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The Artistic Side of Work

A good friend and very talented educational technologist once offered me a great tip. I was searching for a way to help a group of undergraduates understand the nature of work. It seems a basic concept, but many of them had yet to hold a significant job. Wayne told me about a memorable assignment he experienced in high school, requiring him to research and illustrate a concept by way of a published song.

He described the assignment as both memorable and interesting ... two great traits for a college assignment. My students and I were trying to get a handle on the concept of work and employee stakeholders for a Business & Society class. Since stakeholders can both affect and be affected by their relationship with the firm, I wanted the students to understand the effect work can have on the individual. I used this suggestion, and asked the students to find a song about work, get the lyrics, and reflect upon the song and its meaning for work. The only proviso was that the song had to be suitable for playing and discussing in a mixed gender class setting. True to Wayne's intuition, the assignment was a hit. The students were able to experience work in an indirect way, and discuss an abstract concept with much greater depth.

This experience points out one of the beauties of art. Bound by time, space, and medium, the artist has to find the essence of the subject, strip it to the bone, and then present it in a most evocative, illustrative, and efficient way. Many artists have reflected upon work and jobs over the years, offering us a window to the essence of work. Whether through song, film, or canvas, artists offer us a chance to think about work in the abstract and perhaps understand our own relationship to a good day's work.

Let us know what you think of work and art. Please share your suggestions on songs, movies, or art that reflect an interesting or timely aspect of work. The more we hear from you, the more we can share.

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