Got a Problem? Hire an Artist!

I’m between paintings at the moment, preparing for my show at La Playa Gallery in La Jolla, California, this month (, and doing the usual odds and ends of preparation with breaks to stay in touch with other places in the art world.

I was reading today about a place I want to see – The Garage in Rapid City, South Dakota – a brilliant workspace “for makers and doers” that was created in an old auto repair shop.

The folks who put it together are quick to point out that there are office spaces along with studios and meeting rooms, but that “Sterile office space this is not. We’ve gone great lengths to preserve our building’s history.”

Many features of the old repair shop, now a historical building, have been retained – garage doors and automobile signs for example – and other fixtures like a working bubbler and old doors and counter tops have been refurbished and reused in the space.

The energy and sense of creativity emanated powerfully as I looked at the pictures on their web page – the exhibitions, the theatre space, even business projects going on in the not-at-all sterile office space.

Memories of my own previous work life in sterile office spaces were writ large.  The cubicles, the restrictions on how many pictures or personal items could be displayed, the humorless attempts to keep things neat, orderly and – well, sterile.  The matching office furniture, the one-color-fits-all walls. Stop the insanity! I want to get off!  And I did.

Looking at The Garage I thought – Suppose more high tech and ordinary office work was conducted in spaces like this. Suppose the “everything looks the same” sterile office suites and file cabinets and computer desks were replaced with funky reused stuff that has some genuine personality.  What if there was the kind of clutter that goes beyond stacks of paper that will never be read again.

Then I went one step farther, perhaps a step too far but what the hell – Suppose those workers did their work in art studios.  Crazy, I know, but still.  Suppose they ran their figures and calculated their costs and worked their fingers to the internet bones in the middle of the usual mess of an art studio where – voila! – creativity happens!

My new semi-whacked campaign is this:  Let’s move the bankers and the CPAs and the financial planners and the highly paid bureaucrats out of the offices and cubicles and set them up in art studios and galleries, or put them in dance studios and music practice rooms and theatres and watch what happens.

Here’s what I think might happen – useful things might get done.  Problems might get solved.  Work might be accomplished.

Because artists and other creatives are one thing and one thing only – problem-solvers.

And they solve the problems in the least organized, untidiest, most cluttered spaces you can imagine.  The clutter matters, of course, since it generates solutions.

I’m not sure how it happens.  I just know it does.  And I think the business world might want to consider a different way to house knowledge workers because even with all that knowledge, a lot of problems are going unsolved right now.  I think creative space would make a world of difference.

Before anyone rushes to tell me that a mess is just a mess, I agree in part.  Living in clutter is not a great thing, but even the tidiest workman or workwoman knows that the clutter is temporary.  AFTER the problem is solved, you can straighten the paints and brushes, put away the tools, put things in order.  But not in the middle of the process.

By the way, my personal definition of an artist is anyone who is competent at working with his or her hands (or feet) whether it’s a painter, a writer, a plumber, a carpenter, a dancer, a seamstress, a guitarist – you get the idea.  People like the mechanics in an old auto repair shop who knew how to tinker and fix cars and solve problems long before computers.  People who don’t have to “take meetings” to get things done. And they do it well.

My new campaign will be based on this:  Want a problem solved? Hire an artist!




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