I recently had the great pleasure of meeting with Birgit Whitelaw, one of the ‘creative masterminds’ behind The Art Connection. Together with her partner Renata Dolz, Birgit is giving the corporate world a much needed creative boost. From event decor to team building workshops, The Art Connection helps businesses “harness the power of ‘art’ to inspire ideas, further causes and connect people!”
Birgit was kind enough to sit down with me for a chat and tell me a little bit about how it all got started.
How long has The Art Connection been in existence?
The Art Connection started back in 2000 as a Corporate art consultation firm. Today, we are bringing ‘art’ to corporations in a more meaningful, experiential way. Using creative methods and ‘art’, we help spark new ideas and connect teams.
The management skills that I acquired in the hotel business coupled with my artistic bent have proven to be the key ingredients driving the success of The Art Connection.Prior to starting The Art Connection, I worked in hotel management. Starting in Germany,I worked my way up through the ranks at various hotels in Europe, including London and Switzerland. I finished my hotelier career in the U.S. as Director of Sales & Catering for The Burnsley, a former boutique hotel in downtown Denver. Additionally, I have studied under various Art Professors in different countries completing my studies under the instruction of Lee Milmon at the Colorado Institute of Art.
Renata joined me in 2007 and with her corporate marketing and art background we are the perfect team–combining art and business.
Until recently we had a studio in which we offered various art workshops for individualsbut realized very quickly that Corporate America is where we needed to concentrate and where the real ‘starving artists’ are. Whether it’s for branding, ideation, or team-building, we customize each experience. We also do creative branding and planning for meetings or events.
What would you say is the benefit of adding the creative process to events like that?
It is all about event branding in the end, the touch points/metaphors, environmental design, participant engagement and the creative experience. The more senses you engage at a meeting, the higher the engagement and retention.
Are the art team building experiences totally unique?
Yes, we offer them to fundraise, build teams, inspire ideas, bolster employee morale or create a vision. Every company and non-profit is different: different stages of development, goals, culture and priorities. Our job is to understand the purpose an organization needs art to serve and to customize a program specific to that need. Our programs typically span 2-3 hours and often combine upfront brainstorming and alignment, culminating in collaborative masterpieces.
Do you do any non corporate work these days?
We are increasingly working with non-profits and foundations to help facilitate board engagement and direction. We also do private events like anniversaries or weddings where guests get to create an art piece for the couple that reflects personal memories and experiences.
Do you find guiding them to be a challenge?
No! We typically do fun warm-up exercises to get people relaxed and engaged. Once the ‘creative child’ in everyone starts to surface, there’s a great, electrical momentum that develops throughout the experience.
Is there anything else specific that you’d like people to know about The Art Connection.
A wise woman once said, “It takes a village….:” Whether it is raising children, growing a business, or living in a community, we live in an interdependent ecosystem and should help out whenever and however we can. To us, that means many things – spreading the word about our talented partners, supporting non-profits, and sharing the gift of art not only with clients, but with individuals that can benefit most from the healing effects of the creative process. It’s important to us that we use our creative tool box to really help people.
As an artist myself, I’m so thrilled to know that there is a service like this available to the business community and am excited to watch Birgit and Renata take the world by storm!