Creating a “Work of Art” at Aetna

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The Greater Hartford Arts Council has enjoyed a long and beneficial partnership with Aetna to deliver community-based arts experiences to those who live and work in Greater Hartford.  Aetna sponsorship dollars generously supported a range of community focused programs, events, and activities designed to encourage participation in the arts– from Aetna First Thursday to Aetna Arts Week to a new creative collaboration called Work of Art.  The Work of Art partnership program targets and engages Aetna employees, connecting them to our local arts community while also becoming an essential element in the creation of a new piece of art work that will be installed on Aetna’s campus.  What could be better than exploring your artistic side (yes, everyone has one!) with a wonderful local artist by your side, all while beautifying and engaging your workplace?

Local artist, Nina Salazar, has teamed up with the Arts Council to coordinate this amazing project for Aetna employees.  Not only are we engaging the employees to be creative, but we are also installing three new and original pieces of art in the Aetna cafeteria for visitors and employees to enjoy.  So how does it work?  Nina chose iconic images of Hartford– the Colt Building, the Sailors and Soldiers Memorial Arch, the Bushnell Park Carousel– to be painted piecemeal by Aetna employees.  Each participant receives a canvas and small square of the larger picture for them to paint.  The trick is to work together with others who have pieces of the picture closest to you in order to coordinate lines, colors, and textures– teamwork at its best!  Ultimately, the pieces will come together to create the larger image.  Think Chuck Close, and you’ll get a good sense of how this collaborative grid art will come together to create an amazing and unique art installation created by Aetna employees.

Our first workshop with Aetna employees kicked off last Thursday.  Employees were excited, but also a little hesitant.  “I’m not really an artist,” some said, while others were worried if their canvas would even look like the actual image.  Nina put all their worries aside, instructing participants first on sketching their piece of the image onto a canvas and working with the proper proportions.  Once the sketching was done, participants were able to play with color.  Again, Nina walked through how to combine colors to match a brick red in the picture or how to brighten and dull colors with other colors on the color wheel.  Everyone was so engrossed in the activity, the hour and a half flew by!  But my favorite moments of the workshop were highlighted by two employees who collaborated so well.  Their pieces of the image were side-by-side, so they very carefully checked in with one another to align their sketches and to match color tones.  Each canvas was still unique, but the teamwork exhibited through the creation of the art was exactly what we wanted to see!

So, why such an involved artistic project in a corporate setting?  Research continues to show the benefits of art and creativity in the workplace, encouraging problem-solving and innovation.  Aetna’s Floyd W. Green III, Vice President and Head of Community Relations and Marketing, explains it best:

“Supporting the arts and people with an artistic background and passion aligns with Aetna’s goal of creating a talented, diverse workforce that can help this company thrive in the future. We are consistently striving to create unique new ideas that can help our business. At the core, art and innovation are incredibly similar and connected. In order to be a leader, we need to think creatively, so  focusing on STEAM [Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Math] activities provides grassroots support for this type of creative thinking.”

Ultimately, we would love to see wholehearted employee engagement like this in other workplaces.  The Americans for the Arts pARTnership Movement continues to exhibit innovative ways to forge arts-business partnerships and engaging employees in the arts.  We hope this type of workshop could become a model for other employee engagement opportunities in Greater Hartford, in Connecticut, and across the country!  This is only the beginning of our workshops at Aetna, so stay tuned to see how the artwork takes shape over the next few months!

Help keep the arts alive!

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