Amy Webb

Amy Webb

“When people go to work, they shouldn’t have to leave their hearts at home.” -Betty Bender

My name is Amy Webb, the newest member of the Americans for the Arts staff and the Director of Arts & Business Council of New York, and I’m so excited to kick off this week’s Unique Business Partnerships blog salon!

My goal in my new position is to increase our New York City presence and enhance connections between the arts and the business communities using a variety of current and developing programs. One of these is the implementation of an employee engagement program for businesses to connect employees with the arts and to help businesses increase recruitment and retention as well as overall employee satisfaction in the workplace. In my last job at Neuberger Berman–an asset management firm–I witnessed a transformation in the workplace once a well-rounded employee engagement program was put in place. There was a buzz around the office and it seemed like, for the first time, everyone was involved in something artistic. There are numerous ways–both big and small–to bring art to your employees, and from my experience they will thank you. Read the rest of this entry »

Intro to the Arts Programs Enhanced by Vans Custom Culture Grants

Posted by Jeff Poulin On July - 14 - 2014
Jeff Poulin

Jeff Poulin

Earlier this summer, you may have read Kristen Engerbretsen’s, Americans for the Arts’ Education Program Manager, blog post about the final event of the 2013-14 Vans Custom Culture program in NYC. It was an exciting, inspiring and high-octane event honoring some of the most innovative shoe designs I have ever seen. Being able to spend time with Vans employees – a company that values the arts as a vital part of education, community and life as told by their Brand Manager in this blog – and the students whom they work with as part of this program, was definitely one for the books!

However, did you know that the Custom Culture program doesn’t end with a big party in NYC? Read the rest of this entry »

Making the Arts Feel at Home in South Beach’s Betsy Hotel

Posted by Laura Bruney On June - 26 - 2014
Laura Bruney

Laura Bruney

Deborah Briggs

This interview with Deborah Briggs by Laura Bruney and Etain Connor of the Arts & Business Council of Miami was originally published June 2, 2014 on their blog.

 

 

 

With a façade that harkens back to the golden age of Ocean Drive yet refined for a contemporary palate, The Betsy South Beach is known for hosting a variety of events that are diverse, innovative and always interesting. Ask around town and the hotel that is consistently identified with showcasing the arts is The Betsy. Ask artists and organizations that work in the arts and their praise for the hotel is broad and deep for it is hard to find a true partner. On a glorious spring day on South Beach we joined Deborah Briggs, Vice President for Marketing, Philanthropy, and Programs at The Betsy at BLT Steak, the hotels signature eatery. Lucky for us we are between the lunch and dinner crowds so have a quiet hour to nosh on the most delectable cheese popovers. The Betsy’s attention to detail is observed with the accompaniment of a cute “popovers recipe” card for those so inclined to try to recreate perfection. While nibbling we embarked on an amazing and eye-opening conversation.

ABCMiami: What do you think makes a vibrant community and what role do the arts play?

DB: When my brother, Jonathan acquired and renovated The Betsy–philanthropy, with a focus on arts, culture and education was always at the core of his mission. We were inspired by our father, Hyam Plutzik’s legacy that art is a catalyst to bring people together around things that matter to them. Each of our hotel guestrooms for example, are outfitted with a mini-library and a bookmarker is placed on the bed during evening turndown. We believe the arts provide us with the opportunity to live in the moment and have an engaging collective experience. All great civilizations, past and present, are distinguished through the arts – and we are committed to that enterprise in our community. Read the rest of this entry »

Students Embrace Their Creativity through Custom Culture

Posted by Kristen Engebretsen On June - 18 - 2014

A winning school is picked by vote, based on a set of four uniquely designed VANS shoes.

Editors Note: Americans for the Arts has partnered with VANS for the past two years on their Custom Culture program. Last night in New York City was the final event, where the winning shoe design was picked. Below are remarks that our Arts Education Program Manager made during the event:

Hello, my name is Kristen, and I’m the Arts Education Program Manager at Americans for the Arts. Whether you like to sing in the shower, dance like no one is watching, or design the next great VANS shoe, we want to support that. Our motto is “All the Arts for All the People.”

