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Culture, Decoration / 23 Sep 2019
Using Art in the Workplace to Promote Diversity and Inclusion Efforts

Office and workspace design and art can be used as part of diversity and inclusion efforts. Looking beyond the traditional small landscape pictures and large abstract art on canvas, art in a workplace can include many traditional indigenous crafts, the textile arts, musical instruments, rugs, and mask-making. Having these objects in the workplace can show respect and interest in other cultures and can be sources of shared learning. For the workspace, using traditional and indigenous crafts as workplace design can add vigor and energy.

Textiles have a long tradition as both art and fine craft in most cultures around the world. While very old, traditionally-made textiles such as bark cloth from the South Pacific can be very expensive, modern artists and artisans are working in modern materials to preserve their cultural heritage. Japan has a long tradition of innovative silk dyeing; Hawaii has a unique type of quilting; the indigenous people of Scandinavia have a long tradition of bold and brightly colored needlework, and African artists and artisans perfected pattern and dyeing techniques in their mudcloth. Modern artists are using references to these traditional materials, colors, and patterns to make modern textile art.

Many artists and artisans work in cooperative groups, and working with co-ops is an excellent way to access a variety of work that can be used in office design on a rotating basis. There are also a number of crowd-sourced artist platforms that allow designers to work with independent artists.

Many traditional crafts, such as mask-making in Central and South America or weaving in the American southwest, are still being made with materials and methods that have been around for centuries. While it is important to not use masks, rugs, and other artifacts that have a religious or symbolic meaning that might be misunderstood, these traditional cultural artifacts have a great deal of charm and energy. Professional designers know how to use reputable sources for buying cultural artifacts, and how to use them to promote diversity and inclusion without unknowingly causing offense. Navajo rugs, for example, are mostly sold through auctions or trading posts on Navajo land. Information about the makers and materials are easy to obtain by sourcing in the traditional way. This also supports independent artists.

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