Management & Consulting 1 – 2018.
Interview with Jolande Sap (member of the Supervisory Board of  KPMG) and
Gerda Croiset (director VUmc, School of Medical Sciences).

Change can be difficult, sometimes even impossible. No regular advisor or manager can do anything about this. There are times when you need people who think different and act different. Art Partner has been linking artists to companies since 2008. Companies that realize that another report or powerpoint presentation will not do the trick. The artists ask questions that nobody had thought up or dared to ask, and come up with an unexpected approach. They use their creative abilities to stimulate, inspire, confuse and surprise so that everything starts to move. The subject can actually be everything. “Artists can work well with complex issues. Issues that concern trust, transparency or diversity, for example”, according to Art Partner-founders Sandra Boer and Robert Tordoir. “They are especially good at making a vision or issue experiential.”

Art Partner works with a pool of 35 artists from various disciplines. They have realized artistic interventions for over forty companies, ranging from KPMG, Unilever, Eiffel and Van Doorne Lawyers  to the municipality of Almere, the Hague University of Applied Schiences and VUmc. Many clients come back for follow-up projects and enter into a long-term relationship with Art Partner. They recognize and embrace the added value that an artist’s gaze and approach can have for an organization. They allow creativity within their organization and thus initiate change.

The company culture appointed

KPMG has worked together with more than 25 artists over the past five years, among other things to increase the innovative power of employees, to design innovation spaces and to develop concepts for events. Using storytelling theater makers teach employees how to deal with customer contact and acquisition differently. Artists also play a major role in accelerating the discussion about diversity.
“Diversity is a difficult subject because it often remains abstract”, says Jolande Sap, a member of KPMG’s Supervisory Board. “Theater makers Anne Gehring and Vera Ketelaars changed this by naming things openly and concretely. In a meeting they asked 160 employees to read out loud short sentences about the company culture. By pronouncing them, prejudices became recognizable as such and understanding developed. KPMG is a very rational organization, but the theater makers flawlessly made visible what is happening under the skin. Major steps have been taken since then. More women have now been appointed in management positions, a program for young parents has been set up and the holidays of all religions are now being celebrated.”

Give a voice and ratification

VUmc has been working closely with artist Lina Issa since 2013 and has developed dozens of interventions to promote empathy among medical students and to give cultural diversity a place in education.
“We thought we were doing a lot with the subject of diversity at the VUmc, but our approach turned out not to work, it actually strengthened stereotypes and increased uncertainty”, says Gerda Croiset, director of  VUmc School of Medical Sciences. “We, academics, are strongly cognitively oriented. But it’s about personal relationships and understanding. There is creativity needed to translate that into practice. With the help of Lina and Art Partner, students with a non-Dutch background were given a voice. A new study association has been established: D.O.C.S. (Diversity, Openness, Culture, Students). On their first day at the university, students enter into an interview with someone they did not choose to sit next to. And during parties not only beer is served but also mint tea and Moroccan coffee. Students get to know each other. Members of D.O.C.S. teach lecturers from their own experiences with diversity and they continue to work on research assignments at Harvard and positions in consultative bodies. It is remarkable that artists can set such an institute as ours in motion.”

Sandra Boer and Robert Tordoir, founders Art Partner

Photography Giath Taha and Bart Majoor
Drawings: De Beeldvormers

The entire article in Dutch can be found here: 201803_ManagementConsulting_ArtPartner