Tuesday, August 2, 2011

ESSAY: Art Reception at NRG Systems in Hinesburg

by Marc Awodey

We often hear about the importance of art/business relationships, but it’s usually in the context of a non-profit's fundraising efforts. We hear it less often from the business side. So when a robust program of art acquisition by a large company is implemented it’s surely a cause for celebration.

At the Hinesburg home office of NRG Systems, a global leader in wind power technology, CEO Jan Blittersdorf and consultant Sarah-Lee Terrat of YeloDog Design, have been walking the walk - not just talking the talk - since 2004, when NRG’s headquarters was being built. On Sunday July 31 there was a well-attended reception and open house for the 60 artists whose work has been purchased by NRG. Collectors, business professionals, and media were also invited.

The NRG collection includes over 100 pieces, and it’s superb. Blittersdorf and Terrat traveled around Vermont to galleries and shows in search of art. Among the highlights of the collection are lively paintings by folk artist Larry Bissonette and other artists of the G.R.A.C.E. project, and many of Vermont’s best known artists from Warren Kimball to Sabra Field appear, as well as constructions and sculpture by Janet Van Fleet, Delia Robinson, Barr Jozwicki and others. Terrat produced floor murals, tile pieces, and along with Carolyn Shapiro and Anne Lika an exuberant hallway called the Migratory Bird Installation. The NRG collection includes top notch textiles and photography as well.

One of Blittersdorf’s goals has been to “inspire other Vermont business leaders to consider how they too could enhance the beauty of their workspaces.” She also said in a recent press release: “We spend so much of our lives at work that I wanted to make our facilities a comfortable and attractive place for our employees to work… The art has really enhanced our space and helped make it uniquely our own.”

One of the really refreshing things about NRG’s collection is that the CEO was directly involved in amassing the works. Terrat accompanied Blittersdorf in hunting for art, but Blittersdorf developed the confidence to make her own decisions rather than solely relying on the consultant, or an outside curatorial service. Her commitment to creating a playful and uplifting work environment is what really gives the collection a coordinated yet eclectic identity. That sort of discernment is good for business, and certainly good for the visual arts community.

Images: One of the many Floor Tiles (chiclets) inset in hallway floors, created by Sarah-Lee Terrat and Carolyn Shapiro Wall installation by Janet Van Fleet Migratory Bird Installation by Sarah-Lee Terrat, Carolyn Shapiro, and Anne Lika Cow by Cathy McCarthy, Fiber wallhanging by Shirley O'Reilly