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OU employees make their offices feel like home with photos, artwork

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Cool Offices: Ashley Newton

Assistant accounting professor Ashley Newton stands next to her bookshelf showcasing her cat in Adams Hall Nov. 20.

From stuffed animals to classic works of art, the offices of OU employees feature a wide range of personalization that allow their offices to be welcoming spaces that feel like home.

In the corner of Ashley Newton’s office, there is a bookshelf of cat memorabilia with several pictures of cats, wooden cat cutouts and even a Grumpy Cat stuffed animal.  

Newton, assistant professor of accounting, said the shelf is a new addition to her office.

“When I started this semester, as I was moving my things into my office, I decided I needed an area where all of my cat items could be displayed,” Newton said.

Newton said she loves cats and that they never fail to bring her joy.

“I love — adore — cats, and if I could have a house full, I would love to,” Newton said.

Many of the pictures on the shelf are of Newton’s cat Sassy. Newton said Sassy is her best friend.

“I’ve had her for 15 years,” Newton said. “She is the one thing that’s been an unconditional blessing for me.”

Newton said her collection is constantly growing and changing, and she adds different pictures of Sassy.

“We get photos taken every Christmas and so we’ll always have a new Christmas photo with Santa,” Newton said.  

Newton said her cat memorabilia comforts her, and it makes it feel as if Sassy is in the office with her.

“Being surrounded with pictures that remind me of Sassy just brings a smile to my face,” Newton said. “Even if the day is not going so great for me, I can always be reminded of her, and things just look much brighter when I think about her.”

In the basement of the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art, Selena Capraro, associate registrar for the museum, works in a windowless office. However, four beautiful paintings adorn the space’s walls.

Capraro said that while it was not intended, the paintings in her office remind her of the four seasons. She said the paintings are a part of the museum’s 20,000-object collection and help brighten her workspace.

“It’s kind of nice because we are in the basement,” Capraro said. “We don’t have any windows, so we get to have some paintings.”

Capraro said she likes the different styles and genres that are represented by the paintings. She said the painting “The Approaching Storm” by William Henry Howe, which depicts a group of cows in a pasture, reminds her of Norman.

“There’s a thunderstorm coming in,” Capraro said. “It just seems very Oklahoma to me.”

Capraro said that she likes having the paintings in her office because art is an important part of her life.    

“It’s just fun because we take care of all the art, and to get to live with it for 40 hours a week, all of these really cool masterpieces that you wouldn’t get to experience anywhere else — it’s really fun,” Capraro said.

Next door, Tracy Bidwell, chief registrar of the museum, has a different medium of art in her office: 12 icons from the 18th and 19th century are affixed to the wall.

Bidwell said that the icons are religious artwork from the Orthodox Christian faith and depict religious figures.

“Icons were originally used as text because not everyone was literate back in the day,” Bidwell said. “Icons always kind of follow the same formula because they are meant to be interpreted as text, representing things that happened in the lives of the saints or in the life of Christ.”

Bidwell said the museum has an exhibit that features several icons that were gifted to the museum by Ambassador George Crews McGhee, who was the US ambassador to Turkey in 1950s.

“These are icons that weren’t incorporated in that installation, and I just personally couldn’t let them stay in storage,” Bidwell said.

Bidwell said as a practicing Orthodox Christian, the icons have meaning to her.

“They are actually religious art to me,” Bidwell said.

Bidwell said art has always been extremely important to her, and she is so thankful that she is able to display unique pieces in her office.

“For me personally, I think of all art as being religious in nature because without the gift from God that I feel like I have received, I wouldn’t enjoy it the way I do,” Bidwell said.

Bidwell said that being able to display different artworks and objects in her office makes her feel more comfortable and at home. Like Capraro and Newton, Bidwell said she likes being surrounded by art that is special to her in her workspace, and it makes her job more enjoyable.

“Without it, I think my life would be really empty,” Bidwell said. “It’s just a really important part of who I am.”

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