Bedford firm walks the walk when it comes to art in the workplace

Why would an engineering and surveying business invest in promoting the arts? What possible gain would it yield? How would the employees benefit?
These are the questions Robert and Anne Cruess, principals of Bedford-based TFMoran Inc., have asked themselves for the past 15 years, during which time they have made the decision to support the arts because they believe that art is important to everyday life – in and out of the office.To the Cruesses, it means more than just having pretty pictures that hang on the walls. They say it means creating an environment that will soothe the soul and lift the spirit. Amidst meeting deadlines and grappling with technological problems, employees can find respite in the woods, waves and colors of the paintings and photographs that hang throughout the offices, they say.TFMoran’s “business” relationship with art began in 1996 when the Cruesses were seeking additional space for a satellite office in Manchester. They were shown an historic building on the premises of St. Joseph Cathedral, which had most recently housed The Cathedral Credit Union, but had also been a school, water department office and rectory. After closer inspection, it was discovered that the drop ceiling over the tellers’ counter was covering a 30-by-40-foot ceiling painting – a stunning discovery and one that the Cruesses couldn’t ignore.The painting was badly damaged from both the drop ceiling, hardware and soot from years of burning coal. An art historian determined that the painting was a reproduction of Tiepolo’s 18th century painting, “The Virgin and Child with Simon Stock.”Additionally, a frieze surrounding the painting was a reproduction of Luca della Robbia’s “Cantoria,” and appears to be the only known full reproduction of his 15th century masterpiece. Further research revealed that the building had been transformed from a rectory to The Cathedral Library in 1905. Bishop Guertin had commissioned the artwork, which was created in Italy and installed by Italian craftsmen.One thing led to another and the Dioceses of Manchester agreed to sell the property to the Cruesses, with the condition that the painting be restored. Soon thereafter, work was begun to remove the hung ceilings and restore the painting.Buying original artWith the discovery of the art and its restoration, TFMoran became known to many local artists, art organizations and museums. The building was added to Manchester’s “walking tour” of significant buildings and was open for viewing during business hours. The building has also hosted musical events, and has been open for students from both the New Hampshire Institute of Art and the Currier Museum’s Art Center.One New Hampshire artist, James Aponovich of Hancock, was inspired by the discovery of the art and its Italian origins. Both Tiepolo and della Robbia were Italian Renaissance artists whose work Aponovich admires. The Cruesses struck up a relationship with Aponovich and commissioned a painting to hang in the new office. It was a still life entitled “La Citi” (The City), with the backdrop of the Scoula Grande Dei Carmini in Venice, the location of the original Tiepolo ceiling fresco.A few years later, they commissioned a sister painting, “La Compagne” (The Country), with the backdrop of the town where della Robbia carved his friezes. Both paintings are now prominently hung in the reception area of TFMoran’s corporate office in Bedford.Over the years, TFMoran has been the primary sponsor of the annual New Hampshire Art Association exhibition at the Currier Museum. Robert Cruess encourages those in attendance to buy original art, and he sets a good example – TFMoran has purchased at least one piece of art from each of these shows and they are displayed throughout the offices.