Diversity in the workplace

Ahmed (1024x683)

Husky Energy today celebrates Diversity Day.  Some of the events are open to the public in the main floor lobby of their Calgary corporate headquarters, located at Western Canadian Place, 707 – 8 Avenue SW.

The abbreviated program of public events is as follows:

  • 08:00 – kick off and cultural performance
  • 09:00-14:00 – “diversabilities” activities by Champions Career Centre
  • 09:00-14:00 – art exhibition of works by Mona Ahmed

Because this is an arts focused blog, I want to talk about the art exhibition of works by Mona Ahmed and not the other events.

Mona is a student at the University of Calgary in the faculty of fine arts at the undergraduate level.  She is presenting for one day only, a series of photographs on the main floor, and another series on the +30 level.  The series on the main floor is called Incomplete (see photo above) and the larger series on the +30 level is entitled Hello my name is.

I have chosen to write about this for a few reasons.

Most importantly, it is about an artist getting their work out for people to view and have a dialogue with.  This show is a very good choice for a corporate day to talk about diversity.  The works are all photo-based.  Briefly both exhibitions have good talking points about our own personal filters as it relates to diversity.   In the Incomplete series, the same model is dressed in different outfits and it asks us how our perceptions are made by what they wear.  The Hello my name is series shows a series of people who are in various stages of focus (as in blurry or not), which explores the idea of how easy each person’s name is understood.  It is a show that is well worth visiting.  Unfortunately it is only up for a few hours today.  So if you miss it you may not see it again.

The second reason I wanted to write about this show, is this type of event is reflective of a trend that I seem to be noticing more frequently of late.  It is where a corporation or other entity sponsors or initiates a short-term exhibition, arts event or performance under the auspices of a larger umbrella – in this case diversity.  These events usually take place outside of traditional exhibition or performance venues.  This makes these events interesting as well.  As they introduce the possibility of developing new audiences and partnerships for all involved.

But I digress:

Having previously worked in the arts industry as an administrator for a very long time and as a result I miss having to think about esoteric topics sometimes.  Because of that, I could go into an extensive dialogue involving the pros and cons of this theory.  Some of which I was on the leading edge of locally in terms of practice.  I choose not to do so, for many reasons – chiefly, that this is the wrong platform, and that the discussion would lend itself more to academia.

This event and show also talks about the issue of where does public art begin and private, corporate or public patronage end; along with the concept of blurred urban, public spaces in an environment that is increasingly becoming more privatized and the democratization of these spaces – along with a whole raft of inter-related questions.  This is an area I am also very interested in.

Back on track:

For those involved it is a much appreciated gesture, especially those who are fortunate enough to receive funding or benefits as a result.  Some recent events that fall under this type of umbrella are the upcoming Phantom Wing project, corporate parties, in-home concerts, and the list goes on.

Regardless of my diversionary rambling, the sponsoring corporation or entity usually receives benefit and good-will from doing these events – and as a result it generally is, but not always is, a win-win for all involved.

If possible, check out Mona Ahmed’s photos today.  Talk to Mona for a few minutes on your lunch break or coffee break to see and get a renewed understanding of challenges some will face and why it is important to talk about diversity in the workplace.

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