Morgan Frew's self-portrait is among the gallery-caliber art BKD has purchased to inspire innovation and creativity in the office.
Morgan Frew's self-portrait is among the gallery-caliber art BKD has purchased to inspire innovation and creativity in the office.
Springfield-based accounting firm BKD LLP knows numbers.

This past year, team members have been on a crash course in the arts.

The purpose: to outfit its $21 million nearly complete downtown headquarters with top regional artwork.

The numbers in this project started with 150. That's how many artists responded to BKD's call for local and regional artwork.

After a year of monthly in-house meetings as well as an invitation-only showing with 20 artists at the Creamery Arts Center, a BKD art committee purchased 51 pieces of various mediums - oil and acrylic paintings, glass and wooden sculptures, and subject and landscape photography.

Those works represent 32 artists from the Ozarks.

Additionally, photographs from 16 BKD employees are part of the collection, and Springfield artist Susan Sommer-Luarca is painting a mural of other BKD buildings on the second floor.

"It's exciting to break away from corporate art," BKD art committee member Jeffrey Paulette says of the local flair in the gallery-caliber collection. "We hope it will create a reflection of the creative work in southwest Missouri and northwest Arkansas. We hope that with companies acquiring art, the Midwest can build its name for art."

The pieces are now scattered among several floors in BKD's Hammons Tower offices. A handful of works hang in department lobbies and hallways or sit on conference room tables.

But several pieces are still under wraps.

"I want to keep some of them a secret until we move into our new building," says Paulette, a sales and marketing specialist for the firm.

Among the hidden gems is Morgan Frew's 8-foot self-portrait, which Paulette confesses is his favorite selection. "I would love to meet him," he says of Frew, a former Missouri State University art teacher who just moved to Brooklyn, N.Y.

BKD hired art adviser Paul Dorrell, owner of Kansas City's Leopold Gallery, to lend an expert eye to the process. Dorrell, who's led art selection for H&R Block World Headquarters and University of Kansas Medical Center, took the BKD art team under his wing to push them toward regional, even undiscovered, artists.

"My mission is to find all possible talent," he says, noting discoveries among BKD's chosen artists are Frew, Jacob Burmood, LaDawna Whiteside and Peggy Wyman. "With community support, they can make a living in their region and make a contribution to it."

Dorrell's objective is to weed out mass-produced corporate art and infuse office buildings with inspiration.

"A higher level of morale is realized because of the artwork," he says. "Now, not everyone is going to love everything. Some people are going to absolutely hate some pieces. I can tell you that the guys at the top at BKD, there are a couple of pieces they can't stand. I say, 'Good, I'm doing my job.' If you put in work that is easily digestible or always accessible for everyone, you're not really reaching beyond the edge of what is accepted in the current envelope. I'm not talking about works that are outrageous or inappropriate. This kind of contemporary work encourages openness of mind. You're stirring the pot of passion. To stir people's passions and reactions is important because the opposite is to have a workplace of apathy, which has a wet blanket of malaise settled over it. Nobody wants that. When I'm finished with a building, that's never the case."

Dorrell says he'll influence the placement of art inside BKD's headquarters, beginning Sept. 2. The firm's scheduled move-in date is Aug. 28, and an open house with artists on hand is planned for early December.