Ever heard of a pARTnership? Mercedes Benz Financial Services sure has.
Every year the Farmington Hills-based operation holds the Experiencing Perspectives program, which shows off employee art, art from graduate students at the Cranbrook Academy of Art and art from some Detroit public schools. The artwork hangs all around the Farmington Hills office for all to see. The Cranbrook art is replaced every 12 months. The employee and children’s art is shown as part of the annual employee art show held each spring. That art stays up for two months. The art displayed encourages conversation and interaction in the office and Mercedes believes ultimately helps people better understand diversity.
“We want to display the work of emerging artists that is unique to our North American Division,” says Leila Matta, manager of brand identity, design, and art programs at Mercedes-Benz Financial Services (MBFS). “The art should tell a story and deliver a message. The idea is to inspire people … art sparks innovation and new ways of thinking.”
MBFS’s support of the non-profit Art Road project finds and encourages those emerging artists early on. Art Road provides special arts activity classes, including supplies and an instructor, at no cost to elementary schools that lack art programs. The classes introduce children to the work of artists, provide historical perspective and let the kids show their creativity with hands-on arts projects such as painting, drawing, sculpture or mixed media.
MBFS helped renovate the art room at Edison Elementary by refinishing the floors and rehabilitating an old unused greenhouse attached to the art room at Edison Elementary. Last August it also landscaped the front of Charles Wright Academy of Arts, installed seven new benches and painted an 85 ft mural in the school. It also supports Beyond Basics, which brings art class to Thirkell Elementary.
Many of the projects from these three schools were on display at the Farmington Hills headquarters, which helped give the students the self confidence, sense of pride and accomplishment they need to do well in life. As a result of the Art Road and Beyond Basics classes the students have more interest in school, better test scores, better problem solving skills and a creative outlet free from pressure from family or peer.
The tribal masks you see in this blog were made by the Edison Elementary students. It was the first time many of them had worked in paper mache. The masks were used for Black History Month at the school.
That’s the younger side of the MBFS’s art world. At the end of each school year, Matta heads to Cranbrook to check out the art from its graduate students. The work selected to hang at the Farmington Hills office is based on the space available, how the art fits in with the employee art show and, of course, a little of Matta’s personal touch. That partnership began in 2001. While the number of pieces shown varies, about 100 works are shown annually. Many pieces of art from current and past exhibitions are available for sale directly from the artists. You can check out the catalogue.
Each year MBFS recognizes an artist with great promise with a grant and accommodations to live and work in Berlin. This year Jane Ritchie, a 2012 graduate of the Metalsmithing Department, received the Mercedes-Benz Financial Services Emerging Artist Award.
MBFS employees also get into the act. This past year 15 employees submitted 40 pieces of art. Some of that art is in the photo collage accompanying this blog.
A few other artists have been allowed to sneak in. An original Andy Warhol of the 1925 Mercedes Benz Type 400 Tourcar done in 1986 hangs in a conference room. It’s on loan from the Daimler Collection.
There’s still more to this artful story. MBFS employees are also encouraged to spend time at the Detroit Institute of Art and participate in an innovative program called Visual Thinking Strategies. In that program a DIA facilitator leads to a discussion and encourages a variety of observations as they discuss artistic masters from different continents and different centuries in a setting where they can express their views on the art work.
Instead of providing art-historical facts, a DIA facilitator asks the participants what they see in the piece. When participants offer an observation, they are asked for supporting evidence with the question, “What do you see that makes you say that?” This ultimately helps the employees learn about each other and gives them the opportunity to see and understand each others’ perspectives.
Not a bad idea for any of us.