Chad Barger

Just like most small to medium-sized metro areas around the country, Harrisburg, PA has not always fully capitalized on the power of its local arts scene. About eighteen months ago the Cultural Enrichment Fund (CEF), the region’s united arts fund, sought to change this.

When looking for a community partner, the organization first thought of the local chamber of commerce. As its name states, the Harrisburg Regional Chamber and Capital Region Economic Development Corporation is a blended organization—part chamber of commerce and part economic development corporation. Knowing this fact, CEF had high hopes that they would understand the power of the arts—especially regarding its workforce development benefits.

After an initial meeting it was clear that the chamber leadership did understand the value of the arts, but it was not from local advocacy efforts. They knew about the value of the arts from national conferences where topics such as Richard Florida’s book, The Rise of the Creative Class, had been discussed. From these sessions they fully understood that attracting and retaining high-quality talent, versus a singular focus on infrastructure projects such as sports stadiums, iconic buildings, and shopping centers, is a better use of a city’s resources to spur long-term prosperity.

From this starting point it was easy for the Cultural Enrichment Fund staff to explain how the arts fit into that picture. Showing how the arts make Central Pennsylvania a better place in which to live, work, and play and explaining that a strong arts community is a key workforce development tool is something that they do every day.

The chamber executives were on board, but it was pretty clear that there was a disconnect. While it seemed that most business executives knew about the region’s thriving arts scene, it was not always being used as a tool for employee recruitment and retention by corporate human resources directors. So, CEF proposed partnering with the chamber to co-sponsor an Arts Impact Committee aimed at addressing this disconnect and the chamber quickly signed on. Read the rest of this entry »

Suzan E. Jenkins

After several years of trying, I was happy to finally snag a meeting with the Montgomery County (Maryland) Chamber of Commerce to make a presentation called Innovative Ways to Attract/Retain Top Talent: Innovative Arts & Humanities Community Strategies. How did I do it? Sheer perseverance!!

Why did it take me nearly two years to convince the president and CEO of the chamber of commerce that arts-centric businesses play an important role in building and sustaining economic vibrancy?

Because like many corporate professionals, she was skeptical that we could demonstrate that partnering with our sector can build market share; heighten awareness of member company products and services; attract employees; increase job satisfaction; and, enhance relationships with existing and new customers.

Like so many of her peers, she was unaware of that arts-centric businesses spend money locally, attract talented young professionals, generate government revenue at a high rate of return, and serve as a cornerstone of tourism and economic development

So I kept at it. And finally, she shared that her members’ most pressing concern was employee retention. She asked whether the arts and humanities community could offer strategies that would help corporate employers attract and retain top talent. Read the rest of this entry »

John Bryan

John Bryan

#1 Richmond has an enviable business community as evidenced by its being one of only 11 cities to be headquarters to more than five Fortune 500 companies and one of only 12 cities to have a Federal Reserve Bank.

#2 Richmond’s arts/culture community is likewise enviable as evidenced by its emergence from the recession with all of its major arts and culture organizations thriving: symphony, opera, ballet, theatre, art museum, science museum, history museum, children’s museum, botanical garden, and many dozens more.

#3 Richmond has a slew of enviable national creative superlatives such as being home to the #1 marketing company (Martin Agency – think Geico gekko), #1 public art university (VCU), #1 university advertising program (VCU Adcenter), and forthcoming building designed by the #1 architect (Steven Holl).

Those three sentences have resulted in a three-year Greater Richmond Chamber-led initiative entitled i.e.* – a grand partnership that spotlights and energizes creativity and innovation for three purposes: enable the business community to leverage the creative community in accomplishing real business objectives; provide expanded audiences for the creative community; and foster new relationships and partnerships.

Richmond’s local arts agency—CultureWorks—is one of the active partners with the Chamber’s i.e.* initiative and three current projects demonstrate the partnership’s value. Read the rest of this entry »

Robb Hankins

In downtown Canton, OH, through an ongoing partnership with the Canton Regional Chamber of Commerce (and its Special Improvement District), we’ve spent the last five years creating the Canton Arts District.

The results have been totally amazing and changed everyone’s thinking about this downtown coming back.

In 2005, we started with three strategies: live music, galleries/artist studios, and public art. We had only one art gallery—-and not a single artist studio.

Today, the Canton Arts District has 26 galleries and studios.

The first art studios opened when local developer Mike King bought an old building down on 4th Street NW, deciding to convert it into Studio 5. It would have five artist studios downstairs and five independent artist apartments upstairs. ArtsinStark partnered with King on spreading the word and providing a small rent subsidy for the first year.

By the time Studio 5 opened every unit was rented out and there were eight artists on the list hoping for another building. Here’s a video of how Studio 5 looked when it was just opening

As the Canton Arts District began to take shape we needed a way to let people know, so we decided to host a monthly party—-First Friday. Read the rest of this entry »

Enhancing Communities Through the Arts

Posted by Emily Peck On May - 4 - 2011

Sunoco volunteers helped paint three panels of a 42-panel mural as part of Philadelphia’s “This We Believe” city-wide mural project.

If I had to come up with a theme for the month of April, it would be the role of the arts in enhancing communities.

I spent time in Washington, DC, at our National Arts Advocacy Day on April 4-5, and then followed that with a trip to Philadelphia to attend the Council on Foundations annual conference and the U.S. Chamber’s Corporate Community Investment conference.

At all three of these events, arts and business leaders spoke about the important role the arts play in building strong and vibrant communities which leads to numerous benefits including attracting and retaining a strong workforce and enhanced civic engagement.  Read the rest of this entry »