In this regard, the employees of the Cincinnati Art Museum are no exception. But there are some notable differences. When their employer gives them that chance, their work is on display in the same building, and presented with the same care and pride, as masterpieces by Van Gogh, Monet or Andy Warhol. And the people who see it are there because they want to see art, not just passing by.
Many of the nearly 200 employees of the Cincinnati Art Museum also create their own art, and some even have achieved success locally as Contemporary artists in their own right.
Their work is on display through Jan. 22 in a gallery exhibit called Employed, which has more than 70 works of art by 37 employees. The staff is showing a diverse collection of sculpture, painting, photography, fashion design and digital art.
Though the idea for a staff artwork exhibition has been floating around the museum for at least 10 years, the museum’s head of installation and design, Kim Flora, says it didn’t occur previously that such an exhibition could take place in one of the galleries. But the museum decided to look into its own internal community of artists for a show.
The jobs of the artists featured in Employed are as diverse as the work on display. Among the 37 featured are security guards, café servers, interns, administrative assistants, curators and more. (Dennis Harrington, Weston Art Gallery director, served as juror.)
“Showcasing an exhibition like this communicates to our audience that art is being created in our own communities, by our neighbors, family, friends and co-workers,” says Flora, who served as co-coordinator of the exhibit and also has three pieces in it. “I think that goes a long way in breaking down some of the misconceptions about what it means to be an artist or an art appreciator. I hope this exhibition makes the museum itself and the practice of being an artist more accessible to people.”
While the exhibit makes clear just how many talented, creative people work inside museums, it also suggests that this isn’t a phenomenon reserved solely for such institutions.
The staff exhibition also adds perspective on the artist’s role in society and how this changes (or doesn’t change) over time. Next to each piece in Employed, visitors can read each artist’s statement about what this role is. The eclectic collection shows that the artist’s role is to live among us, to observe the world and offer new lenses to see the world through. It also teaches that artists are needed in society to open up conversations and provide hope.
Employed is achieving just that inside the art museum. The museum’s design and marketing assistant, Erin Geideman, says the exhibit has brought together museum employees for a common cause and prompted heartfelt conversations among staff members.
Her series of photographs, I can see right through you, is featured in Employed. Though her photos have appeared in national and international exhibits and publications, this is the first time her work has been featured in Cincinnati.
Geideman uses photography as a platform to create narratives, as photos can be arranged in a sequence to create themes and build symbolic meaning. I can see right through you is a narrative exploring her friend’s recovery after being shot in a mugging.
“When you work at a place like the Cincinnati Art Museum, it’s an incredible feeling,” Geideman says. “It’s still hard for me to believe I can see signs for a Van Gogh exhibition across the hall from Employed. To have my work in a building that was made in 1886 that holds countless old masters is a once-in-a-lifetime achievement.”
For more information about the CINCINNATI ART MUSEUM, visit cincinnatiartmuseum.org.