The Art of Community
A reflection on the power of art in creating connection
Seven years ago, we hosted the first art exhibit in our office gallery on Solano Avenue. The exhibits were born out of a shared love and appreciation for art, providing an opportunity for us to embrace our local community and enhance our visual space. Twenty-three shows later, the curation of exhibits has become an integral part of who we are as a firm and a foundational aspect of our community outreach.
We’ve collaborated with over 40 locally based artists who work in various mediums and explore a myriad of topics. Each artist has provided fresh perspectives and cultivated engaging conversations. Each new exhibit has transformed our offices, providing new emotional and intellectual landscapes. Each reception celebrating the artists’ work has brought people together and sparked new connections. These connections are at the center of our values which emphasize relationships, creativity, and collaboration.
Perhaps it is unusual for a wealth management company to curate and host exhibits. We’ve realized that the shared experience of art enriches us and our community, ultimately making us better at what we do.
Art has two amazing qualities. First, no matter what the medium, content or style, art helps us visualize the world in new ways. Every piece of art or collection of works is viewed differently, making viewing art both an intensely communal and personal activity. Our responses to and understanding of a painting or sculpture are as varied as a spectrum of colors, and each viewpoint is valid and unique. It doesn’t matter if we see the same thing in an abstract landscape or feel the same emotion when viewing a portrait; we can share an experience together and differently. Each artist who has shown with us brought a different perspective, and each, through their exploration of our world, reminds us that we can see the world thru different eyes and still be drawn closer together.
In the beginning, Harley Jensen started our journey with his abstract photographs of walls in Mexico. Echoing that beginning, our current exhibit features the photographs and textiles of Gary Goldberg that also contemplate the textures of Mexico. Their compositions, deceptively simple at first, expose deeper patterns and symmetries the longer you experience them, providing space for the viewer to bring their thoughts and emotions into their meaning. The lesson: take time, look deeply.
Abstract art has featured in many of our shows. Not surprisingly, it elicits the broadest response from viewers. Without the reference of recognizable forms, our minds create their own associations. The work of Francesca Saveri and Barbara Maricle had our walls exploding with blocks of color resembling maps and landscapes of unknown places, taking each viewer on a personal journey through imagined worlds. Similarly, Kimberley D’Adamo Green delved into the microscopic with her paintings of the microbiology of the San Francisco Bay, also allowing us to collectively experience an unseen world. Stephen Bruce, with his acid on copper paintings, and Wilma Wyss, with her detailed glass mosaics, embraced the beauty of the natural world in pattern and color. Using their own techniques and interpreting the world in their own way, each artist provided connections we might otherwise miss.
Art also helps us re-see what is familiar, like a flower, a reclining figure, or a local landscape. Artists like Ned Axthelm and Elena Zolotnitsky brought quiet emotion to our walls with intimate portraits of everyday scenes and glimpses into other people’s stories. Nature inspired many of our artists, from the exquisite details in Lee McCaffree’s botanical drawings to Adam Wolpert’s paintings of great oaks to Hagit Cohen’s photos of seed pods. We see the world in detail through their close observation, reminding us again that we must deeply listen and deeply see the world if we want to build a connection to it.
We find vast universes in art, things we recognize even though we’ve never seen them before. Katie McCann creates magical creatures and fantastical scenes from cut ephemera. Ian Cion imagined humans robed and hooded against a hostile environment, while John Vias explored the East Bay cityscape at night. Fantasy is rooted in reality, and artists like these transport us to possible futures and alternate paths of evolution, a visual lesson of how we collectively influence our way forward.
Art has positively affected our daily work lives, and we’ve been fortunate to share the experience with others, expanding and deepening our community connections over the last twenty-three exhibitions. We are grateful to the artists we’ve hosted who have transformed our offices and fostered new perspectives.
Alive with Connection
The pandemic dramatically altered the way we see art together, with most artists and galleries moving to digital exhibitions. The pandemic’s hold on our proximity to one another is loosening. At North Berkeley, we anticipate and envision art exhibits and receptions returning in the fall when we will once again welcome local artists to display in our space, celebrate them with food, wine, and conversation, and invite our community to share in the experience. Our vision is a community alive with connection and stewardship. Art sparks that connection, and we’re happy to facilitate it.
If you’re interested in learning more about our art exhibits, please visit our website. Feel free to suggest local artists that you think might be a good fit for our gallery. We hope to see you all at our next art reception.