Office Space: Corker of an Art Display

Posted February 3, 2009 at 4:17pm

For visitors standing in the reception area of Sen. Bob Corker’s (R-Tenn.) Dirksen office, it is not unusual to hear laughter spilling out of the back rooms. While the workers in this Senate office tackle issues such as the war in Iraq and the financial crisis on a daily basis, the staff of 26 still makes time to have fun.

[IMGCAP(1)]“I’ve never worked around a better and more fun group of people who really care deeply about what they do,” Corker said.

Despite the serious nature of their jobs, Corker’s staffers are not above the occasional prank. A few months back, Courtney Geduldig was named chief financial counsel to Corker and was featured in Roll Call’s Hill Climbers. When her co-workers got wind of this, they picked up more than a few copies of the paper and wallpapered Geduldig’s desk with the photo that ran alongside the story.

“It was floor to ceiling,” Corker said with a laugh. “Of course everyone told me about it, so I walked down there and told her I didn’t realize she was so focused on herself.” >

The fun in Corker’s office is no doubt facilitated by the junior Senator’s friendly demeanor and his office’s homey vibe. In addition to the usual desks, phones and computers, Corker’s office is home to 48 works of art, making it feel in some ways more like a gallery than a work space.

The art is a nod to Corker’s 2001-2005 tenure as the mayor of Chattanooga. During this time, he focused on attracting artists to the southern Tennessee town.

“We did a lot of things with public art and other kinds of things that made it a better place for them to be, if you will,” Corker said.

When he moved to Washington, D.C., one of the galleries in Chattanooga phoned the Senator and suggested he decorate his office with art created by his constituents. Corker, who loved the idea, put his wife, Elizabeth, on the job.

“Elizabeth began working with a number of galleries across the state, and they have provided 48 pieces here on loan,” he said.

The pieces, placed throughout the office, include sculptures, paintings and photographs. One of Corker’s favorites is a watercolor called “Williams” by Hubert Shuptrine that hangs in the reception area. It depicts an older black gentleman smoking a pipe.

“The artist lived a couple doors up and passed away,” the Senator said. “I actually went with him once [to a conference about] the symbiotic relationship between artists and politicians and business people.”

A sculpture by Verina Baxter graces the conference room. The rectangular structure is made of rounded stone objects in pink, green and white inside metal boxes and is called “Air, Water, Land.” The sculpture was designed specifically for Corker.

“She’s wonderful,” he said. “She not only made it, but she and her husband drove it up here. They rented a van.”

In addition to art from the Volunteer State, Corker makes a point of having friendly faces from home in the office. For example, last summer his 19-year-old daughter, Emily, and a few of her friends interned in the D.C. office. Corker said it was helpful having his daughter around — if for nothing other than to improve his rhetoric.

“I would go down and speak on the floor and I would come back … and in my chair here would be a note from my daughter saying ‘Dad, here’s 12 words you can use instead of this one that you keep saying all the time.’ Like with everybody else in this office, there’s absolutely no respect,” Corker joked.

In the end, the Senator hopes constituents who visit his office will feel comfortable and welcome.

“You know, I think that having art from Tennesseans here on the walls makes it interesting for them,” he said. “I think it feels very warm. I don’t think it feels like a stuffy Senate office.”

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