Blog: Joy Naylor & Diane Bennett

From visions of banana chairs to Compuware's recent hiring of an arts curator, companies are showing their humanistic side via art in the workplace. Art and design entrepreneurs Joy Naylor and Diane Bennett of Distinct Designs,Inc., a corporate interior design and art consultancy, offer up their perspective on local artists and art selection for businesses.

Post 2: Artists Up Close and Personal

As designers searching for art for our clients, working with visual artists is truly a privilege.  Most welcome us into their studios to browse through their works and chat about their life as an artist.  I've learned from experience that it is best to allow for adequate time, for once in an artist studio, time stops.  

Studios are wonderful spaces filled with materials, brushes (standing at attention), tools, supplies, found objects, in-progress works, and art hanging everywhere.  Some are very neat and organized and others are quite cluttered.  Studios take many forms, from additions to the house, basements, converted garages, free-standing buildings, barns, or a converted room in the home.  Regardless, artists find a way to create a natural setting for their studio even if it's in the middle of the city.  Some are surrounded by a natural wooded area, others look out over a beautiful garden with water fountains and interesting sculptures, and still others enjoy a view of patios with vines and plants to die for. I wonder, where here do these people get the time to tend a garden? Most say it is part of the process: a time to clear the mind and find the still quiet place needed to access the inner self and intuition.  I think we all would have to agree that there is a connection between nature and the access to clarity in whatever our endeavors are. As William Wordsworth said "Come forth into the light of things, let Nature be your teacher".
I love artists.  They are free thinkers, bigger-than-life individuals, and most are eccentric.  But, always friendly and willing to talk about their passion and share their amazing stories. Like the young man that came from his dark bedroom in England to seek relief from migraine headaches and discovered his awesome talent for photography during the therapy process. Or a fugitive of the Spanish army finds his way to teaching and producing wonderful sculptures. The Zen Buddhist monk that reminds us through her books, art, and life that there are less stressful ways to view and live our lives.  Many feel pretty isolated unless they are associated with a group of other artists where they can share ideas and get constructive feedback on their work. 

I remember when I first moved to Ann Arbor, I loved visiting the old warehouse (that didn't comply with modern development) but was the home of many artist studios at a very reasonable cost.  It felt a bit like the heart beat of art in town.  I for one was proud of that small but dynamic community as it gave us easy access to artists' work and it said something about our town and the importance of supporting artists. And, support is what our artists need.  We appreciate the work that the commission for public art is currently doing and look forward to seeing Michigan artists (an awesome pool of talent) have greater opportunities to make such a significant contribution in their home state.

We have had the privilege of watching artists and our celebrity instructors at work during the three-to-four day art workshops we host at various times during the year. They are intended to be retreats at the Ann Arbor Botanical Gardens: a beautiful inspiring setting with yummy food to boot.  This is a time for personal education, rejuvenation, and focus without distraction. Experiencing that much intensity and creativity in one room is mind boggling!

Some artists produce art with the sole intent of selling their work. We have also met artists that are driven to make a statement to the world at large.  Some are working through internal turmoil and their art is predominately a conduit for expression.  Some are successful at making a living selling their work, but many are struggling, especially in the current economy.  Art needs to be shown - to connect with the public in order to keep the creative energy flowing.  We'd like to think that our efforts have contributed to that exposure and in spreading the creative energy into spaces and workplaces, hopefully tapping into the imagination of the viewer.

Most artists do not see themselves as entrepreneurs and tend to put off addressing the business tasks of their profession. Although some do a fine job of marketing their work, many are reluctant to relinquish their valuable time in the studio.  So, when we bring up topics such as social media, websites, electronic cataloguing, and of course marketing, we usually hear comments like "Well, I've been trying to get around to it" or "It takes so much time and I'm not sure where to start." 

So, like all of us following our passion, it is a real discipline to keep all the balls in the air and still stay true to oneself.