University of Miami’s Toppel Career Center looks a little brighter these days. Maybe it’s because of the new building. Or perhaps it’s the smiles of recent graduates glad to be rid of homework. But one new development stands out among the rest: the opening of a permanent exhibition featuring 80—that’s right, 80—artworks by the cartoonist Hugh Macleod.
These playful, colorful and smart pieces poke at the humor and absurdity of work life. They more often than not offer viewers a thought provoking quote that sticks in the mind. Now when a UM student enters the building looking for a career, they see that art is an integral part of next level entrepreneurship.
Macleod’s commentary on what it means to work comes at unique time. In a recent editorial for The New York Times, entrepreneur Tony Schwartz remarked: “The way we’re working isn’t working.” With only 30 percent of employees in America feeling engaged at work (according to a 2013 report by Gallup), businesses are looking more like blank paint-by-numbers pages than colorful cartoons.
Macleod’s mission is to let art be the force that pumps life into business. Art “allows you to have a conversation,” says Macleod, “to talk about uncomfortable truths.”
A wiry cartoon hanging on the wall is not just decoration but an activation point. Art can organize, challenge, confuse, and simplify. “It should be a tool just like spreadsheets and word documents,” says Macleod’s business partner Jason Korman.
Macleod’s work did not begin as tool for businesses. He began drawing cartoons for his own pleasure during his time as a college student and ad agency creative. His canvas? The backs of business cards. To this day he has drawn on over 10,000 of them.
Wanting to share his work with others, Macleod started a blog called “Gaping Void,” which is now ranked 20th on Advertising Age’s “Power 150” blogs. When former wine entrepreneur Korman found his blog, a magical partnership emerged. Together they created Gaping Void the business in 2009.
At first, Macleod and Korman sold pieces like any other arts business. But then they developed an understanding that in the digital age, art did not have to remain on the walls. It could be just as powerful if received in an email, or passed along in a twitter message.Today, Gaping Void acts as a combination art studio and marketing agency, blending business and art in an exciting new way.
To Executive Director of the Toppel Center, Christian Garcia, Macleod’s work captures the blossoming of creative entrepreneurship in Miami. “This generation of college students is more willing to take risks in entrepreneurship.” The idea of climbing the ladder to success is outdated. As one of Macleod’s cartoons remarks: “Careers are not ladders. Careers are jungle gyms.”
How can students be taught to navigate the jungle gym of contemporary work life? Surround them with artwork! Art teaches flexibility and creativity—skills essential to business leadership. Most importantly, art instills courage in the viewer. Students who see Macleod’s work are inspired to chart their own path in the business world.
Art can serve as the fertilizer for entrepreneurship. And there is no better place than Miami to sow the seeds of success.UM students are lucky to have the works of Macleod in their career center. Gaping Void was created in Silicon Valley, and might have stayed there, if it were not for the draw of Miami as the next frontier for entrepreneurship.
“Miami is a migrant hub and cultural hub,” says Macleod, “This is where change is gonna be. There is a demand for world-class art and design and for world-class companies. That’s very exciting for me.”
People are beginning to notice that Miami’s matchless cultural diversity offers businesses a special life force to draw on. At a time when work no longer means what it used to, Miami is the ultimate place to innovate and create in business. So this next generation of entrepreneurs is jumping at the opportunity. “Students from all over the world are choosing Miami and choosing to stay,” says Garcia, “It is an amazing time.”
Macleod’s work embodies the growth and change Miami is undergoing. Free-flowing strokes, bright caricatures, business-related topics—all of these elements point to an exciting development happening in our city, our home, Miami.
- Entrepreneurs must employ an arts mindset in their work in order to compete in the contemporary business world.
- Miami is postured to become a haven for creative entrepreneurship.
- The next generation of business leaders will begin their careers with the understanding that logic and creativity are not diametrically opposed, but rather inextricably linked.
- To learn more about Hugh Macleod’s artwork and Gaping Void, visit their website at gapingvoid.com. Macleod has also published three books, which are available on Amazon.
W&P: Ilana Berman