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The Art(s) of Doing Good Business

Culture breeds creativity at Bentley

Why would a business university sponsor a thriving arts program? Simple – it’s good for business.

Today’s leading companies revel in the arts. Inc. magazine’s list of the World’s Coolest Offices for 2012 oozes creativity: Google’s New York City office houses a life-sized mural of yellow taxi cabs and a soundproofed room with drums and electric guitars. Microsoft’s Vienna office boasts a two-story slide and themed conference rooms (ocean or hunting lodge, your pick). In San Francisco, Twitter employees get their hands dirty in rooftop vegetable gardens.

On Fortune’s list of 100 Best Companies to Work For 2013, data analytics firm SAS has two artists-in-residence on staff and their North Carolina headquarters displays nearly 3,000 art pieces, including glasswork, paintings, photography and sculptures. CHG Healthcare Services was noted for hosting talent shows and trivia nights.

All this makes complete sense to Adam Payne, director of Bentley’s Arts and Lectures Program and the Bowles Performing Arts Series. “Learning how to creatively think or feel in an arts environment impacts the way you tackle and solve complex issues in the boardroom,” he says.

Payne is the architect of campus programming that ranges from live music concerts to songwriting workshops to lectures by experts on topics such as editing at Marvel Comics, sustainability, and political activism in Latin America. The diverse playbill gives students a chance to dabble in the arts or take a more active role.

In fall 2012, sophomore Jenna McPhail interned alongside Payne, focusing on technical details and artist hospitality. She is confident that the experience, along with her artistic eye (she also enjoys photography), will play a critical role in landing a job in the music industry.

“I am a business person first, with arts as my second language,” says McPhail, who majors in Marketing and the Liberal Studies concentration Media Arts and Society. “Art makes me more aware of what’s going on in world. I will be more in touch with colleagues, create better presentations, and put on a show that will sell tickets. I know it will set me apart from other business graduates.”

Senior Gregory Steinfeld’s personal interest in the guitar led him to attend afternoon performances at Bentley’s student pub. (Among his favorites: acoustic guitar and vocals by Dean of Arts and Sciences Dan Everett.) Playing music, he says, has tapped a creative side that pushes him to take more time to analyze and to broaden his thinking.

“When playing music, I try to create a sound that will capture someone’s attention,” says Steinfeld, whose majors are Management and the Liberal Studies concentration Earth, Environment and Global Sustainability. “Creating the right riffs is like trying to sell a product or service. You try different strategies until you find one that works best.”

A course in entrepreneurial thinking opened Steinfeld’s eyes to the art of business. “There is a science to learning the logistics of how to market a product and analyze a customer. Art is who you are as a person; your ability to communicate with others, to be open and honest. It takes time, like learning to play guitar.”

An artist at heart, Payne finds inspiration for future programming by observing the degree to which involvement in the arts can impact student experiences.

“We live in an extremely complex world, and people rely on the development of transferable skills to help meet demands,” he says. “Exposure to the arts encourages people to think about our world in different ways and be more open to different perspectives. It helps us make connections with others and contribute to something greater than ourselves.”