Here, Right Here: An Art at Viacom Painting Workshop With Jim Houser

On a Friday afternoon at Viacom’s Times Square Headquarters, I took a break from work to join 20 of my coworkers for a drawing workshop with Jim Houser, a mixed-media artist from Philadelphia. Houser is Art at Viacom’s latest artist-in-residence, a title which grants him free reign to transform our lobby walls with his bespoke creative design.

repost from @artatviacom , here’s the first wall

A post shared by jim houser (@misterhouser) on

Each artist-in-residence typically hosts an hour-long workshop for employees looking to learn their technique. Houser set up his exhibit HERE, RIGHT HERE in the days leading up to his workshop, so I was able to catch a preview of what I’d learn from the session. He had hung canvas collages, quilted with bright squares and rectangles, bringing to mind Dabs Myla’s whimsical world of graphic pop-art from a previous Art at Viacom installation.

Houser’s website describes his work as “visual poetry,” which is an apt description for the canvas he brought to the workshop as an example. It consisted of geometric patterns, typography, doodles and lyrical musings like this one: “the number we see, or the number there actually are.” Combined, these non sequiturs became one fluid verse; a capsule of Houser’s psyche.

And then, we had to replicate this.

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Cycling the Crossroads of the World with Cycle for Survival

Clockwise from top left: Cycle for Survival takes over Times Square; the author and intern Tatiana Cadet on their bikes; a Cycle for Survival bike; Cadet challenges herself to a great workout.

Times Square – the heavily nicknamed Crossroads of the World, Center of the Universe, or Heart of the World (among others) – draws an estimated 50 million annual visitors; more than 300,000 pedestrians pass through daily. It is also home to a pair of towers where Viacom keeps offices.

This bustling pedestrian and entertainment center provides the perfect backdrop for an annual Times Square Takeover by Cycle for Survival, the movement to beat rare cancers that is led by Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC).

Earlier this year, I joined the battle alongside 60 employees across 23 departments in Viacom’s New York, Hollywood, and Paramount Pictures offices by participating in Cycle for Survival’s 11th year of rides. The energy was incredible, and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to represent Team Viacom by participating in this year’s Times Square Takeover.

In late September, corporate communications intern Tatiana Cadet and I took to bikes smack in the heart of Times Square for an hour-long ride. We were there to support the cause and raise awareness and excitement among employees for our larger company-sponsored Cycle for Survival ride next spring. Jubilation, motivation, hope, and friendship filled the air.

Read Tatiana’s description of the event:

“It was the end of September, it felt like summer, and I was in the middle of Time Square on an exercise bike. My heart was racing, my legs were moving, and the sun was beaming on my face. I could feel the sweat dripping down, but the woman on stage motioning us to crank it up and keep pushing harder for the people that can no longer push kept me pedaling. It was my first time participating in Cycle for Survival, and I was amazed.

“At first, I was nervous because I heard about friends talking about extreme Soul Cycling classes that left them drained, but this was nothing like that. Cycling in the middle of New York City was enough to make it different, but the trainers from Equinox who led us on our cycling journey were great motivators. They reminded us that we weren’t just cycling to get some exercise for the day, but to be a part of a great cause.

“It felt good to be surrounded by so many people that care about making a difference. Between high-fiving my cycling neighbors and riding to positive music and motivating trainers, I left the event feeling really good and proud to be a part of Team Viacom, which shows a dedication to serving diverse communities and staying involved.”

Relive the experience as it appeared on @Viacom’s Instagram Story:

FBI Legend to Lead Viacom’s Global Security Operations

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

Viacom’s global footprint is massive. A 53-story headquarters embedded in New York City’s Times Square anchors an office network spread across dozens of countries. We host a constant stream of more than 200 annual high-profile events, such as last month’s Bellator MMA fights at Madison Square Garden and the BET Awards at L.A.’s Microsoft Theater. Threaded among these offices and events is our thousands of employees and guests.

Fernandez, via LinkedIn.

Such a huge presence requires robust security, which is why Viacom has hired FBI legend Carlos T. Fernandez as our new Global Chief Security Officer, leading all security teams at Viacom events and facilities around the world.

