In a Bid to Bolster Its Tainted Public Image, Facebook Is Hiring Staff to Commission Art Projects Around the World

The company has commissioned 500 art installations to date, with 200 more planned this year.

A 2,200 square foot mural commissioned by Facebook in Austin, Texas. Courtesy of Facebook.

Facebook is steadily ramping up its commitment to visual art. Yesterday, the social media giant announced the hiring of Tina Vaz as the head of the company’s artist-in-residency program and its Analog Research Lab, where employees can make prints and posters.

Vaz was previously the deputy director for global communications at the Guggenheim Foundation. Another hire, Jennie Lamensdorf, who runs the art-in-buildings program for the real estate firm Time Equities, will work under Vaz as the Bay Area regional lead for lab and residency program. The two will work out of the company’s headquarters in Menlo Park, California.

“As a community of builders and a catalyst for connection, Facebook has much to contribute to the global dialogue about the vital role art of art in advancing ideas and innovation,” Vaz said in a statement. In the same statement, Lamensdorf said: “This is an incredible opportunity to support the artists and designers making the most important work of our time.” 

The hires come at a time when Facebook is trying to fix its public image as it faces increasing scrutiny for its role in the spread of misinformation. This week, Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the US House of Representatives, again placed blame on Facebook for being “exploited by the Russians” in the 2016 presidential election.

Left: Jennie Lamensdorf. Right: Tina Vaz. Courtesy of Facebook.

Left: Jennie Lamensdorf. Right: Tina Vaz. Courtesy of Facebook.

Facebook currently employs 25 curators and administrators to run its artist-in-residency program and its Analog Research Lab. (The company also has a designer-in-residency program run by the same team.)

The Analog Research Lab was launched in 2010 by two staffers who used their own money to fund a screenprinting studio. The program has since grown and been formally adopted by Facebook, which now finances it in offices around the world. 

The residency program began in 2012, and commissions site-specific art installations at Facebook’s headquarters and in local communities. Its administrators “look for a variety of criteria, including artists whose work explores human connection and community, expresses and cultivates empathy, and represents diversity of experience and helps raise social justice,” a representative tells artnet News.

The representative declined to divulge budgets for either program, but called the Analog Research Lab the company’s “heart and conscience.”

A mural on the walls of one of Facebook's offices, done by Artist in Resident Anne Vieux. Courtesy of Facebook.

A mural on the walls of one of Facebook’s offices, done by Artist in Resident Anne Vieux. Courtesy of Facebook.

To date, the company has commissioned 500 artworks around the world, with an additional 200 planned for this year.

The newest one, by New York-based multimedia artist and former Facebook artist-in-residence Saya Woolfalk, opens this weekend. For the project, Woolfalk worked with a youth program to create a mural on a basketball court in Harlem’s Marcus Garvey Park. Earlier this year, Facebook commissioned an arts organization in Austin, Texas, to paint a 2,200 square foot mural.

Bringing in experienced leaders from the contemporary art world is exciting, because it will help deepen our connection to the arts community, strengthen the reputation of the program as a whole, and allow us to reach new and emerging artists with whom we can collaborate,” the Facebook representative says. “We are particularly focused on expanding into more public art programs and partnerships this year and these new hires will better enable us to do that.”

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