How We Roasted Our Founders With Our In‑House Art Gallery

Our VP of Marketing's office occasionally showcases the work of our employee‑artists. Recently, we used it to make a little mischief.

A photograph of Ben and Dan looking at the employee art
Portrait of Austin

Posted by Austin

• 6 min read

It all started with a little vandalous facial hair. Shortly after Mailchimp CEO and Co-Founder Ben Chestnut appeared on the cover of Forbes magazine, a copy of the publication showed up in one of the common spaces at Mailchimp HQ. But something was different. An employee had artfully scrawled a mustache on its cover star.

Ben was thrilled.

“He said that we should all be very proud of the attention and the accolades that we were getting, but that we should never take ourselves too seriously,” Mailchimp Marketing VP Sean Cook remembers. “This little act of cheeky vandalism was a perfect representation of that.”

Inspired, Sean took to the Cook Gallery, which is also known as his office, which we converted into an in-house art gallery about a year ago. We’ve been using the space to showcase the work of our many talented employee-artists, and Sean saw an opportunity to do that again while roasting Mailchimp’s co-founders in the process.

So he planned an exhibition, which he titled Defaced. And he secretly put the word out across departments, asking for “vandalized” images of Ben and Dan. Turns out, MC employees were ready to party—the whole thing came together very quickly and quietly.

A photograph of Ben laughing a picture with Farrah in the background

“I had so much fun looking at each piece with Ben. Some of the pieces brought back happy memories from years ago, when we were just starting out,” says Dan Kurzius, Mailchimp Co-Founder and Chief Customer Officer. “Our employees are so talented, and it’s such a pleasure to see them showcase their creativity and skills while pulling off a good-natured roasting of their bosses at the same time.”

It was also just an impressive range of work. Sean raves of “a needlepoint artist that recreated Instagram posts from Ben and Dan, and others who transformed their magazine photos into classic movie posters and album covers. And there was, of course, the transformation of Beavis and Butt-Head.”

An illustration of Ben and Dan drawn as Beavis and Butthead

About that transformation: Ben likes to tell a story from the early days of the company about how he always longed to eat at Fuddruckers—which, at the time, was considered a fancy hamburger place in Atlanta. And Dan, a former skateboarder, likes to tell new employees about his younger days growing up in the same Texas neighborhood as Beavis and Butt-Head creator Mike Judge.

These days, Mailchimp has seen some success. We even had Fuddruckers cater a company cookout once! Thinking on how much things have changed over the years, Shauna Birkett from our Employee Experience team decided she wanted to create something celebratory.

“She was the first one who told me about the gallery surprise for Ben and Dan,” Junior Designer Meg Lindsay remembers. “She asked me if I would be down to help her create an idea. And that idea was to draw Ben and Dan as Beavis and Butt-Head eating Fuddruckers.”

The result was a winner—and the talk of the show.

A photograph of Dan smiling while talking to Sean

"A small part of me worried I'd be fired," Shauna jokes. "But when I showed up to the big reveal, Dan had a huge grin on his face and told the story for the crowd, so I knew I still had a job. It’s great to get to work at a place like Mailchimp where weird is a feature, not a bug."

While it’s perhaps a deeply strange origin story for a piece of artwork, it perfectly sums up Mailchimp’s company culture in an authentic way.

“An innovative, creative culture requires humility. We absolutely loved seeing our employees be willing to poke fun and remind us not to take ourselves too seriously,” Ben says. “The fact that they could turn it into an art exhibit is icing on the cake.”