“Carlos is a highly decorated security and intelligence expert who is widely recognized for his exceptional leadership, planning and problem-solving abilities,” wrote Viacom Chief Administrative Officer Scott Mills in a memo to employees last week.

Fernandez most recently led counterterrorism operations at the FBI’s New York field office, as well as the New York Joint Terrorism Task Force, an approximately 500-person unit sculpted from local and federal agencies to investigate cases from Canada to Europe to Africa, according to The New York Times. He has participated in some of the most high-profile investigations of the past two decades, including the bombings of the USS Cole and American embassies in East Africa, the assault on the U.S.’ Benghazi diplomatic compound, and the November 2015 Paris terrorist attacks.

A Times profile last week outlined how Fernandez repaired frayed relationships between his agency and local law enforcement in New York through constant communication, coordination and information-sharing. Critically for someone about to enter a large, diverse, employee-centered corporation, he understands how to work with people.

“You can have all the memorandums of understanding in the world, and they really don’t mean anything if people don’t like you,” Don Borelli, a former counterterrorism special agent, told the Times, explaining how Fernandez worked inexhaustibly alongside his police department counterparts to unify the NYPD and FBI following last year’s bomb attack in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood.

Fernandez, a New York City native, will start at Viacom later this month.

Get Schooled and DJ Khaled celebrate ‘Major Keys’ Success on Get Schooled’s Annual Yearbook Day

It was a digital yearbook thrust six stories over Times Square, with 400 high school students from 38 states grinning from the side of Viacom’s world headquarters. They had good reason to smile. These self-assigned “change makers” were about to be acknowledged by DJ Khaled for their commitment to improving their schools and communities.

Khaled Key Day – as the whole activation was dubbed – was part of Get Schooled’s Yearbook Day. In particular, they acknowledged the impact of the Shorty Award-winning Major Keys campaign and honored Khaled’s role in helping it to flourish. The program – which challenges students to master seven “Major Keys,” or focus areas via Get Schooled’s gamified online interface – has been immensely successful, reaching more than 250 million people in just the past year.

While the digital yearbook photos flashed on the billboard outside, several New York City area high school students piled into Viacom’s studio inside to watch a catered question-and answer session between Khaled and radio host Sway Calloway. The students waved their “Grateful Khaled Keys” in the air and learned a bit more about the program’s Keys to Success.

“I’ve never really experienced anything like this before,” one student told Complex. “Everyone’s really excited and hyped up, and I’m excited to be here. It showed me that you can be who you are, and I’ve always struggled with that, so learning to be myself has gotten me to where I want to be when I graduate.”

Students also shared their aspirations and accomplishments with Khaled. “I am grateful for the positive impact we have had on so many young people and even more grateful for their talent and leadership,” said Khaled. “I am excited to work with Get Schooled to inspire and engage even more young people next year.”

#GRATEFUL #JUNE23RD 🔑 bless up @getschooled

A post shared by DJ KHALED (@djkhaled) on

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A Secret Language Written on Viacom’s Walls – Art at Viacom Continues with Marela Zacarias

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

The colors ripple like some secret language across the objects’ surface, arrayed in geometric patterns as elegant as a circuit board and as mysterious as ancient hieroglyphics. They sit on a series of banners and bulging sculptures in the south lobby of Viacom’s Times Square headquarters, dancing along the walls, each with a unique pattern of colors and lines.

Sculptures by Marela Zacarias hanging in Viacom’s lobby at 1515 Broadway as part of the latest Art at Viacom installation. Photos by Brooke Alexander/Studio Brooke

The expansive and varied texture of the work reflects the deep cultural influences of their creator, Marela Zacarias, a Mexico, Montana and Brooklyn based artist who was the latest exhibitor for Art at Viacom, an ongoing program that showcases rising artists at our offices around the world.

Huffington Post contributor Isa Freeling wrote this about Zacarias’ exhibit in April: “Her show, Echoing Forms is impressive in its ability to sensually exact beautiful pieces by casting sheets of mesh into sensuous folded blankets, by using plaster and polymers and are so exquisitely executed and rich in texture and strength, it is a pleasure to look at the work.”

