Artist in the Workplace: Business Brief

Seeking to create opportunities during challenging times, this program matches businesses that have excess space with artists/arts organizations that are seeking space.

Background and Examples

Artists in the workplace is an emerging trend in business and Calgary businesses have a solid foundation in engaging with arts tenants.

During 2012 as part of Calgary’s year as Cultural Capital, Calgary companies hosting artists-in-residence included:

Chinook Centre (Noel Begin and Old Trout Puppet Workshop)
First Calgary (playwright Ken Cameron)
Calgary Tower (choreographer Kim Cooper)
Sport Calgary (video storyteller Chris Hsiung)
YYC Airport (visual artists Eric Moschopedis and Mia Rushton)
International Ave BRZ (media artist Sharon Stevens)
Ship and Anchor Pub (visual artist Mandy Stobo)
Calgary Stampede (writer Aritha Van Herk)

There are lots of ways to have artists in your workplace ranging from solely providing space to supporting and engaging with an artist-in-residence. In Summer 2015, Lougheed House, a national historic site, made Senator Lougheed’s historic office available to Calgary Poet Laureate derek beaulieu as a place to write and create new literary works. And Sandstone Asset Management’s artist-in-residence has been engaging with their staff for over a year.

Why Participate as a Business?

Businesses will get a financial and social return on their empty office/retail spaces by making them available to artists and arts organizations. Each participating business will have a unique return-on-investment that they would like for use of the space.

Some arts organizations can offer charitable tax receipts; others can offer nominal rents. Some businesses will be seeking animation of their excess space; others will want a quiet user in a suite of offices. Some businesses will want the arts tenants to engage with their employees; others will not. The terms of each sublease will be different. This program will accommodate a wide range of scenarios from participating businesses.

Why Participate as an Artist or Arts Organization?

Arts tenants will have access to space at below market cost. Other opportunities will vary depending on the return-on-investment desired by the participating business but could include mentorship, engagement with new audience, honorarium, etc.

Outcomes Businesses with a surplus of office or business space on their hands can turn the space into an opportunity to invest in Calgary’s cultural future with the following benefits:

  • Well-used office and retail spaces despite the economic downturn in Calgary—avoid the discomforting appearance of unused offices and shops.
  • Businesses get a financial and social return on their empty space tailored to meet their needs.
  • Arts tenants get access to space and possibly other opportunities to augment their audience, improve their business practices, etc.

Goals will be developed to suit each business but could include:

  • To create economic value for the business through a combination of charitable tax receipts and nominal rent from the organization.
  • To create social value for the business by subletting the space to an organization that will enhance the reputation of the business.
  • To provide an opportunity to the charitable organization with a break from high rents and an opportunity to engage Calgarians who live and work near the space.
  • To animate the empty space.
  • To provide an opportunity for the business employees and clients to engage with the arts.

Assumptions regarding Sublet Requirements will be developed with each business but could include:

  • Mission alignment with the business required/organization and programming should not be opposed to that business’s industry.
  • The proposed use must be appropriate for the space.
  • Determine desire for Charitable Status or ability to offer charitable tax receipt.
  • Determine desire for one head sublease/opportunity for other organizations to use space with no net gain to the head subleaser.
  • Determine rate e.g. organizations to propose nominal rent plus charitable tax receipt.
  • Determine term.

Learn more about this opportunity at or by contacting Joni Carroll, Arts Spaces Consultant, at or 403.264.5330 ext. 108.