Innovation Hours: Art That Feeds the Soul

August 28, 2020
Aug 11, 2022
Read time: 
Innovation Hours: Art That Feeds the Soul

We encourage our 1904labs employees to grow both professionally and in their personal lives. Martha Valenta, Human-Centered Design Lead, does both of these during her Innovation Hours. At 1904labs, we provide the unique Innovation Hours Program that allows all our employees to spend 10% of their work week on four types of categories: Working on yourself, Working on a startup, working on the community, or working on the Labs. Martha’s creative art projects combine the staple “working on yourself” and “working on your startup” categories. This blog is part of a series on the projects our employees are working on during their Innovation Hours time.  

Bringing Together Food and Art 

In her role at 1904labs, Martha focuses on the user’s experience. This mindset opened a deep feeling of empathy for others in Martha. She conveys this in her two art series: Things I Can’t Eat and Luxury Foods. As the name of the first series suggests, Martha creates art pieces relating to foods people might avoid due to dietary, health, or financial restrictions. Two 36” x 36” pieces from this series -- a painting of cotton candy titled "Pink Cotton Candy" and a double cheeseburger with everything on it titled "Cheeseburger" -- are displayed in the art show PALLETEable at Stone Soup Galleries in the Chesterfield Mall.

The second series, Luxury Foods, is the perfect series for food and luxury brand lovers. This humorous project began with a Louis Vuitton taco painting. This piece was reimagined as a golf hole in Golf the Galleries at The Sheldon, St. Louis. Martha had to build the model primarily on her own. She built the 3D, gigantic taco, chips, lime, and guacamole sculptures and then painted the 40-foot, Louis Vuitton x Martha Valenta golf green. She had some help with the 40 foot long carpet from a carpenter and good friend. They collaborated together and worked hard to make the final hole fun and rewarding by adding a “Cha-Ching!” sound when the ball goes into the  hole. Martha decided to participate in Golf the Galleries because of the unique way the golf course invites kids to interact with art.  

But why focus on food? “I create works that resonate with me, and hope they will resonate with others. In this case, I had a health issue that restricted what I could eat. Food can be a luxury for money or health reasons, and some people who like high-end brands and tacos can appreciate the humorous aspect of my projects. My art connected with individuals who were struggling with food issues. I create art like this because I want to share an experience or something meaningful with others,” said Martha. 

Dreaming of Art 

Art has been a childhood dream of Martha’s since she was quite young. Her graphic design and UX work experience facilitated a smooth transition into the business side of the art world. She has now developed an art business and displays her works in art shows, at her I Need That Art Gallery in Clayton, or sells pieces online for personal collections. 

Thankful for 1904labs’ Support 

The Labs encourages its employees to create projects outside of work because we believe that we gain valuable experience from them. That learned knowledge can then be applied to work done for the Labs.

“It’s amazing to have an employer who is so open to something like this. A lot of employers don’t take an interest in your personal life. It’s as if they don’t care about the humans they are employing. These Innovation Hours projects at 1904labs humanize as valuable team members. We don’t feel shameful for having a side business, and we are even encouraged to promote our projects internally. It’s just so sweet and wonderful and makes it feel more like a family. A lot of coworkers offer their help if you need it! Others also ask me for my opinion on UX or human-centered design, and I am more than happy to help.”

Where You Can See Martha's Art

“My art is an investment you experience!” - Martha Valenta, Human-Centered Design Lead AND Artist

You can purchase Martha’s paintings at her website, I Need That Art, in-person at the I Need That Art gallery at 7735 Clayton Rd., and interact with her “Louis Vuittaco” mini-golf hole at The Sheldon from August 4 - September 6.

This blog is part of a series on how our employees use their Innovation Hours time. Stay tuned for more highlights from their endeavors!