We firmly believe that the arts have the power to transform lives. In fact, last year we had the privilege of featuring an artist at our annual convention named Inocente. Her story is nothing short of incredible. As a teenager, Inocente was homeless, the victim of abuse, and the daughter to undocumented immigrants. Her life had hit rock bottom until one day she walked into an arts center in San Diego called A Reason to Survive. She began painting, and indeed, it gave her a reason to survive. She graduated from high school and selling her art kept her from living on the streets. Her powerful transformation was featured in the Oscar winning documentary, Inocente.

Inocente designed these as an ambassador for Custom Culture.

Inocente designed these as an ambassador for Custom Culture.

Americans for the Arts knows that learning in the arts enables every individual to develop the critical thinking, collaborative, and creative skills necessary to not only survive but thrive in today’s ever-changing world. And so when VANS approached us a few years ago about partnering on Custom Culture, we could see that they too value the arts as an integral part of all students’ education. Together we hope to encourage high school students to embrace their creativity and inspire a new generation of youth culture. Read the rest of this entry »

Using my day job skills to be a better writer

Posted by Gemma Irish On June - 12 - 2014
Gemma Irish

Gemma Irish

The following is an article originally posted on Minnesota Playlist, written by playwright Gemma Irish, in which she describes how her daily work in marketing at a Fortune 500 company has made her a better artist.

Writers are notorious procrastinators. We would rather do the dishes, read the entire internet, eat a sandwich, or meet friends at the bar than sit down and write. When we finally get down to work (probably because we have a deadline looming, and/or we’re disgusted with ourselves) we drink sherry, we write while reclined, or standing up, or at a café, or in absolute silence. We need just the right conditions, the right pen, the right atmosphere in which to write.

I have to be honest with you: I am guilty of cleaning my entire kitchen instead of re-writing a play, and furthermore I am guilty of getting caught up in the mystique of Being A Writer. “This is how I’m supposed to act! I’m supposed to be a total weirdo and drink too much coffee and put off revising this draft by cleaning my apartment and researching serial killers! It proves that I am a Real Writer!” Read the rest of this entry »

Jim Clark

Jim Clark

“Creative Placemaking” as described by Anne Gadwa Nicodemus and Ann Markusen offers artists and arts administrators a template to engage business and civic leaders in the articulation of new cultural policies at the local level.  In her paper, “Fuzzy Vibrancy: Creative Placemaking as Ascendant U.S. Cultural Policy,” Nicodemus states that one of the hallmarks of creative placemaking is the development of cross-sector partnerships to promote “arts-centered initiatives with place-based physical, economic and/or social outcomes.”

Does this widespread interest in creative placemaking present an opportunity for us to expand and develop cultural policy at the local level? Read the rest of this entry »

Employee Engagement: A Resource Round-Up

Posted by Jordan Shue On May - 29 - 2014
Employee Engagement

Employee Engagement

In response to an increase in demand for corporate social responsibility–as well as employee expectations for opportunities that are more connected to their workplace and community–businesses are incorporating more and more chances for employee engagement with nonprofits and social causes, in addition to monetary support for these organizations. This is a tremendous opportunity for the arts sector, as it has much to offer individual employees who seek to feel more fulfilled in their work and everyday lives. Read the rest of this entry »

The New Face of Volunteering

Posted by Jordan Shue On May - 28 - 2014

New Face of VolunteeringThe old model of employee engagement and volunteerism is quickly fading. In a world where everyone can be an artist, a creator, an inventor, or a key player in a project far-removed from his or her own experience, volunteering has morphed into something vastly different from its original shape. Employees now crave the opportunity to be integrally involved in a major aspect of a non-profit’s work, which not only gives each a sense of purpose and completion, but also can greatly expand the services provided to an organization if the volunteer projects are designed carefully with these shifts in mind. The same tenets that apply to new marketing, crowdsourcing, and product design strategies also apply to volunteering, as more and more people crave deeper connections and ownership that lead to greater satisfaction in all aspects of life. Read the rest of this entry »

