It has been a year now since I had the good fortune of being invited to participate in one of Overland’s most leading-edge projects—not in my everyday role as Overland’s graphic designer, but as an artist. As one whose works were selected for the Grande Cheese Home Office and Research Center in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, I felt fortunate to fall into great company and receive the valuable gift of an ideal setting for my work.
Art was integral to the project from its beginning. Overland’s previous experience incorporating art into architecture initiated conversations early on with the client to consider a plan for art curated specifically for Grande. Grande’s Chairman, John Candela, along with then-President and CEO, Wayne Matzke, had already begun to generate their vision to create “an organic, serendipitous workplace,” and through discussions with our Principal in Charge, Tim Blonkvist, art became a valued component. Art consultant Allison Hays Lane—Director, Olana Group—proceeded to work closely with Tim, John, and Wayne to populate the organic workplace with art that spoke to their high regard for Grande’s employees.
Two hundred thirty works of art by twenty-one artists from across the globe were designed into the spaces. Of them, sixty-six of my giclée prints—abstract digital design that’s the result of my exploration spanning sixteen years—were selected. Allison had first noticed some small framed prints of mine in our office, and inquired about their origins. All it took was a spark of curiosity on Allison’s part. I jumped on the opportunity to send her my portfolio. It was wonderful to get to know Allison, learn from her, and be welcomed and supported throughout the process of curation and installation by a highly respected expert in her field.
The design process was true to some very high ideals on the part of the client. In addition to the forward-thinking philosophy of the owners, a culture of caring concern for others and a commitment to quality of life had pervaded the entire experience that would change life at this company from here into the future. Every decision, large to small, was made with the well-being of the employees in mind, and no serious thought was spared when it came to occupant health, comfort, efficiency and professional support. John Candela often spoke with the design team about the fact that the workplace is actually a home-away-from-home for employees because most of them spend as many if not more waking hours at work than they do in their own homes. Why shouldn’t it be a place of calm, beauty and inspiration?
Because my designs had not been crafted specifically for this project, Tim suggested a method of customizing them for the Grande staff. I paired them using color, shape, and scale, even altering some to fit the pairing. He and Allison invited the Grande employees, whose offices would display them, to choose the prints they connected with most.
Opening Day, July 9, 2016—All the planning had fabricated into a beautiful reality. The building and site incorporated features that are truly exemplary in workplace design, and I became even more aware of how fortunate I was to be a part of this unique project.
It became personally gratifying when people I had never met before came to me at the Grand Opening to gush about the work they had chosen and inviting me to their offices to see them on the wall. I was touched by their enthusiasm. They were so generous in spirit and genuinely excited to have my prints become a part of their daily lives.
One of the signature elements in my work is my use of color. A bonus that day was hearing from employees that the bold use of color throughout the building was a very real and positive contributor to their outlook when skies are dark and weather is challenging, as long Wisconsin winters can be. The building has become a beacon of light and color that welcomes them in the morning and sustains them throughout the day. It felt great to know I had made a small contribution to their daily lives by stimulating imaginations, lifting spirits and creating joy.
I will always be grateful to have been a part of the Grande Home Office experience. I had not anticipated the connection that my work created between myself and the employees. One executive told me, “I come into the office in the morning, get my coffee, sit down at my desk and look at the art on the wall in front of me, and it makes me so happy.”