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Art startup aims to unite communities

With limeSHIFT, MIT Sloan alumnae create public art installations

By Amy MacMillan Bankson  |  July 20, 2016

2016-limeshift

“Electric Joy” is the result of collaborative artwork coordinated by limeSHIFT

In Nairobi, Kenya, 25 houses of worship—from mosques to synagogues to Christian churches—are being painted yellow, a color that often represents harmony and optimism.

The community interfaith project, known as Colour in Faith, was initiated by the co-founders of limeSHIFT, an MIT Sloan alumnae-founded company that creates art designed to build culture and empower people.

The company, which is based in Brooklyn, N.Y., and co-founded by Elizabeth Thys, MBA ’15, Jenny Larios Berlin, MCP ’13, MBA ’15, and Nabila Alibhai, brings artists into communities and private businesses to transform spaces in creative ways to connect people. The startup has four full-time employees and plans to grow. Alibhai is also founder of inCOMMONS, a civic-engagement organization working in conjunction with limeSHIFT on the Colour in Faith project.

“We are using public art to bring [Kenyan] communities across different religions together,” Thys said.

Thys, who was co-chair of Hacking Arts in 2014, started working on the idea for limeSHIFT as part of an independent study at MIT Sloan in the spring of 2015. With a background in finance, Thys had not previously considered launching a startup, but was interested in the entrepreneurial space. After taking classes at MIT Media Lab and with Professor Sherry Turkle in the Science, Technology, and Society program, she was inspired to work on an idea that brought people together.

After launching last year, limeSHIFT completed its first private-enterprise project this spring, a collaboration with the apparel company Life is Good. Artist and co-founder Yazmany Arboleda created two permanent art installations for the company’s Boston headquarters.

The final result was two pieces of art—one that encompasses two floors of a stairwell and another in the ninth-floor lobby entrance of the loft-style building. The first, known as “Electric Joy,” features overblown, yellow-splattered, black-and-white photos of each employee making various faces. The lobby piece, known as “Hello Sunshine,” features words such as “gratitude,” “spirit,” and “life,” that can only be read in an adjacent mirror. Both pieces use the brand’s optimistic yellow color.

“People come into our lobby, and they love it,” said Colleen Clark, director of optimistic people at Life is Good. “They are taken aback by it because they can see themselves in the mirror and can see the messages all around them.”

Clark said collaborations with enterprises such as limeSHIFT are a natural progression in office culture. “Ten years ago, only the most progressive companies were offering gyms and bring-your-dog-to-work [programs], and now it’s almost expected. I think that having art [like this] in the work space will [be more common] in a few years. I’m excited that Life is Good is on the cutting edge of it.”