Social Service Agency
The Client - Social Service Agency: A team of counselors, social workers, and medical practitioners working in a service-oriented nonprofit that deals with violence against women. In the midst of a big transition.
The Problem: Their trusted executive director left the organization after many years, and their clinical director will be leaving soon. They are having difficulty finding satisfactory replacements for those positions. There is an atmosphere of uncertainty, abandonment, mistrust, and implicit power struggles.
The Process - “The Missing Leader”: This group recognized that they relied on the appointed leaders in the organization to facilitate staff interaction and sort out team conflicts. Without identified leaders, they had trouble being direct with each other, and instead harbored hard feelings, gossiped, and lost allegiance to the company. They discovered that when each person identified with their own leadership, used their power to be direct in relationship, and supported others to do the same, they could create a safe team. The “missing leader” was found within each individual.
The Art/Aesthetic: This is a diverse group of women, and their center is a haven for anybody who has been through trauma. The art conveys strength and warmth. During a facilitated dialogue, “singed wings” emerged as a description and metaphor for the experience of getting hurt and pulling away. The wings of the figure contain some of the words used to describe the team’s difficulties. The boxing gloves at the heart represent the “tough love” at the essence of their new-found direct style, and the words on the right capture the transformation the group experienced after our work together.
The Event - International Conference: An international conflict resolution training conference whose focus is social diversity issues like racism, sexism, international relations, socio-economics, gender, sexuality, war, and everything in between.
The Problem: Diversity issues, world tensions, and unresolved conflict.
The Process - “Multiple Realities”: Over the course of this week-long conference, participants worked on various diversity issues and conflicts. The group recognized that at essence, the various issues shared a common underlying polarization. These two essential energies were expressed and experienced in many ways throughout: yin-yang, movement-stillness, flow-block, and war-comfort. The group discovered that while each individual issue is unique, they all share common ground - humanity, the earth, the spirit, and essence.
The Art/Aesthetic: As resident artists/facilitators, there were no constraints on our style. However our time, space, and materials were limited. The two figures illustrate two opposing energies surrounded by the themes that were worked on. The poem spanning both panels was written by a participant who had suffered psychiatric abuse. It conveys the tension between every day reality and subjective individual experience. “They told me I had schizophrenia. I told them I had a bicycle.”
Interior Design Firm
The Client - Interior Design Firm: A team of women collaborating on a large commercial project.
The Problem: While each woman admired their colleagues’ talents and ideas, they were used to working independently. When collaborating, they encountered power struggles, leadership issues and creative blocks.
The Process - “Thwack”: One team member used the word “thwack” to describe how she experienced her colleagues’ reactions when she proposed a new idea. All members of the collective shared the pain of being met with strong resistance from colleagues, and resonated with the feeling of being “thwacked.” We found that the power of “thwack” needed to be put to good and productive use. The women learned to “thwack” with awareness - using the strong energy to clarify their individual talents and roles. In an attempt to be collaborative, each partner had marginalized her individual creativity, playful zany energy, and leadership.
The Art/Aesthetic: This group expressed a preference for work that was elegant, hip, urban, gender neutral, and simple. Since they were a team of visual and special artists, we decided to use exercises that elicited words - a less known, less trained form of expression. We used their words, phrases, and color palette to create the poetry painting.
The Client - Mediation Firm: All graduated from the same professional training institute.
The Problem: After several years in business, the partners lost enthusiasm for their business and no longer felt the sense of purpose they had when they established the firm. The administrative duties and structure of the organization kept them from connecting with each other and sharing passion for the work. It was as if they were “drifting” apart, both professionally and emotionally.
The Process: During their team building session, the partners discovered the creative potential of their problem by consciously exploring the experience of “drifting” apart. Through that process, they each described a sense of spaciousness and openness, and recognized that unstructured time and open space were essential to their work as mediators. In an attempt to grow the business, they had lost contact with this original inspiration and shared value. Instead, they were stressed by their workloads and pressured for time. We worked together to establish organizational structures that created open space, allowing the partners to stay connected to each other and their unique vision, while supporting the intention to grow their business. Now, when they access open space, they connect not only with each other, but with their values, purpose, and passions.
The Aesthetic: This organization was interested in an abstract painting. They believed that something realistic or figurative might potentially influence their clients’ experiences. To describe their aesthetic, they used the words modern, minimal, and earthy. Panel 1 depicts the structures they’ve created. Panel 2 reminds them of the open space within the structure.
