Deciphering Culture

Archive for the ‘Arts & Community’ Category

“Every Life Has a Story” — Employee Education meets Art meets Responsibility

with one comment

I’m blown away by this video, reportedly produced by fast food chain Chik-fil-A as an employee education tool. The company wanted to encourage its employees to see customers and  co-workers as people first. Many companies state their commitment to making life better for their employees and their communities but then fall short. Chik-fil-A may be the real deal. The blog of company President and C.E.O. Dan Cathy, LIVE, LOVE, LEAD is worth checking out. Here’s a sample:

Jun 22

It’s All Personal

“It’s just business, it’s not personal.” You hear that sometimes when people have to make unpleasant decisions or do things that are a little uncomfortable. And it’s a nice phrase to make things feel a little better, but I’ve learned over the years, as both an employee and an employer, that it’s simply not true. There’s nothing in life that is “just business.” Everything we do is personal on some level. Any decision that involves people is by nature personal.

Keeping things personal is one of my biggest jobs as a member of the Chick-fil-A leadership team. As fast and as full as life gets sometimes, it’s tempting to break things down to “just business.” It’s a lot less messy to deal in Excel spreadsheets and categorize employees and customers as numbers. They’re just data. You just need to get XX amount of employees to serve XX amount of customers XX amount of food each day. End of story.

But that’s not true. Those employees aren’t numbers. They’re not just data. They’re moms and dads. They’re college students with dreams. They’re high school kids learning the value of hard work. They’re people just like me with hopes and fears and goals and friends and family. Same with the customers.

The customers are never numbers. They are dads taking their daughters out to dinner on date night at Chick-fil-A. They are moms who need a playground and a healthy meal for kids on the go. They are friends who camp out with me overnight for the grand opening of a new Chick-fil-A.

There are a lot of ways you can keep things personal at your business, but my favorite is to get out from my behind my desk. I like to be behind the counter. I like to serve someone a sandwich or help an employee make a milkshake. I find that dirty hands make it hard to see people as just numbers.

If you’re looking for me on most days, you’ll find me at a Chick-fil-A. Because it’s not just business. It’s not just data.

It’s personal. It’s all personal.

Written by Jeffrey Callen

July 14, 2010 at 4:31 pm

LeBron pulls the plug on Cleveland

leave a comment »

from Live Journal

Some may argue that writing about LeBron James’ decision to leave the Cleveland Cavaliers to  play for the Miami Heat is stretching the theme of this blog. His decision will significantly impact the community but do sports belong in the same category as art? An argument could alway be made either way but, since at least World War II, sports stars have been entertainers (and with Vince McMahon’s brilliant creation of sports entertainment the blurry line between sports and entertainment has become almost invisible). And to belabor the point, Charles Barkley rightly stated that he shouldn’t be held up as a role model to other people’s children but he never maintained that he wasn’t an entertainer — Sir Charles knew better. But back to LeBron and Cleveland. Much has been written over the years of the negative impact of cities’ frantic efforts to attract sports franchises and the debts incurred, but this is the first occasion I remember of calculations of the detrimental effect of one athlete moving on. MSNBC estimates that the city will lose $100 million per year (Cleveland’s financial reasons for loving LeBron. Worries downtown renaissance might ebb is Cav’s star free agent leaves). However, the loss goes far beyond economic concerns and, according to Please Don’t Leave 23 (a site dedicated to a campaign to keep No. 23 in Ohio) far beyond the realm of sports:

LeBron James’ impact on Ohio goes far beyond basketball. LeBron will have the option of leaving the Cleveland Cavaliers at the end of the 2009-2010 NBA season. This campaign is dedicated to keeping LeBron James in Cleveland for the betterment of all Ohioans. We believe, if we show LeBron James that his greatest supporters are right here in Ohio, that it will have a significant impact on his decision. Now let’s get to work!!!

Unfortunately they failed but we all saw that coming, didn’t we.

Written by Jeffrey Callen

July 8, 2010 at 7:27 pm

LDN24 — data visualization of a day in the life of London

leave a comment »

FIELD, a London-based graphic design studio, has created LDN24, an installation at the Museum of London that “draws filmic impressions and the facts and figures of London life into a picture of 24 hours in the life of the city.”    Working in collaboration with the Light Surgeons (Production), FIELD (Data Visualization) has created what it labels an “immersive, interactive experience” — an engaging simulacrum of quotidian life in London. One of the more creative applications of data visualization.

From Nathan Yau on  Flowing DataFacts and figures of London life (nice video clip too).

LDN24



Written by Jeffrey Callen

June 30, 2010 at 10:40 am

A “REMIXhibition” experiment — online media as social objects

with one comment

Andrew Dubber of the Interactive Cultures research centre at the Birmingham School of Media at Birmingham City University in the U.K. is inviting bloggers and creative artists to take an image, slogan or sign and respond to it. Based on the idea that people use online media as “social objects” upon which to base online conversation, Dubber is posting photos and video online to spur dialogue. Dubber’s article Fight the Power: The Art of Protest and the Theory of Social Objects is well worth reading for its access to this “remix” experiment, its theoretical exposition and its discussion of the Fight The Power REMIXhibition of Punch Records at the Custard Factory in Birmingham (in the heart of that city’s new arts & media quarter).

The internet is not a broadcast medium – and nor is it a ‘revolutionized’ older medium. It is instead a conversational space – and there are two main categories of object within that space: the conversation, and the things about which the conversation is taking place. By repositioning exhibited works and media artefacts that spring from that exhibition as individual and decontextualised social objects, the aim is to provoke conversation within that space. (to read the rest).

