On the Other Hand: Art's Place in the Workplace

On the Other Hand: Art's Place in the Workplace May 24, 2011

It’s easy for those of us who love art to forget that it has its pragmatic side too.

After all, art seems to be mostly about capturing the powerful emotions, the heights and depths of transcendence, the gritty detail of despair, etc.  And mostly, we like to experience and think about it and let it stretch our emotional awareness and capacity for the world.

But art can help get things done once in a while as well.  Consider this fascinating little article from the NY Times regarding several interviews about literary influences on our Supreme Court Justices.  What is striking is not so much the simple fact that they are influenced by authors… it’s the uniformity with which they affirm the value of literature in helping their work, and the corresponding valuelessness of everyday law writing.

Too often we allow ourselves to be one person while working and another while alone.  If you love the way art has molded and shaped you, find ways to bring that value to bear on pragmatic things. For me, this includes writing memos that help model restraint and a lack of excessive wordiness to my coworkers, using story metaphors to help describe complex concepts, and even displaying art that I care about as my screen saver so that people will ask about it and I can converse with them about its meaning in my life.

I’d love to hear other ideas you guys may have for mixing the artistic and the pragmatic.

p.s.  Don’t miss the Scalia/Roberts exchange at the end of the article I linked to… it’s high-level humor at its best!

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