Social Justice Organization
The Client - Social Justice Organization: A nonprofit, human relations organization dedicated to eliminating prejudice, bigotry, and discrimination.
The Problem: While their values include respect, understanding, and empowerment, this volunteer-based training group suffered from burnout, high-attrition, and lack of boundaries. We were called in to help with time management issues and volunteer retention. There were “insider” and “outsider” groups within the team, and a ranking system based on strict adherence to their core values.
The Process - “Include Exclusion”: This group is devoted to the inclusion of socially marginalized voices and groups. By integrating the power and energy of the “excluder,” they found new and creative solutions for dealing with time management, commitment, and volunteerism. It’s the opposite of what is intuitive. Their new concept of inclusion included the ability to make boundaries and to exclude in a compassionate and conscious way.
The Art/Aesthetic: This multi-cultural group of young, urban activists requested a bold, in-your-face statement reflecting their deepest values and challenges. “Anytown” is the name of a youth camp they run each year, through which they aim to live their highest ideals. “In every ism. In any town” reminds them to be aware of how they unconsciously exclude, even within their own organization. The text inside the human form reminds them to look at inclusion and exclusion as internal and in-group processes, not only as outer social phenomena.
State Arts Council
The Event - State Arts Council: A statewide arts conference designed to help individuals and arts organizations access essential resources and develop professional connections throughout the state. The theme was “Neuroscience and the Emotional Origins of Creativity,” and 361ArtWorks facilitated community dialogue between stakeholders, and documented the experience through art.
The Problem: With the economic downturn, artists across the state felt disenfranchised, unsupported, and undervalued. Arts programs and Arts non-profits have lost funding, creating an atmosphere of tension between artists and art educators, government officials, administrators, and funding organizations.
The Process - “The Creative Relationship”: The dialogue began as artists expressed frustration with being de-funded, dis-empowered, and unsupported. Government officials then expressed their frustration with being seen as heartless bureaucrats and only valued for money - a feeling they equated with being in the role of an unappreciated parent. As they listened to each other’s perspectives, they recognized that both sides felt devalued and sought appreciation. Prior to the dialogue, the keynote speaker shared neuroscientific research, proving that a loving connection between parent and child stimulated the part of the brain responsible for creativity. Through understanding one another’s perspectives and building relationship, the groups recognized that in order to meet shared goals, the funder and the artist needed each other in much the same way that the right and left brain, and the parent and child, need each other in the service of creativity. Through a very emotional and candid exchange, both sides recognized their intrinsic values and the power they held to change the economic and social environment for the Arts.
The Art/Aesthetic: The finished painting was destined to hang in a State Gallery for the Arts. A space with a rather formal atmosphere with a diverse and historical collection of work. The Arts Council requested a piece that was figurative and contemporary. This piece highlights the ten-inch distance of the mother-child gaze that brain scientists have proven optimal for stimulating love and creativity. The timeline at the bottom of the painting and the religious theme reflect the historical significance and spiritual value of the relationship between the artist and the institution. This piece was featured in a 2014 show of female artists in Utah.
The Client – Author: For a book about sexism and internalized intellectual inferiority among Jewish women in the author’s family lineage.
The Problem: The author suffered from a creative block and her writing was stuck. She felt pressured to meet her deadline.
The Process - “The Decapitated Goddess of Wisdom”: Our client was plagued by inner criticism and a sense of intellectual inferiority. Captivated by a family story about her maternal grandmother who had a lobotomy, she shared her recurring image of decapitation. We encouraged her to use fantasy and imagination to explore the experience of being headless. When she let go of her rational mind, she accessed an inner calm which led to free and spontaneous expression. Her thinking flowed with a new ease and clarity and she discovered the wisdom in not being heady! Our client’s bias towards the rational mind was a form of internalized sexism that had oppressed her, and from this new vantage point, she saw the lobotomized grandmother as a goddess of wisdom.
The Art/Aesthetic: Because our client’s research was focused on her family, we included family photographs in the final piece. The poem and the palette were created entirely through her color associations to her highest aspirations and her creative blocks. We used her poem verbatim as a way of honoring her spontaneous mind.
The Client - Community Center: Providing safe space for a marginalized population.
