Public art fills the soul and helps businesses thrive

Stroll down to Mississauga’s Celebration Square and look at the glossy white pages of the huge red public sculpture The Book blowing in the wind and you may have a more productive afternoon at the office.

Take a few minutes to enjoy a coffee outside the large peaceful face painted on the side of a building along the Beaux Art Walk on Vivian Lane in Brampton, and you may be able to solve a business problem that had you stumped pre art-break.

It seems that funky sculptures and colourful paintings may just be good for the corporate growth and productivity.

“Art effects community and community effects business,” explains Annis Karpenko, executive director of Visual Arts Mississauga at Riverwood. “The community becomes a great place where people want to come and work and live. It is hugely important.”

Karpenko likes to describe the many indirect benefits like these that good art offers companies.

Nik Nanos of Nanos Research states it more directly.

Make sure you support the arts “because it is good for business,” he said on CP24’s Live At Noon show last June 21, shortly after his research firm announced the results of a study that showed that a buzzing arts scene can be a major driver in attracting and retaining employees. He declared that “high IQ-worth people” are heavily into the arts.

Based on a random survey of 500 skilled workers and 508 businesses in Ontario, the study was conducted in April 2016 and presented by Nanos to the Toronto Region Board of Trade last June. It was commissioned by Toronto-based Business for the Arts with support from the Ontario Arts Council.

“Our culture for competitiveness study confirms that skilled workers seek out vibrant arts and culture hubs when making job decisions, but businesses who could benefit from the magnetic effect of culture are not investing in the arts and culture ecosystem,” said Nichole Anderson, president of Business for the Arts.

It seems that amongst community and business leaders, there is a generally-held opinion that art isn’t simply pretty, it is quite necessary and that some benefits are quite immediate.

As Michael Douglas, the new director of the Mississauga Arts Centre says, “What is the value of a happy employee?”

As Karpenko says, “Some people sacrifice a lot of their soul to take a job. Sitting back and looking at a piece of art can fill up the soul again.”

Politicians deliver a more long-term explanation about the benefits art delivers to the corporate world.

“Public art brings people together and enriches neighbourhoods,” says Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie. “It creates character and enriches the area making it a more desirable place for people to locate.”

She adds that on a very personal level, art helps. She shares that she gets “something” out of looking at the colourful and sometimes confusing public art piece entitled Possibilities, located in the roundabout at Duke of York and Square One Drive. It features eight colourful arrows pointing in various directions.

“When I drive by that piece I see multiple meanings,” she says. “Which way do you go? You contemplate life.  It inspires me and tells me I am on the right track.”

Brampton Mayor Linda Jeffrey echoed Crombie’s sentiments about art-rich communities attracting top talent to businesses.

“Certainly a lot of employers are interested in retaining employees and they see art as a way to make the community more pleasant,” she says.

“I covet the feelings I get from art in other cities. I would love to have art that makes people talk and would showcase our talent.”

She says the Brampton Arts Council is in its infancy stage but is working on creating a city with art that makes people say, “What a cool place.”

She added that art can make people feel welcome.

Karpenko added that art also humanizes its environment.

“Come to a business and if you see art, your customers will see you differently,” she claims.

And she echoes the sentiments of both mayors when she described how art relaxes you.

“It decreases your stress levels, absolutely.”

Even the founder of the on-line classified site Kijiji, Brampton-born Janet Bannister says that looking at the beautiful nature photographs on her screen savers calms her down.

“Studies show that nature has a profound impact on our brains that decreases stress levels and increases creativity,” she adds.

Both Brampton and Mississauga are actively bringing new art to town. In October, Member of Parliament for Mississauga-Malton Navdeep Bains announced funding of $199,000 to the City of Mississauga for the community project Canada in Mississauga, to be permanently installed at Celebration Square. It will focus on the themes of diversity and inclusion and be one of Mississauga’s tributes to Canada’s 150th anniversary next year.

Last Oct. 30, Brampton wrapped up its call for artists’ submissions with a budget of $90,000 for a sculpture to go outside Alderlea House, also in celebration of the country’s 150th anniversary.

Currently, Brampton has nearly 30 public artworks in its collection. Mississauga has about 20 pieces of permanent public art.

“Many people who are artistic have sacrificed a lot of their soul to take a job,” says Karpenko. “Looking at art re-fills your soul. It fills it right back up again.

“To see that your company is supporting that, well it is wonderful.”

Lovering, Joanne. “Public art fills the soul and helps businesses thrive.” Business Times Oct 26, 2016 Brampton Guardian Web. Oct 26, 2016

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