It’s an art Featured

9:45am EDT July 22, 2002

It’s often said that a picture is worth 1,000 words. So what are you saying to clients when they enter your lobby?

According to Stephen J. Knerly, CEO of Hahn Loeser Parks, the question is not whether you hang something on the walls of your business. Rather, it’s a matter of what you have and what you do with it.

At Knerly’s law firm, the answer has been found in acquiring and displaying original pieces of art.

“We have tried to reflect the community with something that stimulates people who work here and people who come to visit us,” says Knerly, speaking about the 15-year-old collection’s focus on Ohio artists.

The firm has a combined collection of approximately 80 pieces in its Cleveland and Columbus offices. Retired partner and art lover Richard A. Zellner redirected the firm’s art budget 10 years ago, making it focused with a theme and concept.

Barb Unverferth of Art Access, a Columbus company that helps select original art for corporations and residential spaces, reports an increased trend in corporate art collections. But it does not come without some considerations, she and corporate art collectors warn. These include:

  • Maintenance issues, such as where to place the artwork, whether to place it behind protective glass or roped-off areas, and how fragile a piece may be.

  • Additional insurance costs.

  • Who will be in the environment, although Unverferth says security is not a major issue for many firms since they are not buying at the level at which one piece would have a particularly high value.

Hahn Loeser Parks’ collection of contemporary pieces is purchased with a separate art budget of about $2,000 a year, which usually allows for one acquisition annually, says Kelly Blazek, director of marketing. Owned by the law firm, pieces in the collection have been purchased from artists, galleries and museums.

Artwork has been loaned to the Riffe Gallery, Cleveland Museum of Art and Cleveland Center for Contemporary Art. And each year, the company features one piece of work on its holiday greeting card.

People do take note of corporate art collections. Just ask Eydie Garlikov, principal of Garlikov Insurance Co. Shortly after she loaned a piece that had been on display in her company’s lobby to an exhibit, people from elsewhere in the building stuck their heads into the receptionist’s area and asked its whereabouts.

“I did it for us, and yet, other people noticed,” says Garlikov, whose company began collecting original artwork in 1979 after moving into new office space. “Rather than put money into decorations, as a reflection of our own personal interest in the arts, it was a nice way to provide a comfortable environment and expand the horizons of the people that work here.”

The downtown law firm of Kegler, Brown, Hill & Ritter has similar reasons for amassing its collection of approximately 75 pieces, which includes a number of artistic mediums. No one person is responsible for selecting the artwork. Instead, all employees make suggestions for acquiring artist originals.

“We wanted to try and build something that reflected the commitment of the firm to support the arts,” says Kathy Cheugh, director of administration, “and at the same time give people something nice to look at.”

Lori Murray ( a freelance writer for SBN.