It was a day of pouring rain. I arrived half-soaked and was glad to have a day to spend indoors, as today was our day for a morning of staff meetings and no client engagements for the afternoon. These weekly meetings bring three teams together with very different vocabularies and expectations. The Fine Art team is the longest-established: four have higher degrees in art history, three are artists who exhibit on a fairly regular schedule, with a comptroller who keeps their very complex logistics running smoothly. The Heritage Services team consists of three trained archivists from a specialist vendor. Research and Analysis is me. Our director did graduate work in theoretical physics before building and selling a couple of companies on his was to consultancy work and, ultimately, the chance to run the information governance effort at Citi about eight years ago. We’ve been a mini melting-pot, as each team has come into the Center with very different backgrounds, assumptions, ways of working, client relationships, and even vocabulary, which in the beginning didn’t mesh well. These regular meetings, shared projects, and the construction of common project tracking tools have gone a long way to bridging the culture gaps. The first meeting is about sales and marketing of our services. Each unit presents the major projects that it is responsible for, and we look for ways either to sell a client more services based on his or her current request or to find other clients that might be interested in the same type of service. At other times, we look for ways to standardize a product and offer it to employees company-wide. A good example is our “docent-led tours” project, which came up today. Early last year, the Fine Art registrar curated an exhibit of Citi’s advertising since 1812 and the fine art that was used in from about 1945 on. It hung in our gallery in Long Island City for six months, then—for a client who needed to upgrade the art in the building that she manages—we moved it temporarily to a light-filled corridor that gets a lot of employee traffic. Since then, the registrar and I have been giving a series of tours to employee and trainee groups. As the buzz around the tours is building and the number of requests is increasing, I’ve started to create a docent program, with a script, FAQs, and exhibit “map”; the registrar is having the artwork reproduced. The idea is to send it around the company as a “package”(our Europe, Middle East, and Africa curator, who sits in the UK, suggested starting with London and Zambia). Here’s what parts of the exhibit looked like when it was still at the LIC gallery:
The second meeting of the day was nominally about our e-Exhibits initiative, which in the future will allow us to mount virtually art and artifact shows on computer screens company- wide, which means globally. It is a particularly enjoyable meeting, as the three participants—director, art curator, and I—all relish the need to deconstruct a fellow bank’s outstanding online art program to get ideas of what succeeds and what could be improved. (You can do this alongside us if you spend some time exploring here.) It was a first, at least for me, to have “Lacan,” “radical alterity,” and “semiotics” tossed around at a corporate meeting (only for the fun of it!).
Our meeting space looks like this—a bit bare at the moment, as we haven’t yet decided what art and images we want to use to convey a sense of the work we do:
The rest of the day was taken up with chipping away at other projects and keeping clients in the loop where needed, answering a request from the widow of a former CEO, coming up with a plan B in case we can’t use one of the key images for the Museum of Natural History video that is in the offing, and so on.
You’ll see my cubicle here. I’ve been told that the books need to move, but the company doesn’t supply bookcases for cubicles, so we’re still negotiating a solution for that one: