How civic engagement and charitable commitment can lead to the best art in town
When the rebuild of Sheppard Mullin Chicago was completed in 2016, Managing Partner Larry Eppley wanted to find a creative way to furnish the office with art. In order to decorate its walls and honor the firm’s commitment to community outreach, Sheppard Mullin created the Art for the Sake of Community program.
“We wanted to be smart not only in terms of the firm and the firm’s resources, but also to see if there was a more clever, creative way we could furnish the office with art,” Eppley said. “We decided to try to combine our need for things to put on the walls with some level of civic engagement and charitable commitment.”
Following the program’s inception, Office Administrator Betsy Zukley immediately began reaching out to charities with art programs across the Greater Chicago Area. Program participants include Misericordia, Marwen, the Legal Prep Charter Academy and the National Museum of Mexican Art.
Misericordia is a not-for-profit corporation located in Rogers Park. The organization supports children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Misericordia contributed over 40 paintings to the Sheppard Mullin office. Lawyers, staff and clients love the initiative, and the artwork serves as a great conversation starter while showing guests and clients around the office.
“It was a marriage made in heaven,” Misericordia Assistant Executive Director Lois Gates said. “Just to see [our residents] so proud and happy that someone would think enough of their art, talent and treasure to hang it in their place of business.”
Marwen is a nonprofit after school art program that offers free art classes to under-resourced communities and schools in Chicago. Creative pieces on display at Sheppard Mullin are a product of Marwen’s Art at Work program, a summer internship for juniors and seniors. Interns are hired to take part in commissioned art projects across the city.
Legal Prep Charter Academy is Chicago’s only legal-themed high school. The school’s art program was commissioned to create Sheppard Mullin’s large Chicago mural.
“I am so thankful for having Sheppard Mullin being a part of us and supporting us,” Legal Prep Charter Alumni 2016 Meya Angeles said. “I am thankful for having them introduce us to this great project.”
The National Museum of Mexican Art showcases 3,000 years of creativity with a 10,000-piece collection. Located in Pilsen, the gallery is free admission and meets the highest museum standards. The museum’s Yollocalli after school art program created a string art installation for Sheppard Mullin’s kitchen area.
“It has not only been a home run in terms of making the office look great,” Eppley said. “It brought a level of civic engagement to the office that I’m not sure we could have achieved any other way.”
Sheppard Mullin continues to make additions to its collection today. The most recent instillation was in collaboration with Trickster Art Gallery, a local non-profit gallery and community arts center that is dedicated to Native American arts and culture. The law firm hosted an Art for the Sake of Community reception December 2019 to celebrate the addition.
“Working with the team at Sheppard Mullin was nothing less than amazing,” Trickster Art Gallery CEO Joseph Podlasek said. “The work behind the scenes—from the first meeting to installation and opening—brought exciting hope to expand Native American Veterans’ stories, art and contributions to the military both historically and to those who recently came home.”
The collaboration with Trickster resulted in a 40-foot timeline that chronicles the involvement of Native Americans in the U.S. military from the Revolutionary War through modern times, alongside art created by Native American veterans. Through the years, Native Americans have participated in U.S. wars at a higher rate than most other populations.
“The installation is a powerful and poignant reminder of the contributions and sacrifices made by Native Americans serving in the military and the beauty and spirituality of their art,” Eppley said.
Chicago Design Network’s interior architecture work was designed specifically to honor Sheppard Mullin’s commitment to community outreach and strive for excellence.
“We worked closely with the Sheppard Mullin team during the design and planning process to create carefully curated nodes of activity throughout their suite,” Chicago Design Network Principal Brandon Simak said. “These nodes were important not only in serving and encouraging the activities and collaboration that are part of their office culture, but they also provided a home to display and celebrate each of these works of art.”
The Sheppard Mullin staff continues to develop and maintain relationships with the charities commissioned for Art for the Sake of Community.
“I’ve had a blast working with the groups,” Zukley said. “I’ve had a blast working with the artists. It’s fun working with the attorneys in the office.”
According to their website, Sheppard Mullin’s Chicago office was named a “Best Places to Work” by the Daily Herald Business Ledger in 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016 and 2015. The office was ranked No. 1 in 2018, 2017 and 2016. The office ranked No. 1 Best Place to Work for Women in Illinois in 2019.
View project here.
Updated: Jan. 8, 2020