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The Arts Are Part of the Solution

By Emily Peck, Vice President of Private Sector Initiatives

Photo: Cardinal Health Choir, led by the Harmony Project’s David Brown, singing at the Community Shelter Board Rebuilding Lives luncheon

October was National Arts and Humanities Month, a monthlong celebration of the role the arts and culture play in transforming Americas communities. To recognize the important role of the business community in advancing the arts, Americans for the Arts annually presents the BCA 10 awards celebrating ten businesses for their innovative partnerships with the arts. These businesses range in size and location but share a passion for engaging with the arts to advance their companies and communities. The 10 companies we highlighted on October 11 are worthy of recognition but from our work around the country, we know that they are not alone and that there is increased engagement from the business community in support of the arts. That is why it is not surprising to see that Giving in Numbers: 2017 Edition produced by CECP, showed an increase in arts funding from the corporate community between 2014 and 2016. These results align with our Business Contributions to the Arts, which also showed that businesses understand the value of the arts.

According to the Business Contributions to the Arts survey, more than half of companies (53%) support the arts because they stimulate creative thinking and problem solving. Cardinal Health based in Ohio and one of the 2017 BCA 10 honorees, integrates arts experiences into the work experience. The company’s CEO George Barrett leads the way with the arts from the top and brings his lifelong passion for music into the day to day operations of the business. Through an employee chamber orchestra and jazz band, the headquarters is filled with music. They also take their show on the road and perform at venues throughout the region. The healthcare employees who participate in the arts, engage with their colleagues in new ways and inspire different ways of thinking.

Another reason why businesses support the arts is because businesses are looking for ways to engage their employees to help fuel attraction and retention. According to the Business Contributions to the Arts survey, 63% of businesses offer free or discounted tickets to arts events and 65% offer volunteer opportunities at arts organizations. Another BCA 10 honoree, Halekulani, a luxury resort based in Hawaii, provides opportunities for its employees to engage with the arts organizations the hotel supports through complimentary access to institutions including the Honolulu Museum of Art, Hawaii International Film Festival, Hawaii Opera Theatre, and Hawaii Symphony Orchestra. Halekulani also hosts assemblies for its employees where arts performances are on the agenda. The arts are a key part of the company’s efforts to increase volunteerism amongst employees and as a way to connect their employees to the arts.

The Business Contributions to the Arts survey demonstrated the connection small and midsize companies have to supporting the arts. The percentage of arts giving in overall philanthropy budgets for small and midsize companies is approximately 20 percent higher than large companies. One reason for the high support from smaller companies is their direct connection to their local community. BCA 10 honoree, Magic Hat Brewing Company’s illustrates the value of local relationships by creating and hosting events that raise money for local arts organizations. For example, the company uses Artifactory, a beer tasting and art space in their brewery, as a site for artists to create unique pieces of art to benefit a local organization, the Shelburne Craft School.

And finally, the arts can be helpful in addressing diversity, equity, and inclusion. 43% of large companies were more likely to say the arts address diversity in the workplace, compared to medium and small companies. Large companies are engaging with the arts this way in higher numbers because they often have employee resource groups to aide these efforts. No matter the size of their company, many of our 2017 BCA 10 honorees understand the value of the arts to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion goals. 21c Museum Hotels responded to North Carolina’s controversial House Bill 2 about transgender bathrooms by placing signs by artist Peregrine Honig on their single-occupant restrooms titled “We Don’t Care” to demonstrate the company’s policy towards inclusivity for their customers and employees. Kaiser Permanente Colorado worked with a theater group to provide employee training around implicit bias to help employees better serve their customers and patients. This is a growing area of engagement between the arts and business communities and CECP’s Giving in Numbers showed a small increase in diversity and inclusion as a primary focus area between 2014 and 2016.

Both corporate giving surveys demonstrate that businesses are recognizing the role the arts play in advancing corporate goals, including increasing employee engagement and creativity. Through programs like Americans for the Arts’ pARTnership Movement, businesses are able to see how the arts are responding to key business needs.