After the lease is signed, contractor hired, and furniture selected, there’s another key element of any successful corporate move: the art.
That’s where Valerie Roeszler comes in. For 15 years, her San José–based Art Smart Co. has helped Silicon Valley companies source, select, commission, and install artwork to suit any taste. It’s a relatively unheralded aspect of commercial real estate that nonetheless can have a big impact on a company’s success.
“Artwork is important to a new or existing business, not only for its clients but for its employees,” Roeszler said. “It engages your audience and has the power to release positivity as opposed to looking at a blank wall.”
“The fact is, we spend so much time at work, it’s important to create space that improves the employee experience. And since art affects the atmosphere of a room, it has the capacity to inspire and unlock the creative potential in many employees.”
The art world wasn’t Roeszler’s first career. She was managing a large travel agency when she learned of a company that rented and sold artwork to businesses. Her dad encouraged her to apply, knowing she loved art, had a good eye for design, and understood the management side of business.
Fast-forward a couple years, and the company restructured during the dot-com bust, eventually going under. But artists who had worked with Roeszler convinced her to go into business for herself. Art Smart was born.
“[The artists’] support was very affirming, and it gave me the nudge I needed to start my own business,” she said. “The scariest thing was the unknown of who would be my next client, but I knew if I worked hard and marketed myself accordingly, I could do it.”
Roeszler built the business through word of mouth, referrals from existing customers, a strong leads group, and networking. “I have found over the years that networking and building relationships with various architects, furniture companies, project management firms, and organizations such as CREW Silicon Valley is the most effective way for me to build business,” she said. (She also serves as Director of Sponsorship for CREW Silicon Valley.)
Lockheed Martin represented an early “win.” Company executives loved art, and Roeszler helped them realize dimensional pieces with Lockheed’s branding on metal for various buildings. “These buildings had no windows, so we worked hard at bringing the outside environment into the employees’ workspaces,” Roeszler recalled. “We did so through photographic artwork, and it was incredible to see these spaces come alive. It was a very rewarding experience and thrilling to watch the employees’ enthusiastic reactions as we progressed with the project.”
Today, Art Smart boasts a customer roster that includes big-name developers, like South Bay Development; tech companies such as 8x8, Seagate, and Boston Scientific; banks (too many to name); and nonprofits and healthcare providers.
Some clients’ taste is adventuresome, modern, and experimental; others are more traditional — but Roeszler can help them all realize their artistic goals. “On a recent project, we created metal and wood dimensional artwork and filled with abstracts that are printed on canvas with embellishments,” she said.
“On another project, we integrated a beautiful installation of photography. It all depends on the client.” The key to success with customers is understanding the company’s needs. A project usually begins with a walk-through to determine piece placement and a discussion about the company’s personality and objectives. Generally, she works with a single point person, but a committee may be involved, too. Either way, it’s about more than a single person’s taste.
“Artwork is for everyone and we need to be mindful of how the art will impact the employees and clients,” she said. “The ultimate objective is creating and fostering a productive working environment.” Does a company need a big budget to have a good-quality art program? Not really, Roeszler said, but it’s certainly worth investing in.
“Where appropriate, we assist clients in establishing a reasonable plan for appropriate pieces to meet their current needs. We also place artwork in phases for our clients; some will select all the artwork up front and then install pieces quarterly, biannually, or as their budget allows, while others may wish to wait,” she said.
And in all her years of helping clients with their art, does Roeszler have a favorite?
That, she said, would be an impossible choice. “There are so many I’m proud of for different reasons. Each client can be unique in the look we create for them. However, the best compliment is when a client emails me a few days after we install their artwork and thanks me because their employees are happy with the environment we created. That tells me we were able to harmonize between the company and its employees — and that makes me proud.”
About the Author
Nathan Donato-Weinstein is a senior executive analyst in the San José Office of Economic Development. He works to assist companies locating to or expanding in San José.