The Problem: The staff of this organization lacked a sense of connection as a team. Not only did their divergent work schedules and multiple locations inhibit regular contact between staff, but their differences in ideology and social status created factions. Internal conflicts had been left unaddressed or unresolved. They hoped to create a unified team to better serve their clients and deal with challenges they faced daily from the community.
The Process: The process revealed a hidden dynamic: a shifting relationship between the roles of oppressor and oppressed, hurter and victim. This dynamic occurred within the staff, within the wider community and in the relationship between the organization and the public.
The wounded soldier emerged as a central metaphor, symbolizing power and vulnerability, the protector, and the one in need of protection. These fluid roles switched among staff members. While they all identified with feeling hurt by the community, new awareness emerged regarding how staff members were hurting and wounding one another as well. For example, junior staff felt wounded when their input was marginalized by top-down decision making, leading them to lash out in anger and revenge. Through facilitated dialogue, the staff revealed how the wounded soldier transformed the cycle of hurt and revenge by consciously using power and vulnerability. They showed each other the heart at the center of every marginalized group’s yearning for equality and justice.
The Aesthetic: All staff members agreed that the bland and sterile atmosphere of the main building did not reflect the vibrancy of the community. They wanted a piece of art that was bold and colorful. The piece consists of 12 movable panels that tell a story - one that can change as the group evolves. The piece asks: How comfortable is each staff member with each of the roles - the power, the vulnerability, the protector, the activist? The transgendered figure is a symbol, not just of one marginalized community, but of the transcendent power of nature as portrayed by the turtle (earth symbol). As a way of recognizing the integral relationship between branches of the organization, the modular piece was designed to move between sites. The whole piece, or specific panels, can be hung in various places at different times.
Fortune 1000 Company
The Client - Fortune 1000 Company: A small division within a large corporation.
The Problem: The group needed team-building to support its success, and to address the problems of conflict avoidance and lack of innovation.
The Process: The team identified as a close, supportive, and fun-loving “family.” However, people admitted to sometimes feeling condescended to, irrelevant, or obsolete. Others spoke of distractions from co-workers who interrupted with needs for help and/or “drama.” This dynamic was experienced through generational differences on the team. Some of the older people expressed feeling unrecognized for their experience and wisdom. Younger people perceived the older generation as resistant to new technologies, lacking innovation, and too reliant on them for help. This resulted in resentment over inequities in workload. When they addressed this conflict, they discovered that their expectations of each other offered the potential to mentor and learn from one another. They found that giving each other direct, constructive feedback generated individual and team growth, and increased creativity and innovation. Through exploring the sense of “drama,” they exposed a raw enthusiasm for their own ideas. This led to a deep feeling of pride and celebration among team members about the tremendous accomplishments of their division - accomplishments not always seen by the rest of the company.
The Art/Aesthetic: The team complained of the bland corporate environment. They wanted something colorful and funky to brighten the workspace. This piece, entitled “Tweeting Your Horn” celebrates the team’s diversity and accomplishments, and depicts the innovation that flourishes when team members dare to deal with conflict directly. The Twitter birds emerging from the full-grown tree represent both the wisdom of age and the creativity of new technologies.
The Client - Utility Company: Including the VP of a large utility and his management team.
The Problem: This team of managers struggled with time management. With recent company-wide changes, a great deal of energy was devoted to scorecards, benchmarking, and metrics, leaving little time for the high-level, creative thinking, and managing required of their roles. They shared what they called a “hero mentality” - trying to be all things to all people at all times.
The Process: The team discussed the strengths and challenges of the hero mentality. In an effort to be less heroic, one of the managers asked for support in implementing the company-wide sustainability initiative. His co-workers rallied. They realized that, in fact, they needed a more sustainable way of working together as a team. “Sustainability” became a metaphor for how to use one’s own and team energy more efficiently. Team members practiced communicating their needs directly, stating their boundaries and making it known to one another when they wanted collaboration and when they did not. Paradoxically, they produced clean team energy (and intimacy) by sharing their limitations and overload. They decided that the new “hero” was not the individual, but rather the team as a whole, working together in a sustainable way.
The Art/Aesthetic: The team had diverse and wide-ranging taste in art. They stated no strong stylist preferences but agreed they wanted color in the space. In order to best serve the image of the hero mentality, we chose the iconic comic book style of pop artist Roy Lichtenstein. The hero lives on two panels as a reminder of the many facets of balance.