The art of creating space for everyone

Disability, culture and business were the focal points of an exciting meeting between the Greek British artist Mikhail Karikis and owner of the company Pressalit Dan Boyter. Aarhus 2017 asked Dan Boyter to tell about his commitment to diversity and about making a difference in the intersection between business and culture.

From the middle of September to the beginning of October we displayed the large video installation “The Chalk Factory” by Mikhail Karikis in the Aarhus 2017 gallery O’Space. Here, audiences could experience a day in the production in a Japanese chalk factory, where employees are predominantly people with mental disabilities. For a number of years, Karikis has created art projects, that highlight labour rights and in “The Chalk Factory” focus is placed upon the relationship between the disabled and the labour market and their need to feel useful and appreciated as a work force. It was exactly these values, that were the focal points when the artist presented his exhibition to a very interested Dan Boyter.

Dan Boyter appreciated the meeting with Karikis and explained, how it as a business owner, was exciting to experience a piece, that points to a possible rethinking of the possibilities of including disabled in a manufacturing company: “Karikis uses art to provide a message of how it’s also possible to create a business. Alternative ways to create a production, what room you can create with a production and what kind of environment you can create, so there is a lot professionally that has been added to the work. I think that it’s really exciting, when an artist is able to do that.”

An inclusive company
Dan Boyter stepped out of the active management of Pressalit in 2015, but is still co-owner and a board member of the company, simultaneously with his dedication to board work for among others Danish Broadcasting Corporation, ARoS and Moesgaard Museum. He recently added another position of trust as the Chairman of Kaospiloterne. Together with his brother Kim, Dan Boyter is the third generation of owners of the family company Pressalit, that produces toilet seats and a Care-line with shower- and kitchen solutions aimed at the physically disabled. “To Pressalit, it’s been natural in continuation of the Pressalit Care slogan – keep living – to support Parasport Denmark, the former Danish Sports Organisation for the Disabled, “ Dan Boyter says, to whom inclusiveness personally plays a large role.

Pressalit has defined specific inclusive areas, where people are hired on certain conditions. A strategy, which can be traced back to Dan Boyter’s grandfather, who created the business in 1954. Dan Boyter explains: “At Pressalit we have through many years worked to create, what you would call an inclusive company. The background was in reality just the basic human position: That if you wanted to work and contribute to the company, then there was in principle room for everyone.”

Together with Pressalit’s sponsorship of Parasport Denmark, Dan Boyter has committed himself to several cultural institutions and different CSR-initiatives, among others as ambassador of Kofoeds Skole and as the Chairman of The Dialogue Forum for Social Responsibility and Growth formed by the business- and growth minister at the time Troels Lund Poulsen.

Cultural diversity and creative rethinking
The diversity of the cultural life and the approaches of the creative industry have been attractive factors for Dan Boyter’s work in the boards of cultural institutions. He explains: “I think it’s been cool and very rewarding. I’ve met a lot of exciting people with other kinds of competencies, so I’ve learned a lot.” And here he has been able to contribute with his managerial background. Boyter tells: “What I think is very exciting in the work of the board is to ensure that all competencies are present in different assignment solutions”. As the Chairman of Den Jyske Opera he was responsible twice for the hiring of a new CEO of the opera house, and in the establishment of the hiring-committee Dan Boyter’s managerial experience also came into play: “Finding out, what’s really needed here, getting a commitment to it and working towards finding the right person, those are the kind of competencies I bring to the table.”

According to Dan Boyter, culture and art can also be used as inspiration to rethink managerial tasks and can likewise contribute with new perspectives on how to view a company. Therefore, it has been natural for Dan Boyter to use the sponsorship of Parasport Denmark actively in the company to inspire and motivate - by letting the athletes meet with the employees. Dan Boyter explains: “The whole keep living – slogan is underlined in that context; because a young guy, who has won several medals and is the world champion can stand there, missing a leg, but it is just not what you see. That is not, what his barrier is.”

Window to the future
Dan Boyter is very interested in the legacy after European Capital of Culture Aarhus 2017: “Generally I think, the Culture of Capital year has boosted the city and the entire region as attractive and exciting on all levels. Aarhus 2017 has contributed to creating a more international environment – because we are a city that looks out in the world. That is very significant to businesses. And it has been great with the large amount of publicity Aarhus has received in the international media. Now the world is looking at us.” Dan Boyter doesn’t view the end of 2017 and with it the year as Capital of Culture as being the conclusion to the work, that has been initiated throughout the region: “The Capital of Culture project year is not the end, but a window to the future, “ he adds. 

Read more about about Aarhus as European Capital of Culture 2017 here: http://www.aarhus2017.dk/en/