Hart and Art in the City

A business development career has often allowed me the privilege of travel. While at times certain aspects of business travel can be a curse, I have always considered it a perk and pleasure. The way I see it, if I have to wedge myself between chatty air travelers, risk my life in the backseat of cabs, develop high heel induced blisters and be away from my family for days at a time, I am going to enjoy my surroundings.

Early in my career, client responsibilities required that I spend large amounts of time on the east coast. Usually alone, many evenings were enjoyed at the theater, exploring interesting restaurants and taking in the traditional tourist sights. I figured, if I’m going to be in these great cities, I may as well take advantage of it. Knowing that the need for these trips could end at any time, the privilege was valued and cherished.

Oddly though, it wasn’t until a recent business trip to New York that I realized something had been overlooked all those previous years. My daytime focus on work actually prevented me from seeing something that was right there in front of me the whole time. Afterall my enjoyment of these cities away from home didn’t have to be limited to the hours of 6pm-midnight, when I was technically “off the clock.” So I opened my eyes.

What had I overlooked?

Well, I don’t take much time to go to museums nor do I particularly enjoy the activity. Please don’t judge. It’s just not my thing. But on this recent business trip I noticed art all around me. Whether flying, walking or cabbing, art seemed to be present in a variety of forms and in unexpected places. I didn’t have to work very hard, or dedicate specific time to finding it. It seemed that the art fairies had put it right in my path.

It’s a beautiful trend.

Now, I see art everywhere. Cities across the country are placing art and exhibits within common places. My hometown has developed a wonderful tradition with the Sioux Falls SculptureWalk. Featuring artists from all over the country and sponsored by area businesses, new art is selected each year and placed along the city’s iconic downtown streets. Amidst a thriving culinary, retail and growing business community, the art covers significant ground. Printed maps are available for over-achievers who wish to spend an entire day or weekend taking in the full tour. For the casual passers-by, each individual sculpture may simply provide a moment of pause. Whichever the case, the art is thoughtfully placed in the moment for anyone who stops to notice.

A few of my past favorites from the SculptureWalk include Slapshot by Judd Nelson and Percussion III by Cynthia Anderson, both artists from Minnesota.

Airports in Minneapolis-St. Paul International, Philadelphia, Chicago, Denver and others have incorporated art exhibits into their chaotic hubs. Whether you are the late or leisure traveler, the exhibits are there to breeze by or peruse at leisure. 

The eye-opening trip referenced earlier was to New York. Over the past 20 years I’m pretty sure I’ve had at least 80 business trips to this crazy city. I know my way around and adapt to the Big Apple way of life easily. But, this time was different. I didn’t take an afternoon to wander through MOMA but I was still able to enjoy the art of the city. Avoiding cab rides is always a priority so the high heel induced blisters come into play here. Covering midtown Manhattan on foot, going to and from meetings, I came upon works of art nestled amongst congested city streets. Some I could see from blocks away, others jumped out at me as if to surprise. Whatever the case, I paused, each time. I sat under them…

Took photos with them…

And even had words with them. Yes, we had a conversation.

In a bustling city or a chaotic airport, what does the inclusion of a random piece of art or an entire exhibit contribute? In my opinion, it’s another form of dialogue. These cities and service facilities have designed an entirely new conversation for their residents or visitors. The art may be traditional or contemporary - it doesn’t matter. What matters is that they interject form, color, texture, words, photography and other elements to evoke a thoughtful experience - designing the moment with intention for those who stop to notice.

Will you stop long enough to have a conversation?

About The Author

Kitty Hart

I am the HartofCapsule, caring for our clients, friends, colleagues and partners. When I’m not deep in strategy and design thought, I dream of belting out Diana Krall tunes in the blue haze of a nightclub. Until that dream is realized, I help Capsule’s clients understand and rise above business challenges through designed conversations. Within Capsule's blog, I write about general observations and occasional oddities of our designed world.

* indicates required