The art of Emprise

By Micole Aronowitz

When Mr. Michaelis, chairman of Emprise Bank, began collecting art, he knew where it would eventually be showcased.

When Mr. Michaelis, chairman of Emprise Bank, began collecting art, he knew where it would eventually be showcased.

Every work of art has a story behind it. At Emprise Bank, Mike Michaelis and his employees are giving a voice to the various artworks that adorn each wall of the bank’s five-floor building.

When Mr. Michaelis, chairman of Emprise Bank, began collecting art, he knew where it would eventually be showcased.

“If I was going to put something on the walls, I wanted to put up something I was proud of and that looked good,” he said.

Hanging in each employee’s office, in addition to conference rooms, hallways and common areas, are paintings, photographs and three-dimensional pieces, varying from vivid abstracts to soothing landscapes.

“Where else could I work and not only have original artwork in my office, but also get to choose it?” said Lora Barry, executive vice president of bank operations. “I consider that privilege one of my non-monetary benefits!”

For Scott Lunsford, branch manager, being surrounded by art everyday has given him a new-found appreciation for this kind of creativity.

“I’ve developed an interest in art beyond just what’s hanging on my wall,” Lunsford said. “Seeing the diversity of art in this collection really brings the topic to mind and makes me curious to see the next piece.”

What began as one man’s earnest interest in art and design turned into a one-of-a-kind art collection representing the range and talent of Kansas’ artists. “The Art of Emprise” collection presently includes 1,690 works by 587 artists, almost all of whom have ties to Kansas.

“The idea was to build a collection that would represent a survey of important Kansas artists over the life of this state. That took a little thought and study because someone that painted in 1910 is probably not very well known today. So it really became an adventure to educate myself and try to find work by wonderful artists who are not as well known,” Michaelis said.

The works showcase a range of media: from pottery and sculptures made from stone, glass, clay and metal to photographs and paintings executed in watercolors, oil, pastels, acrylic.

With work from 1885 to the present, the collection features artistic styles from impressionism to realism to abstract. The liberty of being able to have original artwork in his workplace creates a sense of pride for Kendal Nelson, vice president of wealth management, who has five artwork creations accenting his office walls. Four of the paintings are of abstract design and the fifth combines a colored pencil sketch with graphite.

The artwork throughout the bank is rotated and rearranged whenever novel art is acquired.

The artwork throughout the bank is rotated and rearranged whenever novel art is acquired.

“To see the pieces in my office, as well as throughout our facilities, is just an incredible opportunity,” Nelson said. “It makes you feel as though you are touring a museum each day at the office.”

Mr. Michaelis’s journeys to galleries and museums in places such as New York City and Santa Fe have only reaffirmed his advocacy for Kansas artists and their artwork.

“My observation is that we have wonderful artists in this state who aren’t often represented in New York City galleries, so I wanted a chance to showoff the art that’s been produced here,” Michaelis said.

He encourages his employees to choose art to decorate their office walls that is appealing to them. He treasures each work of art which is why whenever artwork is put up or taken down, Mr. Michaelis is the one bestowed that honorary duty.

“I want it hung right and I want it to look good,” he said. “We are very careful with taking care of it — how it’s hung, how it’s shown, things of that nature.”

All of the artwork is open for public viewing as the bank regularly administers tours of the collection. There have also been occasions when people from New York City have come to view Kansas artistry.

“A lot of them are amazed at the quality and breadth of what they see,” Michaelis said.

The artwork throughout the bank is rotated and rearranged whenever novel art is acquired. In the near future, people will be able to gaze at three new pieces, one from Kansas City and two from New York City, which Mr. Michaelis said will be displayed on the bank’s fifth floor.

 
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