Fresh Consumer and Business Data on the Local Arts Index Site

Posted by Roland Kushner On May - 28 - 2014
Roland Kushner

Roland Kushner

In 2010, Americans for the Arts launched the National Arts Index; this was followed in 2012 by its community-level sibling, the Local Arts Index.  The Local Arts Index (LAI) is the largest publicly accessible source of data on arts and culture at the county level.  It offers a free and easy-to-use web tool that displays information about the arts in every U.S. county in the form of 75 indicators, with data since 2009.  The site makes it easy for you to learn about your county (or the one next door, or where you’re thinking of moving) as an arts community.  Read the rest of this entry »

Banking on Business Support for the Arts

Posted by Laura Bruney On May - 23 - 2014
Adolfo Henriques

Adolfo Henriques

This interview with Adolfo Henriques by Laura Bruney and Etain Connor of the Arts & Business Council of Miami was originally published May 6, 2014 on their blog, www.artsbizmiami.org/ArtsBizBlog.

Sitting on the 8th floor of the Gibraltar Bank offices, we are first struck by the incredible views of downtown Coral Gables. We are here to meet Adolfo Henriques, a paragon in our cultural community and an enthusiastic supporter of the arts both personally and professionally. As Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Gibraltar Private Bank & Trust, Mr. Henriques has embraced the value and economic impact of the cultural community. His civic contributions are extensive, including serving as Chairman of the Miami-Dade County Cultural Affairs Council since 2008.  Under his leadership on the Council, he has helped keep local arts funding intact during the great recession and helped the Council continue to provide resources to strengthen the 1,000+ arts groups in Miami-Dade. He has also served in senior leadership positions at some of South Florida’s most prestigious institutions including Miami-Dade’s Beacon Council, the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau, and United Way of Miami-Dade County.

ABC Miami: What do you think makes a vibrant community and what role do the arts play?

AH:  I believe people make a vibrant community. But what attracts and retains people? The opportunities and resources a community offers to improve quality of life are essential to attracting and retaining key talent in Miami. And the arts are a key element to improving the quality of our lives. I like to think of a city in the same way that a film maker creates a scene. You begin with actors performing in front of a green screen. All you see are the characters moving amongst a blank background, it isn’t until the editor adds color, visual effects, music and more that a truly cinematic moment is created. The arts are like the special effects. They make the impossible happen, make a moment memorable and make people happy. The arts connect us and give us cause to explore our own creativity. They provide context. That is why the arts is an essential part of our local community. It is the unifying element and proactive catalyst to the nation’s most diverse and fastest growing cultural city in the U.S.  Read the rest of this entry »

BCA National Survey of Business Support for the Arts 2013

BCA National Survey of Business Support for the Arts 2013

In addition to measuring the dollars spent by businesses in support of the arts, as well as the types of companies doing the supporting, the 2013 BCA Survey of Business Support for the Arts delved into the motivations and goals of businesses when considering partnerships with the arts.

As much as we may want to focus on why businesses do support the arts when trying to build strategic partnerships with them, the reasons why they typically don’t support the arts will never go away if we don’t address them head-on. Fortunately, a lot of the reasons businesses choose not to support the arts can be amended by starting open communication with companies that historically have not shown interest in supporting our sector. Many times, this is because they don’t know how the arts can benefit the company and its employees, and not because the arts are not perceived as useful to society. (It’s also important to remember that 66% of organizations in the survey stated that they have never been asked to support the arts). Read the rest of this entry »

The Arts are not “only” the NEA…

Posted by Kate McClanahan On May - 9 - 2014
Kate McClanahan

Kate McClanahan

Above all, artists must not be only in art galleries or museums — they must be present in all possible activities.” — Michelangelo Pistoletto

What is art? Art is a means for social change. Art is relaxing. Art is inspiring. Art is culture. Art is pretty.

What can art really do? At Americans for the Arts we know; the arts are more than just around us or a part of us—they are also an application. Like an amoeba, they can live on their own, but when “discovered,” they suddenly are ever-present and malleable in ways you might not know, and perhaps, they are limited only by “un-thought thoughts,” or put differently, imagination. Read the rest of this entry »

Arts Brookfield Presents an Egg-cellent Performance

Posted by Nicole Glotzer On May - 2 - 2014
Nicole Glotzer

Nicole Glotzer

As part of Americans for the Arts’ Internship Program, my fellow interns and staff recently took an office field trip to see a unique public dance performance entitled Yolk by dance company Third Rail Projects. The performance was part of a series of events presented this spring at locations throughout Manhattan by Arts Brookfield, the cultural arm of Brookfield Office Properties. Yolk ran from April 8-10 at the plaza of the Grace Building, a Brookfield property located in Midtown Manhattan.

The piece featured two performers, one dressed in silver, the other in gold, dancing in and around large open eggshells accompanied by electronic music. Third Rail Projects is a multi-disciplinary performance company, and Yolk showcased Third Rail Projects’ explorations fusing dance, installation art, and performance in the public sphere. I watched as a crowd, made up of passersby and employees from nearby businesses (particularly the Grace Building), gathered to view the performance during their lunch hour and was able to see, firsthand, how such a performance could engage employees of the Grace Building and surrounding businesses. It was then that I realized that the performance was less about two girls dancing in fiberglass eggs, but rather the experience it was creating for those in attendance. Read the rest of this entry »

Shaking Up Employee Volunteer Programs

Posted by Maura Koehler-Hanlon On April - 24 - 2014
Maura Koehler-Hanlon

Maura Koehler-Hanlon

The following is an article originally posted on VolunteerMatch, written by vice president of Client Services Maura Koehler-Hanlon, in which she describes how she recently challenged the existing system of employee volunteer programs, and argued for an overhaul of the field. Visit VolunteerMatch for more articles about volunteering and corporate social responsibility.

Earlier this month I hit the road with Vicky Hush, VolunteerMatch’s VP of Engagement & Strategic Partnerships. We headed up to Portland to present to Hands On Greater Portland’s Corporate Volunteer Council to share our expertise with employee volunteer managers about how to keep your employee volunteer program (EVP) fresh and exciting. Leading up to the presentation, we had a tough internal conversation which amounted to this: how controversial did we want to be? What would happen if we just came out and said that we think EVPs should be doing more? We decided to go for it – those Portlanders are a tough bunch with all that fresh air! And it worked: when we asked the room of EVP managers “how many of you feel like your employee volunteer program is as strong as it can be?” we (not surprisingly) didn’t see a single hand. Read the rest of this entry »

Funding Arts Education One Vans Custom Culture Sneaker at a Time

Posted by Jessica Wilt On April - 11 - 2014
Jessica Wilt

Jessica Wilt

I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Vans Custom Culture Brand Marketing Manager Scott Byrer on a cold day in New York City to enthusiastically talk about the exciting ways Vans Custom Culture supports arts education in addition to the company’s thriving partnership with Americans for the Arts.  I loved the excitement in which Scott spoke about his passion for arts education.  Here is an excerpt of our conversation.

JW: I’d like to know more about the history of Vans and how the founders were inspired to launch a sneaker company.

SB: Vans was founded in 1966 by Paul and James Van Doren, Serge Delia and Gordon Lee. The company started small, with one store originally selling shoes directly to the public. In those days, customers were able to walk into a store and select their own custom shoe colors! This originality and creativity has remained an integral part of the Vans brand DNA to this day. The company grew quickly, being the first shoe brand to create a product specifically for skateboarding and as such, we’re known today as the original action sports footwear and apparel company, with collections including authentic footwear, apparel, accessories and snowboard boots that are sold globally in more than 170 countries. If you’re curious to see a visual story about the history of Vans, you can check out a video our production team created on our Off the Wall TV site.

4th Annual VANS Custom Culture, Hosted at THE WHITNEYJW: Can you tell me a little about how Van Custom Culture decided to start supporting high school arts education programs throughout the U.S.?

SB: Vans Custom Culture began as a much smaller project lead by a high school art teacher in Colorado, Franky Scaglione, and his best friend, Shawn Gruenhagen, who is a sales rep for Vans. The competition was originally held between classmates at Wheat Ridge High School in Denver who customized blank Vans shoes that Shawn brought them. It morphed into a larger, national high school art competition once Shawn brought the idea back to the Vans marketing team at our headquarters in Southern California. Using Franky and Shawn’s original concept of a competition around custom shoes, we launched the first national edition of Custom Culture in 2010. The goals of the program were the same then as they are now.  First, give high school students a chance to express themselves creatively. Second, put some much needed funds back into the hands of high school art programs. Third, create a platform to raise awareness for the importance of art education in our schools.

JW: And to think the inspiration came from an art teacher – I love that story! How does the competition work today?

SB: The competition structure is fairly simple. The first 2,000 U.S. based public or private high schools to register for Custom Culture receive four pairs of Vans shoes (106, Sk8-Hi, Slip On and Authentic) to customize completely free of charge. Each pair is then customized by students to represent one of four themes: Action Sports, Music, Art, and Local Flavor. Photo submissions are made online via the Vans Custom Culture website (Due April 7, 2014) after which an internal selection and external public vote whittles the entries down to a group of five finalists who travel to New York City for the Final Event. At this event, a panel of judges selects a grand prize winning school, which receives a $50,000 prize donation to its art program. Each of the four runners up also receive donations, along with two additional $10,000 donations awarded on behalf of our program partners, Journeys and truth, to two other finalist schools.

JW: How has your partnership with Americans for the Arts enhanced this Vans Custom Culture arts education funding program?

SB: Americans for the Arts established itself long ago as a leader in the effort to drive awareness for the importance of the arts and particularly art education in our schools. Since we began Custom Culture with the goal of raising awareness for the importance of art education, we knew that guidance from experts was necessary, leading us to partner with AFTA nearly two years ago. Their guidance has a allowed us to make an even greater impact via a $50,000 donation that AFTA then distributes amongst high schools via grants. Additionally, AFTA uses part of this donation to create educational materials distributed to various schools and community organizations.Vans Custom Culture Contest Final Event

JW: How does technology play a role in the work you do as well as how your colleagues at Vans collaborate?

SB: Technology is vital to nearly everything we do at Vans, from design to production to distribution and marketing. For Custom Culture in particular, members of a large cross functional team from various departments devote their time and energy to plan and execute this huge competition yearly, each of them relying on tech in one capacity or another. For instance, our in-house video production team uses state of the art technology to shoot, edit and produce video content that tells the story of Custom Culture. These videos are uploaded and shared to multiple interactive platforms online which are created and maintained by a team of web developers and interactive/digital managers that literally build our sites and social presences from scratch. Another great example is our visual team, who’s tasked with creating an incredible experience for students at our final event in June. This experience is planned via sophisticated 3D models which allow our team to visually transform the interior of our venue and throw an amazing party that the students remember forever. Lastly, our footwear design team works directly with the winning school’s students to take their shoe design and turn it into an actual production model that is then sold in Vans retail stores and online. Our entire employee base, regardless of whether or not they work on Custom Culture, is tasked with thinking creatively and many of us have an art education background or were inspired by an art teacher or class at some point. Custom Culture is meant to be a way for us to give that experience to students who may not be able to experience quality art education themselves.

JW: How does this work environment translate into inspiring young people to explore creative careers?

SB: Our work environment is incredibly creative. The mantra we live by daily at Vans is “Off The Wall” which directly translates to thinking and living creatively. Through programs like Custom Culture, we try to expose young people to the fact that creative careers exist and one need only look as far as the halls of Vans HQ to prove that.

JW: What’s your favorite pair of Vans shoes that you own?

SB: I’ve been wearing Authentics and Old Skools for years. There’s no substitute for a pair of original canvas Authentics!