In early 2019, Seattle artist Susan Zoccola installed a beautiful staircase sculpture for finance company RW Baird on the 56th and 57th floors of an office building in downtown Chicago. The warm metal sculpture, consisted of two “River” panels, one copper and one aluminum, spaced inches apart, creating a dynamic visual that changed depending on the viewer’s vantage when climbing the stairs. It was instantly a success with clients, employees, and executives alike.
The reason for commissioning a site-specific artwork for the staircase started with a challenge that faced the architecture and interior design team. Eppstein Uhen Architects designed an open central space. On one side of the staircase are elevators and on the other are conference rooms. The architects wanted light to enter the conference rooms, but they were looking privacy for those working in these spaces. They envisioned an artistic screening element that could not only provide privacy, but could also visually connect the two floors and beautify this high traffic space.
RW Baird was enthusiastic about the idea of an artistic screening element. But, how does a company find an artist for a corporate office?
Finding the right artist to create a site-specific artwork can be a challenge. Luckily, Eppstein Uhen Architects had worked with CODAworx previously with clients American Family Insurance and Hovde Properties. They knew as the international authority on commissioning art, CODAworx has an extensive pool of artists from around the world, and experienced staff who could help them find the right artist and oversee the installation.
Eppstein Uhen Architects and RW Baird chose the CODAworx Concierge Service to guide them in a process to find an artist. A CODAworx RFP Specialist worked with them to define the budget, timeline, and goals. Then after these key details were decided, the specialist created a Request for Qualifications document (RFQ) and handled an application process from start to finish. The RFQ announcement went out in a targeted email to appropriate artist professions from the CODAworx database. The CODAworx team handled any applicant questions, and at the end of the application period, the architects and client were presented all applicant qualifications and images of past work in the CODAworx RFP Toolkit application management tool.
After narrowing the applications and hearing presentations from three highly qualified candidates, RW Baird selected artist Susan Zoccola to create their staircase sculpture, but Eppstein Uhen Architects did not have the bandwidth to oversee the art installation. They decided to retain CODAworx to project manage the art install.
The CODAworx Project Management Service is about getting clients the results they are envisioning, on-time and on-budget, without having to worry about the mini-construction project that comes with an art installation. The service includes overseeing the art installation timeline, managing communications, issuing payments, identifying problem areas, troubleshooting issues, confirming logistics and insurance, and monitoring progress towards installation. In managing communications, CODAworx kept the client and architect updated on key project milestones, and made sure the artist had the latest construction project information. Then beyond the key project team, CODAworx was also available to help manage communication with fabricators, shippers, installers, and other third party resources. The CODA of CODAworx stands for Collaboration of Design + Art, so the CODAworx team knows that collaboration is the key to all successful installations. They not only worked for the client, but also for the artist, making sure she had everything she needed to create a successful installation.
An additional bonus of using CODAworx to project manage the install was that the service includes a free use of the CODAworx Art Commission Contract. This industry standard contract clearly spells out the agreement with the artist, including among the many nuanced details, outlining expectations on design, final artwork, timeline, and compensation. The CODAworx Art Commission Contract saved RW Baird hours of legal fees in creating a new contract from scratch.
In the end, artist Susan Zoccola’s staircase sculpture “River” was installed on-time and on-budget. Susan’s process to create the piece involved working with engineers, fabricators, assistants, shippers, insurance companies, and installers. Starting from the original drawing, the fabricator waterjet cut 18 large aluminum panels that were then hand metal leafed in aluminum or copper. Because Susan was contracted early in the design development process, she was able to have input on the spacing and finish of the specially engineered and fabricated vertical rods which supported the artwork. Susan’s team invented new custom collars to simply and elegantly hang the panels. She shipped her artwork in crates cross country from Seattle to Chicago and took out both transit and installation insurance to guarantee her and the client’s investment in the piece was protected. Then she coordinated with a third party installation team to install the piece on site. Installed, the panels fit perfectly as designed into the space.
The artwork achieves the desired effect of the appearance constantly changing over its course from 57th-floor ceiling to the floor on 56th, depending on the location of the viewer. It provides privacy to the adjacent conference rooms, and it is a great conversation piece for RW Baird employees and clients.
When asked if RW Baird would work with CODAworx again to find an artist for a future project, RW Baird Chief Risk Officer, Rodney Jones-Tyson said, “Of course, and I can’t wait to bring our clients through the space to see Susan’s piece.”
“CODAworx has been great to work with from beginning to end. CODAworx had a dedicated team member serve as a project manager on my recent corporate project, and I’ve found their project management support during the design and fabrication process to be excellent. I would be delighted to work with CODAworx again on future projects.”
– Susan Zoccola, Artist