John Bryan

John Bryan

CultureWorks is the privately-funded nonprofit organization that serves as the local arts agency for Richmond, Virginia. Although it is only the nation’s 43rd largest city, Richmond has a significant business community as evidenced by it being the headquarters for 11 Fortune 1000 companies – 6 of which are F500s.

Five ongoing strategies have helped CultureWorks engage good relationships between Richmond’s arts and business communities:

1) CultureWorks is an active member of the Greater Richmond Chamber. “Active” includes volunteering for committees, paying to be part of the annual 3-day InterCity Visit, and attending Chamber gatherings – all of which help to establish and strengthen personal relationships.

2) CultureWorks publishes reports on its activities and accomplishments and makes sure that business leaders read the reports with interest. I snail-mail a hardcopy of each report to several dozen business leaders, and I attach a hand-written personalized sticky note that has a message such as, “Frank – Good to see you last week. I’ve highlighted a couple of things on this report that you might find interesting.” It’s a lot of work preparing 50 or more of these letters, but the personalized notes cause this to be a communication that the business leaders do read.

3) CultureWorks invites business leaders to volunteer isolated segments of their time to serve on short-term project-specific committees and task teams. Examples include the review panels for the CultureWorks Grants Program and our metrics task team. This not only builds relationships, but also gives the corporate participants a first-hand look at the value of the arts.

4) CultureWorks has an intentional and ongoing track record of doing things that are of direct value to the business community. For example, we have presented talks by and discussions with The Conference Board CEO, Jonathan Spector, and former American Bankers Association President, Ken Ferguson. CultureWorks was the primary force in gathering the multi-sector consensus needed to establish Richmond’s downtown arts and culture district – a development that provides important benefits for the business community.

5) CultureWorks has an ongoing presence in the editorial section of the Richmond Times-Dispatch – our daily newspaper – as evidenced by the publication of three or four CultureWorks-written editorial features each year. We send copies, along with sticky notes, to selected business leaders. Richmond’s business community does pay priority attention to the Richmond Times-Dispatch; its publisher is former president of the Chamber.

When CultureWorks was created in 2009, our staff members and our brand were largely unknown in Richmond’s business community. The five strategies listed here have caused the business community to be more aware of, and have greater appreciation for, the importance of arts and culture to our community.

(This post is one in a weekly series highlighting The pARTnership Movement, Americans for the Arts’ campaign to reach business leaders with the message that partnering with the arts can build their competitive advantage. Visit our website to find out how both businesses and local arts agencies can get involved!)

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The pARTnership Movement


The pARTnership Movement is a new initiative from Americans for the Arts that provides businesses and arts organizations with the resources they need to make meaningful collaborations; partnerships that not only support a healthy, creative and artistic community, but that also give businesses a competitive advantage.
For more information please visit www.partnershipmovement.org.

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