Architects, interior designers find clients want more art

Architects, interior designers find clients want more art

Whitehead, Julie

Art is coming into its own once again as an avenue of self-expression, but not just for the artists themselves.

“People are, more and more, wanting to put fresh, original art in their living spaces as well as their work-spaces,” said Camp Best, artist and director of the Fondren Renaissance Foundation.

It’s a desire that more and more interior designers and architects are working to cultivate in both their residential and commercial clients. The results are evident in the concentration of interior designers, artists and galleries opening in areas such as the Fondren neighborhood in Jackson.

Cheryl Ketner, an interior designer based in Madison, said that more clients are seeking ways to incorporate art objects into their decor, particularly when building new houses.

She does try to steer clients away from “matching” their art to their decor.

“One I thing I know people do is try to make the art match the sofa,” Ketner said.

Art works better in a decorating scheme if it is a piece the owner truly appreciates and enjoys rather than one bought simply to fill an empty space on the wall, she believes.

She cites one client who was building a very traditional Greek Revival home who also owned an extensive modem watercolor collection. Using traditional framing on the paintings themselves and pulling wall colors from the hues used in the art, Ketner was able to integrate the very modem pieces into the overall tradition-laden decorating scheme.

‘We want something that will make him happy!’

Some art lovers collect the work of particular artists. whose style they are attracted to.

Best, who calls his work “abstract impressionism” executed in acrylic and pastels, often gets requests for commissions where a buyer will specify colors or subject matter for Best to use in the work.

“Some artists find that easier than others. I personally have a difficult time with that,” he said.

More enjoyable are the commissions where a client simply asks him to apply his own creativity to the canvas. He recalls a client couple who requested a Christmas present for their 19-year-old son, saying, “Our son saw your work, and he just loved it, and we want something that will make him happy!”

Without limits

Not only is commissioned or gallery art making a comeback, but architect Jason Bigelow works to make sure that artistic sensibilities aren’t limited to what his clients can hang on a wall or place on a pedestal.

“Art isn’t necessarily in the museums and the galleries,” said Bigelow, who designs commercial, educational and worship spaces for clients at Singleton Architects in Jackson.

He accomplishes this ideal for his client by making sure buildings are aesthetically pleasing from a functional standpoint – to that end, he advises clients to invest in handcrafted elements, such as furniture or custom stained glass windows.

Bigelow cites his own home under construction as an example. The furniture was commissioned from a local woodworker, while several serving pieces to go in the kitchen and dining area are being thrown by a local potter.

Bigelow supplements his formal architectural training with his own studies in contemporary art, frequently attending shows at local galleries such as Gallery 119 and Brown’s Fine Art and Framing in Fondren.

“Going to galleries and museums helps you see what’s going to be lasting, what is pop, what’s going to be included in the work as timeless beauty,” he said. “Those are still the things that are going to be beautiful 50 years from now.”

Bringing art into workspaces

More traditional businesses are starting to see the value of bringing art into their workspaces, according to Joel Brown of Brown’s Fine Art and Framing.

He serves as an art consultant for all of Community Bank’s branches. “They wanted a very consistent look to all their banks,” said Brown.

A recent acquisition from artist Jack Garner hangs in the newest Community Bank branch in Pearl.

Joel Downs, senior vice president of the Pearl branch, said that he was attracted to Garner’s work because of Garner’s past association with the banking industry.

“I had worked for Jack when he was president/CEO of Sunburst Bank and at Union Planters,” said Downs. “I told our interior designer that I would like to have one of Jack’s works in our bank.”

The designer relayed the request to Brown, who contacted Garner and solicited his work.

“The first one he brought in blew us away,” said Brown. “With Jack being a former bank president and an artist, it was a perfect fit.”

Aesthetics for employees and customers isn’t the only motive for placing fine art in their facilities, according to Downs.

“I think the idea is for our bank to collect art, and over time, if you pick the right artist, their work can appreciate over time,” said Downs, who admits that judging art is not his strong suit. “I saw his stuff on occasion and just really did like it – it was more my appreciation of his talent.”

A matter of personal taste

Of course, art is often very much a matter of personal taste – so much so that designers sometimes get unusual requests for help in displaying objects not traditional considered artistic.

Ketner remembers one family who requested help with a very different decorating dilemma – the husband was a musician who had the opportunity to tour with Jimmy Buffet but got married instead, according to Ketner. He had a collection of guitars stored away in a bonus room.

Ketner helped him organize and display the collection throughout the house in such a way that he could pull down a particular guitar and play it whenever he wished. “They’re expensive musical instruments, but they’re also beautiful works of art.”

And that’s the whole point of good architectural and interior design, to Bigelow’s mind. “The best we can do as architects and interior designers is to create the stage where the art of living beautifully can take place.”

Copyright Mississippi Business Journal Aug 09, 2004

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