An “Anywoman’s” View of Business and the Arts

Posted by Linda Odell, Jul 17, 2014 0 comments

Linda O'Dell Linda O'Dell

Many people aren’t surprised that Hallmark is a supporter and beneficiary of the arts. Our business is built around creativity. We have a clear interest in maintaining a symbiotic relationship with the arts, if for no other reason than to attract and nurture the people who make up Hallmark’s huge, and hugely talented, in-house creative staff.

But there also are Hallmarkers whose jobs aren’t usually viewed in a creative context.

I’m one of them. And from my vantage point as a corporate spokesperson, there’s great benefit to me, with similar potential to a business of any type, in investing in what Hallmark’s chairman, Donald J. Hall, has described as “the highest expression of the human spirit.”

So let me share a few examples of what Hallmark’s support of the arts means for “non-creative” me, for the company I represent, and for the community I call home.

“Turn left at the Sol Levitt tryptich”

When I come to work in the morning, I may walk past a hand-painted cast bronze horse by Deborah Butterfield and a Pablo Picasso ceramic plate, or a series of screen prints by Donald Baechler and a giant paper airplane formed in balsa wood by Christopher Kurtz.

Down the hall from my office are display cases filled with fanciful teapots by the likes of Phillip Maberry, Beatrice Wood, Kurt Weiser (my favorite), Ralph Bacerra, Annette Corcoran and Ah Leon. When I step off the elevator at lunchtime, Jill Greenberg prints of a monkey and bear are there to greet me.

That’s just for starters.

For me, pieces of the Hallmark Art Collection displayed in every corner of our headquarters add fun to the workplace, as well as landmarks for navigating my way to meetings. If this corporate art collection, one of the earliest of its type in the nation, can engage me, I can only imagine what working in what amounts to a glorious gallery of art may mean to my colleagues in our visual design studios.

Win-win- and win some more
This past spring my husband and I were enthralled by Andre Watts’ performance of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4 with the Kansas City Symphony in our town’s astounding new performing arts center.  A few months earlier, we enjoyed the Kansas City Ballet’s annual holiday production of The Nutcracker.

We have season tickets to both groups’ performances. One we purchase, the other is paid by Hallmark as part of the company’s “50-50 ticket program” in partnership with Kansas City’s major local performing arts organizations.

Talk about a win-win-win. Talented prospects Hallmark wants to recruit, take note of this great employee benefit. The arts groups welcome more people in the seats and the revenue their presence generates. That revenue ensures work that keeps the jobs for dancers, musicians, actors, and technical support staff in our midst, enlivening our city’s cultural scene every single day.

Plus, the Odells get to enjoy many more glorious performances than we otherwise would. Win-ning!

Priming the volunteer pump

I’m secretary for the board of a small choral music non-profit. I take notes at board meetings and type up the minutes, plus help with other tasks that need to be done, such as stuffing programs, taking tickets, and helping concert-goers find the restroom during concert intermissions.

I easily put in more than 50 volunteer hours a year on behalf of this group, and Hallmark rewards that effort through our VIP–Volunteer Involvement Pays–program. If I document the volunteer hours I spend with this organization and they add up to 25, Hallmark writes the group a check for $200. If I put in 50 or more hours, Hallmark doubles the size of the check.

Not all VIP resources go to arts organizations. If I give at least 25 hours at a food pantry, Hallmark writes a check to them too. But many of the 48,000 or so volunteer hours Hallmark employees document through VIP each year are related to the arts.

VIP motivates me to show up for program-stuffing so I can be sure to hit the 50-hour mark. My fellow board members are delighted to have an extra $400 in the bank account to help pay for sheet music and concert mailings.

I look like a hero.  So does Hallmark.

Inspiring the next generation

Hallmark is a happy place to work, but it is work, and some days are happier than others. If I need a lift on those “other” days, I can take a break, walk to another building in our headquarters complex, and see creativity in action on the faces of youngsters attending Kaleidoscope, a free creative art experience for children.

Hallmark developed Kaleidoscope 45 years ago as a way to fire creative spark in elementary age children. It’s a field-trip must for virtually all schools in the region and a popular weekend destination for families as well. Kids create their Kaleidoscope masterpieces using manufacturing scraps from Hallmark products, so there’s environmental benefit, too.

Today, the program’s earliest participants are all grown up. Whether they’re now poets and painters, or bankers, dentists, teachers, and warehouse workers, or a massage therapist and a beer brewer like my own two Kaleidoscope alumni –the joy of creative expression remains with them—and may inspire their own future arts participation and support.

So what?

Anybody’s business can benefit from the arts. Yours might not want an Andy Warhol (yes, we have one), but it might brighten the office with the work of local artists. Or enrich life in your community by sponsoring a concert, recognizing employee volunteers, or making grants or in-kind donations to organizations whose efforts you admire.

At Hallmark, it’s paid off in a work environment that entices top talent to join us and stay. To a corporate reputation that’s acknowledged by awards like the BCA 10 (thank you for that!) and to vibrant communities rich in public art that make life enjoyable for all–including the “anywomen” like me.


Our blog salon on Unique Business Partnerships this week is generously sponsored by Drexel University Online.

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