Geeking out at work. Bam. Pow. Zowee!

Bridget Patti, Research Project Specialist

May 10, 2017

We discuss work-life balance a lot here at CPPR (or as we like to call it work-life integration) which admittedly, I still have a difficult time wrapping my brain around. I grew up in an era and with a work ethic that demanded job and personal life be completely separate. However, the more we talk about this topic here, and the more I focus on bringing my “sparks” into my work life, the more I realize that my personal and career interests can be two sides of the same coin.

By Pikotter CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons

As I reflect on how I’m starting to bring my own personal brand to my job experience, I’m realizing the importance of being in a workplace that creates a safe space for me to bring ideas to the table, have difficult conversations, and stretch my boundaries. And I’m realizing how fulfilling it is to express more of myself — and the geek that I am — in the workplace!

My colleague Brandon recently helped me stretch my comfort zone by making a connection between my sparks and a need he had on a work project. We were chatting one day about how art is all around us — street art, classic paintings, food, architecture, the way a shadow falls on the grass in the morning, and in one of my favorite mediums, comic books. For me, comic art is just as aesthetically pleasing as other art forms more commonly deemed “museum-worthy.” I also find it very approachable as a reflective commentary on current events, politics, and human flaws. Brandon immediately made the connection and recruited me to do a STEAM activity (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) with kids at the Kansas Enrichment Network’s Day at the Capitol event. I was super excited and began brainstorming how to get kids interested in stopping by my table in the Capitol rotunda for an art activity.

“Bat Signal” by Hip1 is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

Turns out, it was easy to draw kids to the table! I had gathered color pencils, glue sticks, pages with empty comic book frames, superhero graphic art, and printed words like “BAM” and “ZOOM.” Right in the middle I displayed a large poster of the Flash. When a group of kids gathered, I asked them what they saw in this picture. Of course, most answered with “That’s the Flash!” I then asked what they thought about the colors and background, and ‘how does the picture make you feel?’ Because the focus of the poster was a subject they were familiar with it was easy for them to identify their emotional response to it. “Fast”, “strong” and “moving” were among some of the answers.

By Pierre-Auguste Renoir — plain photo, Public Domain

Then I replaced the Flash picture with a wildlife photo of penguins. Again, something relatable, and the kids said it made them feel “cold” and “wet.” Next, I showed them an urban landscape including the Bat signal from a Batman comic. I got answers like “dark” and “asking for help”. Again, Batman is a very identifiable character, so it was easy for them to attribute feelings to the image. Finally, I held up a printout of a modern oil painting that had a similar look and textural effect to the Batman scene and demonstrated the contrast between these two different types of art. The kids said this oil painting made them feel “happy and warm.” We repeated this exercise several times using a wide variety of images and artistic mediums — architecture, computer games, book illustrations, statues, paintings, and more. The kids got it. Art is all around us. Some art forms might be more appealing to each of us than others, but art is art because we respond to it, or as we adults might say, it resonates with us.

By Paul Klee — Donated to Wikimedia Commons by the Metropolitan Museum of Art. CC0

After this exercise, I gave the kids a chance to make their own comics using materials on the table. It was so fun and inspiring to see them dive right in. Some used the comic book frames to draw their own subjects and others created stories by cutting and pasting from the variety of things on the table. They practiced their writing skills while doing something fun and creative. As they worked, we talked about the breadth of careers that are “artistic,” such as graphic design, concept art, game designers, and architects.

At the end of their time at my table, I asked what the kids had learned. One quiet little boy was first to speak up, “Art is everywhere” he said. A little girl responded “Art makes you feel.”

Hearing these responses made the geek in me exclaim, “Bam!” This is what work-life integration means — sharing a part of me and, by doing so, having an impact on the life of a child.

I am thankful that I am in an environment that allows me to share my thoughts and ideas freely, and that I have an opportunity to touch others through my work.