What are the benefits of working in your workplace? Healthcare and dental should go without saying. But what about extra perks? Maybe you get the occasional tickets to a sporting event, or discounted prices on affiliated products. But how many people can say that their employers have created an art show to show their works as a sign of thanks? Well, this week the Portland Art Museum is doing just that.
On August 25th, the Portland Art Museum kicked off a week long celebration of staff and volunteer art work with a show at the museum’s Rental and Sales Gallery or RSG. The RSG is a small storefront in an apartment building just across the street from the museum on 10th Street. The RSG is like any commercial art gallery, and normally features a variety of works owned by the museum but not on display. These pieces are either rented (for a standard duration of about 3 months) or sold. While it’s hard to divide the largely open gallery space of the RSG into sections, most of the “main gallery,” has been set aside for the week of August 25th-31st to display the works of the Portland Art Museum’s staff. The staff pieces are also identifiable via unique name labels to distinguish them from the gallery’s usual fare.
On Saturday the 25th, starting in the early evening the Art Museum opened the week long exhibition with an open art show. Attended mostly by museum staff, family, friends and museum regulars, the small space of the RSG was completely filled. Snacks were placed out, replaced with admirable speed and the open bar was kept busy. The walls of the RSG were covered by dozens of pieces submitted by the staff. What’s more the type of art and who submitted it was of great interest. While much of the pieces were paintings, many were multi-media pieces, utilizing a variety of mediums to convey the image. Still others were high gloss photography. A few were more bizarre. One employee submitted a series of pieces that resembled tribal fetishes, built from wood, twine and hemp. Another brought in an illumination in the style of Medieval literature. One employee from the museum’s security department even brought in photos of Victorian furniture and woodwork that he’d spent the past three years building.
The exhibition underlines why many employees and volunteers dedicate their time to the Art Museum. To them, the Art Museum is more than a place of employ, it’s a place of inspiration. And that the museum repays them for their service by giving them the same treatment as the artists whose work they look up to. It’s even worth noting that many of the pieces on display from the staff are tagged with prices and are for sale. After all, this is the Rental and Sales Gallery and the Art Museum is true to its word. I’m not sure if these prices were provided by participants or if the museum went the extra mile to appraise the works individually, but it’s a nice touch. That said, a handful of pieces are labelled as Not For Sale, indicating an intangible personal worth to the artist.
In this regard, the Staff Art Show is perhaps the best benefit that the museum could provide for its staff. For one week, the museum places its staff on the same pedestal as the artists whose work they display every day. And if the opening show is a show of support than the closing art show, which is scheduled to happen on August 31st, is a downright endorsement. On the 31st, during the Museum’s usual $5 After 5PM promotion the Museum is essentially turning the staff loose and allowing several to put on their own shows. Staff will be putting on gallery talks, a poetry show and displays of artistry like drawing portraits of visitors.
It’s admirable to see an organization like the Portland Art Museum provide this sort of benefit to its employees. And while this isn’t the sort of perk that every company can provide it does represent a certain outlook. Employees, in any company, want to know that they are valued and respected by their employers. In the Art Museum that respect takes the form of allowing the employees to express themselves along side the artwork they oversee every day. This recognition should be a model for any organization, large or small on how to treat its loyal staff.
The Portland Art Museum Staff Art Show is running until Friday the 31st in the Rental and Sales Gallery at 1937 SW 10th Street. The closing show begins on Friday, at 5PM.