Written by Jeffrey Callen

June 3, 2010 at 8:29 am

David Byrne reflects on The Architecture of Fear

leave a comment »

In his Journal, David Byrne reflects on how the architecture of cities helps shape human interactions. Motivated by the irony of attending a New Urbanism conference in Atlanta, Byrne writes insightfully on planned communities, urban sprawl, the history of urban planning, and the ongoing transformations of the American urban landscape.  The Architecture of Fear is well worth reading — check it out.




Written by Jeffrey Callen

June 1, 2010 at 8:57 am

New patterns of cultural infrastructure: the “creative economy” model

leave a comment »

Interesting article from Community Arts Network on new forms of cultural infrastructure that are developing in formerly marginal cultural centers

Something Different Is Stirring: DIY Culture in Silicon Valley

By Tom Borrup
SoFA District
The SoFA District (South First Street in Downtown San Jose) on a Friday night. Photo by Joshua Santos

…we can now treat culture not as one big blanket, but as the superimposition of many interwoven threads, each of which is individually addressable and connects different groups of people simultaneously…. In short, we’re seeing a shift from mass culture to massively parallel culture. –Chris Anderson[1]

Many have written on the social impacts of new technologies, globalization, the shift to the knowledge-based or creative economy and DIY or do-it-yourself culture. Various theories have been advanced as to how such change has begun to redefine work, the nature of cities and the role of arts, culture and education, especially with regard to economic growth and sustainability. However, there has been little discussion of how these changes impact the evolution of what we might call the cultural infrastructure – the networks of organizations, facilities and practices that have evolved in both older and newer urban regions.

Richard Florida, best-selling author and creative-economy guru, predicts in his latest book, “The Great Reset,” that radically new ways of living and working will emerge over the next two to three decades – changes that will exceed any of the social and economic paradigm shifts experienced since the mid-1800s. What this portends for the cultural sector as we know it is a question worth examining.

What I’d like to suggest in this article is that the bulk of what we understand to be the formal cultural infrastructure in the U.S. emerged with and was patterned after Industrial Age, or Industrial Economy thinking and models along with a Eurocentric cultural focus. Corporate structures that are hierarchical in form, centralized in their management and monocultural (or monolithic) in their product and/or interpretation reflect the norm. The realities of the emergent creative or knowledge economy, together with globalization and technologies such as the Internet and social media, have begun to suggest a different model. (to read more click here)

Written by Jeffrey Callen

April 20, 2010 at 4:25 pm

Posted in Arts & Community

Tagged with

Art and Regeneration – why do it? (@ Architecture Centre Network)

with 2 comments

Interesting article on the use of art in urban regeneration efforts — more complicated and interesting than I would have thought.

Installation by Faisal Abdu’allah using poem from Almost an Island  project. Image courtesy Art on Greenwich Peninsula
Installation by Faisal Abdu’allah using poem from Almost an Island project. Image courtesy Art on Greenwich Peninsula

Art and regeneration – why do it?

When art and regeneration join forces the effect can be a renewed celebration of the places where we live, work and play. On the other hand, it can result in imagination being hounded into nothingness. Both these perspectives were revealed at a candid talk at The Building Exploratory in London on 10 February 2010.

Sarah Butler, Sam Wilkinson and Anna Strongman shared their wisdom on the roles of the artist, the curator and the development manager. All three have worked on major regeneration projects that have included artists in community engagement, design development, and in exploring how people use a place.

Political and complicated

All three speakers emphasised that combining art and regeneration can lead to some unexpected relationships, opportunities and problems. It is a complicated and political process, which is driven by different needs – to describe or understand a place, to develop people’s physical and imaginative experiences of a place, to make a place attractive in a competitive market for business tenants, for PR value, or by an appreciation of the intrinsic value of art, to name a few.

Time for change

One thing that is certain is that the regeneration of a place takes time. Anna Strongman, Development Manager for Argent, said it took six years to get planning permission for the 67-acre development at Kings Cross in London, which will result in eight million square feet of space for offices and homes and a host of facilities from new roads to the relocated University of the Arts.

So when is the best time for artists to get involved? Sarah Butler, director of UrbanWords and a writer, said the longer an artist can work in a place the better as “relationships and changes that can happen are gradual and unpredictable … artists can be effective at later stages of a project, but for their conversations and skills to have the most impact on the development of a place, they need to start working if possible before any master planning is done.”

Sam Wilkinson, arts consultant and co-director of Insite Arts, described how artists were involved from the beginning of a large-scale retail development in Bristol with a £12.5 million art budget. The first two years were spent developing a public art strategy, which the local authority needed and the developer was keen to support as a step to building a “very positive relationship with the local authority”.

However, smaller or temporary art works can generate change too, particularly when they happen in the context of other regeneration projects. Sarah described how ideas and words from the Almost an Island project on the Greenwich Peninsula in London were picked up by other artists, which generated “small scale ripples beyond its resources”. And Sam said: “A lot of the fabulous work we did in Bristol has kind of gone away – it’s about that moment in time. It’s about dialogue.”

Dialogue and community

So, how do you define the different needs of residents, businesses, developers and artists in relation to a particular place? One approach is to do a character profile of a place. Sarah once asked a firm doing a profile if they had talked to anyone and was shocked when the answer was no. “I was kind of horrified that these documents were written without any reference to the people who lived there. There’s a key role for the arts here as artists can spend the time and have the skills to explore and unpick and observe a place in a way that would be useful to that process of regeneration.”

She said that the regenerator, community and artist are often seen as separate entities. “I worry about sticking the artist in the middle … they can push open doors but the (to read more click here)…

Written by Jeffrey Callen

April 8, 2010 at 6:11 pm

%d bloggers like this: