The goals of the arts, culture and creative sectors are often viewed as separate from or counter to those of the business community. The Arts & Business Council of Greater Philadelphia is working hard to change this perception and build a wide, two-way bridge between these communities by creating awareness around the impact of creativity in the workplace and the contributions of arts and culture to a thriving economy.
The creative sector fuels exciting, vibrant lifestyles for citizens in the Philadelphia region; and the colorful, intriguing cultural life of Philadelphia drives people to move into the city, building a stronger hiring pool. Likewise, the business communities feed critical experience and resources into the lives of artists and art-making institutions. This is why the Arts & Business Council envisions a vibrant creative sector with strong leadership — in terms of professional staff and volunteer board leaders — and a cultural scene that continues to be one of our region’s greatest assets. Through our capacity-building services, we work every day to strengthen a creative sector that is already valued for how it enriches the quality of life in our region, the jobs it creates, the visitors it attracts, and the impact is has on our children. And we champion the cause of a creative sector that has the support of audiences, businesses, donors, volunteers and government agencies.
According to Americans for the Arts, the nonprofit arts and culture industry generates $166.2 billion in economic activity every year — $63.1 billion in spending by organizations and an additional $103.1 billion in event-related spending by their audiences across the nation. According to the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance’s 2012 report, Southeastern Pennsylvania’s cultural organizations and their audiences have a combined impact of $3.3 billion on the region’s economy. With such a massive amount of revenue generated by arts and culture; more attention should be paid to future planning in these sectors. The benefits of strong artistic sectors stretch beyond revenue, as recent studies from Greater Good show that involvement in the arts helps increase critical and creative thinking. Cities that have implemented creative sector plans have seen an increase in growth and support, including support from the private sector, according to research by the city of Chicago.
Creating a unified plan toward arts, cultural and creative economy improvement for our region would not only benefit the arts communities—it would improve local business and economy as well. Programs such as the pARTnership movement, an initiative of Americans for the Arts, support the partnering of the arts and business communities to promote strength between two differing groups. The pARTnership movement points out that when the arts prosper in a community, the citizens of that community prosper as well. Notably, employers look for creative individuals who can approach problems in different ways and employees are more likely to work in areas where the arts and culture thrive.
Our vision is to unite the arts and business sectors in the Greater Philadelphia through shared experiences and resources to create a solid foundation for the future of the creative economy in Philadelphia. We’ve been working towards this unified plan for more than 30 years through skills-based volunteer programs that have delivered high-impact management and technology consulting projects—Business Volunteers for the Arts (BVA) and Technology Connectors; through the region’s most comprehensive nonprofit board-training program for business and legal professionals—Business On Board; and through the pro bono legal services delivered to arts groups and individual artists through Philadelphia Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts. We know from experience that great things happen when arts and business leaders get together—problems are solved, eyes are opened, long-lasting relationships are forged:
- Ask Andrew Kurtz, General & Artistic Director of Center City Opera Theater, how much his organization has benefited from the wisdom of BVA Volunteer and recently retired business executive Dorien Smithson in rethinking his organization’s business model. Or ask Dorien, already an opera-goer, how much she enjoys flexing her business muscles in a whole new setting, knowing she’s having a positive impact on an arts group whose work she appreciates.
- Ask Christine Cox, Co-Artistic Director of BalletX, how much she values the addition of a professional CPA to her board, someone who took the time to learn what board service means and has quickly stepped up to a leadership role as board treasurer. Or ask 2013 Business On Board graduate Frances Sperling Feldbaum, Principal at St. Clair CPA Solutions, what a great time her clients and business associates had when she hosted them at a BalletX dress rehearsal last month.
- Ask Ricardo Torres, Senior Manager with North Highland, Technology Connectors volunteer and amateur photographer, how inspiring it was to work on behalf of one of our region’s premier visual arts organizations, the Philadelphia Mural Arts Program. Or ask Executive Director Jane Golden how much it helped to have Ric working with her staff to help them with learning a new constituent database – guiding the needs assessment, RFP process, vendor bidding and contract negotiations.
- Ask BVA Volunteer Mindy Mazer, Senior Manager of Corporate Staffing at Ametek, how much fun she has had readings books to children at Mighty Writers. Or ask Executive Director Tim Whitaker what it meant to his young organization to have someone with Mindy’s skills help them formalize employee policies and procedures. Someone who believes so much in the work of the organization that she recently joined its board.
- Ask PVLA Volunteer Hans Smith, Intellectual Property Associate at BakerHostetler, how satisfying it was to defend local photographer Harry Saffren in a fair use dispute with a national media company. Or ask Saffren about the “above and beyond” impact that Smith had on Saffren’s ability to sort out his artistic rights and responsibilities in a nebulous area of law and move forward with his career.
Recently, we’ve been taking steps to engage even more arts and business professionals in conversations that have the potential to strengthen our region’s creative economy. We’ve added speaker forums and other special events that underscore themes of creativity and innovation, this year we’re hosting top TED speakers like Simon Sinek and Dan Pallotta and iconic media leaders like Arianna Huffington. These events often blur the lines between what has traditionally been considered arts or business thinking. This spring we will launch Designing Leadership, a professional development program, in partnership with IBM and The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, for emerging leaders from both the nonprofit and for-profit creative communities. We believe programs like these — and the conversations they engender – are essential to the success of our region as a whole.
(This article, originally posted at the Philadelphia Business Journal, 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!)