Zacarias’ installation follows a parade of Art at Viacom projects: the striking metallic oil paintings of Kip Omolade, the geometric wizardy of Tahiti Pehrson, the cartoonishy wondrous works of Australian duo Dabs Myla, the mammoth swirling tablecloth sculptures of Crystal Wagner, the multicolored yarn meadows of HOTTEA, and massive ceiling-dangling floral display from Rebecca Louise Law.

The tricycle was an existing work that Marela Zacarias incorporated into her Art at Viacom exhibit in Viacom’s Times Square headquarters lobby. Photo by Brooke Alexander/Studio Brooke

Zacarias partnered with Viacom after high-profile installations at the Brooklyn Museum, Praxis Gallery, Brooklyn’s William Vale, and other places. She is constantly on the move. When I spoke to her over the phone the week after the exhibit opened, she was already down in Mexico City, preparing for a gallery show. Below is a condensed and lightly edited version of our conversation:

Stuart Winchester: How did you decide to use the banners, which are a departure from your typical work?

Marela Zacarias: There were challenges in terms of how much weight I could hang, and the sculptures are 135 pounds, so I couldn’t do my usual work, because there was nowhere to hang it from. And then I thought of the banners. I’ve been doing sculpture for about six years, and I really haven’t gone back to canvas for a while, so it felt really liberating to return, and I don’t know if I would have made that strategic choice if it wasn’t for the lobby’s structural situation. The technical problems led me to real artistic growth.

Hanging the banners at 1515 Broadway for Marela Zacarias’ Art at Viacom installation. Photo by Brooke Alexander/Studio Brooke

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This Father Is Not Surprised to See Viacom Make Fatherly’s List of Great Workplaces for New Dads

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

My daughter Waverly cannot believe I work with SpongeBob. Or Dora. Or the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

And that’s just the beginning of what amazes her about Viacom. She loves that I work in “Robot City,” (as she calls Times Square). She is already planning her route through our skyscraper for the company’s annual kids’ day, which in the past has included everything from custom cape-making to face painting to magic shows (her favorite). And every time Wave sees a movie trailer that includes the string of silver stars wrapping over Paramount’s iconic mountain, she screams at the TV: “My dad works for them!” She’s 8 years old, and from her point of view, I have the coolest job in the world, for all of these reasons and more.

Wave Turtles

Wave and I hanging out with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles at Viacom’s Times Square headquarters during Kids Day 2015.

From a grown-up’s point of view, the benefits of working for Viacom are a bit different: strong work-life balance, a companywide commitment to social responsibility, and a day-to-day workplace that is widely acknowledged as being one of the best around.

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George Lopez Makes an Opening Bell Pit Stop en Route to TV Land

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom
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George Lopez joins Viacom staffers to ring the opening bell at the NASDAQ stock exchange on March 30, 2016. All photos courtesy of © 2016 Nasdaq, Inc.

Before George Lopez showed up on screens across the continent last Wednesday night as the eponymous character in his new original series Lopez on TV Land, he made a pit stop at NASDAQ headquarters in Times Square to ring the opening bell.

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The Taco Train to Times Square: a Delicious Start to Paying for College

by Marie Groark, Executive Director, Get Schooled

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Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman and others ringing the bell at the NASDAQ exchange. Read More

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They call Times Square the Crossroads of the World. It is the hub of media, arts, and business in New York City.  Tens of thousands of New Yorkers work in Times Square and millions of tourists flock to it every year. So what better place to recognize some of America’s greatest high school students.

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The ‘Nick Shop’ Opens at the World’s Greatest Toy Store

by Breanna Farquharson, Viacom

Nickelodeon Store Photo

This week Nickelodeon announced the launch of its ‘Nick Shop’ on level one in Toys”R”Us Times Square, the company’s international flagship store. The 1,000 square foot Nick Shop is a unique retail experience jam-packed with fun and adventure around every corner. This is the perfect stop for exclusive New York-branded products such as kids and adult apparel, accessories, plush toys, drinkware and more, featuring characters like Dora the Explorer, Bubble Guppies, Team Umizoomi, Winx Club, SpongeBob SquarePants and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Read More