Paris – Getting Your Team on the Art Track

Fostering Innovation by Getting Your Team on the Art Track in Paris

I love Paris. I first visited when I was on layover as a summer flight attendant during university. I have returned and done stopovers on the way back from Asia. The last time I went to Paris, I decided to put myself on the art track . You see, while theatre and music are my passions, I’ve never been good at drawing or painting. I have cousins who are excellent artists but that talent skipped my branch of the family. When I went back to Paris, I almost filled my itinerary with concerts and plays but I decided to try something different.

I wasn’t sure where to begin as I didn’t take art in high school. Since I enjoy impressionistic music by composers like Claude Debussy, I thought that impressionistic art would be worth exploring.

Musée Marmottan Monet

Musée Marmottan Monet is located near near the Bois de Boulogne in what was once a hunting lodge. It has historical furniture and impressionist paintings by Édouard Manet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Camille Pissaro, Paul Gauguin, Alfred Sisley, and the largest collection of Claude Monet’s work. Visits can be organized for groups of 15 – 25. There are private event venues and rotundas that are perfect for corporate events.  Private breakfasts, receptions and dinners can be organized for groups at the museum.

Musée d’Orsay

I discovered that Musée d’Orsay had a collection of work by Impressionistic artists including Edgar Degas, Camille Pissarro, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Paul Cézanne, Frédéric Bazille, and, of course, Claude Monet. When I put myself on the art track, the museum was under-going a €8 miilon renovation. So, I decided to try a different approach, a visit to Giverney.


Giverney is the beautiful country home where Claude Monet lived. The pleasant drive from Paris to Giverney was an opportunity to take in the beauty of the French countryside .

First, there was a peaceful stroll in the garden. It was a bright, colourful and multi-sensory experience as there were birds chirping, bees humming, and many fragrant flowers.

The tour of the house revealed rooms in warm pastel hues. I had been to Japan a number of times and it was clear from the art throughout the house that Claude Monet had found inspiration from Japanese artists.

Finally, there was a visit across the road to the water garden. The familiar bridge framed one side of the water garden where Monet had created some of his most famous works such as his beautiful water-lily paintings.

The Louvre

After the pleasure of visiting Giverney, I was no longer felt intimidated by art. I was ready to take the plunge.

Paris and The Louvre are synonymous. The Louvre represents the art, culture, and history that epitomizes Paris. The Louvre used to be the palace of King Louis XIV. Napoleon III also had his apartments there. (This is not to be confused with Napoleon Bonaparte’s apartments at Château de Malmaison.

In its recent feature on The Louvre, The New York Times highlighted the fact that:

“The Louvre contains 35,000 works of art in eight departments; the permanent collections occupy more than 645,000 square feet of exhibition space.” the Louvre has 35,000 works of art in 8 departments.”

The Gallery of Islamic Art, which was financed by Saudi Arabia’s Prince Alwaleed bin Talal and the French Government, opened on September 22, 2012.

I spent 1 1/2 days exploring The Louvre and I learned a lot about French, European, Roman, and Egyptian art. I particularly enjoyed visiting the Apartments of Napoleon III.

Groups of up to 25 can pre-schedule visits to the Louvre and guided tours are available.

Art Team Building for Non-Artistic Teams

Is it possible to use art for team building with engineers, IT professionals, or highly analytical HR teams? I believe it is. Here’s why?

I used to be the management development specialist for a wireless communications firm that had 2 floors of engineers. I was impressed by the elaborate pieces displayed on the desks of many of engineers that they had constructed with Lego, wood or metal. This inspired me to incorporate Lego, tactile puzzles and art challenges into into team building simulations and training and development workshops (as energizers). Due to feedback from participants in their departments, VPs of Finance, HR, Engineering and IT specifically asked me to combine art with fun and business brainstorming exercises to inspire their teams to become more creative. It worked extremely well.

Here is how to pull it together:

  • Start with an executive presentation and team briefing to set the context. You want to ensure that the group clearly understands why creativity is important in business and how it relates to the organization’s specific challenges.
  • Encourage the group to keep an open mind and experiment.
  • Begin with something simple, fun and non-threatening.
  • Conduct the arts related activities.
  • For groups engineering and IT teams or groups with a lot of men, try sculpture, building architectural models, metal work, woodworking, or pottery. Sketching buildings, machines and other feats of engineering is less likely to be dismissed as “touchy-feely”.
  • Facilitate fun exercises to introduce brainstorming tools.
  • Debrief the experience to uncover lessons for business.
  • Tour an art museum or gallery.
  • Dine at an artistic event venue or restaurant.
  • Facilitate business application exercises to generate solutions for specific business challenges using the brainstorming tools you introduced earlier.

The Results of My “Arts Track” Experiment in Paris

The art students sketching  in the galleries and the Tuileries Garden (which were on the grounds of the Tuileries Palace which was destroyed during an 1871 uprising) looked so relaxed that they inspired me.

When I returned to Toronto I signed up for Drawing for Those Who Can’t at the Royal Ontario Museum. Soon I was sketching in the galleries. This is definitely one hobby that will not turn into a profession. I just don’t have that kind of talent. I see this as a good thing. After all, “all work and no play makes Anne a dull girl”.

My sketch pad is always in my laptop case and I tend to sketch when I’m travelling or visiting family. I do find it relaxing.

You never know what pleasures you and your team will discover when you put yourselves on the art track in Paris.

Photo Credits: Executive Oasis International, Speaking of France


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