What Lies Outside

by Mark Sincevich - Date: 2007-01-05 - Word Count: 960 Share This!

I expected to see stacks of snow all along the highway leading from Denver International Airport, but it was bone dry. From the recent reports of blizzards in the area, the media made out Denver to be a snow kingdom. The combination of dry air and the 'no jacket required' daytime temperatures scattered the snow that would have remained back east. I drove the 25 minutes to my hotel and asked a friendly front desk clerk if she had any room upgrades. I was cheerfully given a remodeled room with a balcony overlooking the mountains. I entered a beautiful studio apartment with elegantly framed nature photographs shattering my stereotype of a typical business hotel room. However, when I pulled aside the curtains, the noise of the interstate highway brought me back to budget hotel reality. The only real annoyance was the hyperactive smoke alarm that would shrill incessantly when the first vapors of steam from either the coffee pot or my hot showers entered its' sensor grid.

Part of the reason why I felt so relaxed in my 'home away from home' was due to the photographs of aspens, leaves and willows throughout the room. The hotel had hired a local photographer to bring a little bit of "nature's art" into the dwelling in order to remind me of 'what lies outside.' It helped to inspire me to get outside and take breaks during the day while on assignment too. This thoughtfulness by the hotel was in direct comparison to the blank white walls of some organizations. These organizations have corridors of offices and cubicles with absolutely nothing decorating the walls and this extreme minimalism often seeps into the offices of their employees. I find myself going on walks around each office maze looking for reminders of what others' feel lies outside. It also helps me get a pulse for the organization when I am on assignment.

One of the trade associations to which I belong decided to stop its' support of the arts. It was due to a yearly review process that matches priorities to available resources I was told. Why does this excuse sound exactly like the letter one gets when you aren't hired after you apply for a job? "Dear Sir or Madam, we have received your resume and will keep it on file in case the organization's future needs match your skill set?" I am still stunned since a few organizations that had sponsored my photography show are members of this trade association. The e-mail named another organization whose mission is specifically to promote the arts if anyone wants to spend time or money to support the arts directly. This compartmentalized thinking is the problem! The only way to get businesses and organizations to pay attention to, and to value the arts is to make the arts an integral part of a trade or business organization. Otherwise the arts get marginalized.

I was a proud member of the cultural promotion task force and enjoyed meeting other supporters of the arts to find ways to bring more art to the business community. In my own business experience I have always integrated the arts into business by having meetings at art galleries instead of hotel conference rooms or by bringing in massage therapists to help relax and reward employees. More recently I worked with many organizations to support my recent photography show. What I have learned is that organizations need to be constantly reminded of the importance of art, and there are direct benefits. One person who purchased a photograph at my photography show is now going to patronize the airline sponsor, Iceland Air. She said, "Seeing your photographs only enhanced my desire. I think they are a terrific means of convincing folks to travel to Iceland."

And this reminder needs to come from those who help make the policy of the business community. Why is the transportation committee suddenly more important than the art committee? We rush to get to work, but if we don't have beautiful surroundings and cultural institutions that provide artistic value, then it diminishes the work that we do. When we can no longer identify with a character in the theatre or with a face in a photograph, we loose a sense of ourselves. Work becomes two-dimensional and less meaningful. When Paul McCartney was interviewed for his latest album, "Chaos and Creation in the Backyard," he mentioned how his latest producer challenged him to produce his best work. He said, "This time there was motivation, determination. I'm going to make a good album. I'm going to and that's that." Where's the motivation when there are just blank white walls? Having an inspiring photograph or listening to some amazing music helps to challenge each of us to produce our best work, and it will definitely make the work that we do a whole lot more interesting along the way.

Employees like citizens need reminders and encouragement to both wear motorcycle helmets in order to save lives and to focus on and value art in order to save our humanity. Beyond art's intrinsic value, there is the potential for art to increase in value too. This happened to a hotel customer who had worked with an art buyer to purchase photographs, paintings and sculpture. The hotel realized after a few years that their collection had increased in value by many orders of magnitude! What we are exposed to during the day definitely influences our lives. If we expose ourselves to blank walls, we behave with less attention to the arts and to other people. Art will connect us to the larger world outside our walls, make the work that we do more meaningful and increase the connection to others and to ourselves. Isn't it time you brightened up your walls?

Related Tags: leadership, photography, creativity, art, work life balance, life balance

Mark Sincevich works with individuals and organizations to increase their communication power so that they gain a fresh perspective, generate new ideas, sharpen the focus and create more business. He uses a unique photography angle in his creative keynotes, meeting facilitation and powerful presentation skills programs. Mark is the Founder and Chief Perspective Officer of Staash Press, a member of the National Speakers Association and the Executive Director of the Digital Photography Institute. He is the author of the recent book, Snap: the ultimate guide to digital photography for the consumer available at http://www.staashpress.com/snap.html . In between assignments, Mark can be found spending time with his family or writing in cafés with character. He can be contacted at 301-654-3010 or http://www.staashpress.com .

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