTS, A-R-T-S, or at you can as simple as email@example.com, and we’ll be glad to have a conversation and we, we do with anyone who’s interested, whether it’s a home or a business, we always offer a one hour free consult just to see if it’s something we can help you with or, or give you some tips and ideas of how you go forward on your own.
That’s wonderful. Well, is there anything else Jill, you want our listeners to know?
Gosh, I think that if you can get anything from this dialogue, or if I could share anything, is when you are considering bringing in, you know, art or even decor into your space, pause and think about and consider art and what you can do for yourself and for others and for artists in the art community. It’s an amazing thing and it doesn’t have to be expensive. You can start with one small piece and I guarantee you, you’ll, you’ll grow from there. But I appreciate just having the ability to have the conversation and continue to be a voice for artists in the art community and even in the HR community for the work that we’re doing.
Thanks for educating us today on it.
Thank you. Thanks for having me.
We’ll link in our show notes, your article from the Washington Post, and also I could put that Steve Jobs YouTube out there as well. So thank you so much for joining us.
Thank you so much for having me. Appreciate it.
JoDee, we have a listener question. What are some tips that you have for open office etiquette?
Yeah, so I love this question, and I have to say some of my thoughts are, I’m going to give both sides of, but one I recently had a conversation with a client about was wearing headphones. And they were talking about how they like to wear headphones because it kept them focused a little bit more and less distracted by other conversations going on around them. By the same token, we both laughed, saying part of the concept of having an open office is that there’s more collaboration and more conversation around topics, and that when people come and sit and wear their headphones people don’t want to interrupt them or talk to people because they have headphones on, and I know I personally, we have an open office environment as well, too, and I struggle with whether or not that’s a good thing or not.
And, tell me, are people listening to music or podcasts, or what’s going on? Listenind to The JoyPowered® Podcast, I hope!
Of course, that’s what they’re all doing. But I think for a lot of people, certainly the younger generations, it’s about listening to music in a way that keeps them focused on their work and avoids the distractions around them.
But I do think other, other areas besides the headphones is just thinking about not being distractful to other people or finding your space where it’s appropriate for you to do that collaboration but yet also not be talking loud on the phone to distract other people in the area. Certainly, that is one, I think when you’re having a phone conversation if there’s a quiet space that you can find that would be less distracting to others.
I’ve heard a number of my friends who actually work in open office concepts say that they, there’s this kind of this unwritten rule about that, when you kind of identify your happy space that that is your happy space, and they find it irritating when they come into the open office and someone is sitting in their happy space. What if I see that, and what advice do you have?
Yeah, that’s another thing. I’ve had lots of conversations around that, it’s supposed to be sort of, you know, you don’t have your assigned desk, and yet a couple of our clients have said, it’s almost like there’s an unwritten rule that you have an assigned desk, because people want the same spots every day, too. So I struggle with, what’s the right answer for that, to say, you can’t just sit where you want, but also because again, the, the whole concept around it is to create more collaboration and, and conversation by being in an open area. So I don’t know, I’m not one – for myself personally, I when I come into our office I sit at different spots all the time. So I don’t have my happy space, but I certainly could appreciate if that’s important to some people, or maybe just the point is to ask the question.
Right, right. And if you feel strongly about something, maybe voice it.
So others don’t get, you know, offend you.
Without you having said something.
Right. But I think we all have to be flexible in this environment, right? That’s, you know, you can’t just say this is my space every day. The point is to, to work in different areas and collaborate with different people.
Good advice. The last thing I would add is just to be even more conscious of cleaning up after yourself. I think that we all are, you know, we all have a different level of what we want in the area of neatness. But if there’s eating, if there’s, you know, different types of things that you’re doing in a workspace, just make sure that you clean it up, because someone else might be sitting there tomorrow.
In a recent SHRM article, they discussed employers having the option to offer individual coverage HRA rather than a group health plan. This has become possible due to 2019 IRS regulations. They’re called ICHRAs, work by the employer contributing a set dollar amount each year to an employee’s account tax free. The employee can then use that money to buy individual or family health insurance directly from insurers, brokers, or on the ACA marketplace. SHRM predicts that if enough employers embrace this, this approach, it could cause a shift in health benefits, much like the way 401(k)s shifted the retirement landscape.
Interesting. I could just see now we have another acronym to have to remember ICHRA doesn’t roll off my tongue.
But an interesting concept. So thanks for sharing.
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