Terakeet + Light Work: It’s a Syracuse Thing

Maggie Farragher-Gnadt

We are proud of the company culture we’ve built over the years. This culture is supported through our core values, but also through the passions and special interests of our dynamic employees. As a company operating in the creative space, many of our ‘Keeters express themselves through various creative outlets. Their individualistic interests enrich our culture and bring a unique mindset to the work we do. They also help us to recruit and retain top talent as a company based in Syracuse. 

One creative cause dear to the heart of Pat Danial, Terakeet’s Co-Founder and Chief Technical Officer is the arts. His appreciation for artistic endeavors in the local community and beyond began with a search to find a mode of expression that matched his unique learning style. 

artwork from Light Work displayed in Terakeet offices

“I’m a very visual learner and find it easier to explain myself visually when I’m teaching others, at least here at Terakeet,” Pat explained. “I’m drawn to trying to interpret visualizations from an artist that’s not present to explain it to you themselves. So you’re able to go on your own journey before reading their story. Then you’re free to explore whether the two are the same or if you’ve seen something new.” 

Pat’s journey took him from a casual hobby throughout his school-age years to a more intentional step into artistic expression in adulthood, sketching and taking weekly lessons with a local sculptor. To hear Pat describe it, it’s fair to say that art has played a defining role in major moments of his life – including meeting his wife and becoming more entrenched in the local art scene here in Syracuse. Through his interests, he met Shane Lavalette (Director, Light Work) and became friends.

Pat continued, “I had no idea there was such a remarkable nonprofit photography program in this area. Light Work brings remarkable artistic talent to Syracuse — which mirrors Terakeet’s goals from a recruiting perspective. So it made sense as a first step to do something with them.”

Recently, Terakeet began displaying a large amount of photography and other artwork from Light Work with the help of Pat and Shane Lavalette. This ever-expanding office collection serves to support local artists while fostering a sense of community here at work. Terakeet is proud to be able to support the vision Light Work has of providing direct support to artists and making art more accessible to the general public.

Light work art displayed on wall at Terakeet offices with descriptions and QR code

Light Work was founded in 1973 as a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting the work of emerging and under-represented artists working in photography. The organization achieves this goal through exhibitions, publications, an international residency program, grants to regional artists, a community lab facility, and other related programs. 

Shane said, “One of the things I love most about Light Work is that it’s always been artist-run—meaning a large number of the staff are also working artists themselves and understand the needs that creatives face. It’s a nice ethos … artists supporting artists.” 

This approach, in a sense, mirrors the way Terakeet’s corporate strategy sessions and communication philosophy has empowered our employees to control the destiny of the company. When our employees have the freedom to voice and act on great ideas, our company evolves. This ultimately sparks the flow of talent to our company and to Syracuse.

Shane also told us about his own experience as an artist, and how his journey led him to call the Syracuse area home. 

“One of Light Work’s primary programs is an international residency in which artists from around the world come to Syracuse to spend one month focusing on their creative projects. They’re given a stipend to support their work, an apartment to live in, 24/7 access to the photography lab facility, and generous staff support. In 2011, I visited Syracuse as an Artist-in-Residence at Light Work and had a memorable experience. Shortly thereafter, a leadership position opened and I threw my name in the hat … I thought it would be a wonderful opportunity to be able to grow my creative community along with supporting the work of other artists that I admire. I was lucky enough to be hired and moved to Syracuse just a few months after my residency.”  

Bringing talent to the Syracuse area is a cause that Terakeet is committed to as well. But how can companies create a workplace experience that makes their employees excited to come to work here every day? In the case of Terakeet’s Light Work gallery, the art has become a catalyst for stronger bonds amongst employees, sparking conversations about discovered commonalities even among those who didn’t typically interact in their day-to-day.

Terakeet employees sitting at conference table in meeting room with Light Work art

Pat commented, “I have connected with a lot of people here through art as well, hearing their stories. Where they’ve traveled, museums and artists they’ve enjoyed, as well as, a handful of people that are creating their own art.” 

Shane chimed in, “Any workplace benefits from creativity, and if you surround yourself in it (such as filling walls with art) it can be inspiring and even lead to interesting conversations and ideas. I love that Terakeet values this, and in particular, has made a decision to accomplish this while at the same time supporting a local non-profit that will relay that support directly to artists. It’s a beautiful thing, really!”

The relationship between Light Work and Terakeet is one example of how nurturing individual passions can impact not only the working environment but make a sustainable community impact as well. Companies that invest time and resources fostering a love of the arts and supporting local non-profit causes help Syracuse become a great place to live and work, attracting talent from all over New York State and beyond. That, in turn, benefits us all. 

Photography from Light Work displayed at Terakeet offices

What’s next for Light Work? Shane gave us the inside story. 

“There are always new things coming up at Light Work. We’ve got a stellar line up of 2020 Artists-in-Residence and are soon opening an exciting exhibition entitled The Eyelid Has Its Storms…, featuring the work of former AIR Pacifico Silano. For local folks who may be interested in learning about photography or seeking a space to develop their ongoing work, we invite anyone to come by for a tour of Light Work Lab and to check the website for our series of workshops and classes.”

We can’t wait to check it out! 

All photos are by Julie K. Herman, courtesy of Light Work