Why We Created a Gallery for Our Employee-Artists
MailChimp is a restless collection of creative minds that celebrate each other whenever an opportunity arises. Sometimes, that means teaching a coworker new skills or hobbies or listening to them read or riding bikes to a team lunch. Recently, our VP of Marketing, Sean Cook, took the idea to heart while decorating his office.
“When it was time for me to decide what to do with the blank walls, I thought back to earlier days in my career, when I was the director of a contemporary art gallery,” Sean says of his previous life at Atlanta’s famed Heath Gallery. “I had the opportunity then to work with a lot of fantastic artists, some well-known and others just starting out. And when I look around at MailChimp, I see many artists among us and I’d love to celebrate that.”
The Cook Gallery now plays host to exhibitions from MailChimp employees and their significant others. Each exhibit, rotating every 6 weeks or so, features a single artist. The gallery is also another way for employees to connect with each other in a way they might not otherwise do because it gets different parts of the organization coming by to say “hi.” And yes, there is wine and cheese at the openings.
Meet the artists
The Cook Gallery’s Fall 2017 exhibition highlighted new works by one of our Social Support Specialists, Austin. Titled, “Analogue,” the show included Austin’s latest work, which consists of black and white compositions examining the relationships between shapes and letters. Austin had only started taking himself seriously as an artist 5 years ago. The Cook Gallery took him out of his comfort zone in a good way.
“It was actually the first place that I got to put together a body of work by myself specifically for the purpose of displaying it together for a group of people, which is really rad,” he says.
One of MailChimp Pro’s Customer Support Technicians, Dorothy, found that the Cook Gallery gave her a chance to fly solo with her work. “The Unity of Opposites” debuted in January and marked a collaborative departure for Dorothy. Previous to this solo show, she’d been showing her works around Atlanta since 2008 as part of the Plastic Aztecs collective, as well with her artist husband, Bo. At the Cook Gallery, her recent drawings, block prints, and screen prints at the office are finding a new audience.
“When you show in a gallery, the people that come are already sort of a part of that community, and they’re seeking that experience, or they know you already and they’re familiar with your work,” she says. “Showing it in the office, you get a chance for people who wouldn’t normally seek that out to see your work.”
Turns out, that’s exactly what Sean hoped would happen.
“If I find people that love art and connect them with somebody that is creating art, fantastic,” he says. “And for me to be able to have a place where they can hang it on the wall and have people come by and enjoy it? That’s a big win for me.”
Outside of the gallery, the experience provided more opportunities for both of the featured artists. “That body of work ended up landing me work outside of here,” Austin says. In fact, Austin picked up some big commissions, including painting a mural at MailChimp’s newly renovated Westside Atlanta office. Meanwhile, Dorothy’s sold more than a few of her prints to Cook Gallery visitors, and now feels like she’s ready take on her next solo show.
“It’s really important to me that we at MailChimp are strong advocates of creativity in our communities,” Sean says of one of the Cook Gallery’s primary goals. “I don’t think a community can really thrive without it. It makes us better as a city, it makes us better as a company. I think that’s what we need to be known for.”