Sunday, January 28, 2007

Business and the Arts

Service Relationship Indicators

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Executive Summary

The Saskatchewan Arts Alliance (SAA) is a non-profit coalition of arts organizations, which provides a collective voice for the arts in Saskatchewan. The SAA works to strengthen, support and advance the arts through advocacy and policy development. In working towards its mandate, the SAA determined a study into the service relationship between the business community and arts community would be timely. “Service relationship” is defined as the monetary and non-monetary relationship between the two sectors; specifically, what services each sector provides to the other and how each sector enhances the other. Examples might include the arts providing business with an opportunity to reach a new client base, and the business community providing marketing advice to an arts organization.

In March 2004, Saskatoon consulting firm, Terry Schwalm & Associates, was contracted to undertake the research. The intent is for the study to provide a plan for promotion of the arts to business. Specific responsibilities of the project include:

 

  • Research and identification of the service relationship between arts and business;
  • Identification of factors that encourage or discourage support between arts and business;
  • Development of strategies and support materials designed to improve the Saskatchewan business community’s valuing, understanding and supporting of the arts;
  • Identification of successful practices, national and provincial, that develop mutual recognition, valuing and support of arts and business; and
  • Consultation with SAA membership, stakeholders and business community.

 

The SAA Business and the Arts Committee agreed the study should focus primarily on small and medium sized businesses in the province. The scope of work would entail: research into successful practices in other jurisdictions; approximately 30 telephone interviews with business, arts organizations and other stakeholders; and development of strategies and support materials which would strengthen the relationship between the two sectors.
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Many research and discussion papers have been written on the value of the arts and a number were reviewed during this phase of the study. Research suggests urban and rural communities across North America are starting to discuss the various roles the arts play in our societies:

  • Research points to a number of centers that are focusing on artistic and cultural activity as a means to revitalization, and bringing social and economic activity to the heart of their community.
  • The arts contribute to a ‘sense of place’ and social cohesion. Artistic products and activities help to define a community, and the arts bring diverse cultures together, promoting cultural understanding and respect.
  • Arts projects can help to address social and health issues. Arts projects contribute to healthier lifestyles through participation and experience. They enhance self esteem, create a sense of belonging, reduce stress, boost personal motivation, and reduce a sense of isolation.
  • The arts are a significant economic generator. Although a thorough cost/benefit analysis has not been conducted on this issue, artistic product and activity provides meaningful employment for artists, cultural workers and their suppliers, and the money earned by these segments often stays within the community. Studies also show that cultural tourism is on the rise across Canada and the arts community can play a significant role in developing cultural product. As well, it has been noted that extensive cultural and arts activity is a factor in creating a positive business environment.

Key Findings
During conversations with individuals associated with Arts Stabilization efforts, the Council for Business and the Arts in Canada, other stakeholders and businesses - a very key statement was repeated. Business support - whether monetary or non-monetary - continues to be about relationships and relationship building. The saying ‘people give to people’ continues to ring true.

It is clear from the research that businesses value the arts in our province, but many feel they are not perceived to do so by the arts community. When talking about the various service relationships between the two sectors there are some differences of opinion between the two communities, but generally the sentiments are positive.

There are examples of successful efforts to bring the business and arts communities together across Canada, primarily in the form of local Mayor’s Awards for Business and the Arts Luncheons. These events celebrate and recognize the partnerships that have been created between the two sectors, and they have a positive impact for both segments. Other initiatives include Downtown Business Associations’ promotion of arts activity, and joint efforts to put art in public places.

Businesses are generally positive when commenting on the various ways the arts serve business and the community at large, but it is unclear if arts organizations fully understand business’ support for these services. In terms of non-monetary support, every business interviewed provides some kind of support to the arts, and there is an opportunity for both sectors to think about more alternative and creative ways support could be provided (e.g. business providing support, such as equipment or labor, that will reduce expenditures within arts organizations or arts organizations helping to expand a business’ image in the community).

According to business, benefits to the community at large and the return on investment (ROI) for business are the key factors that will encourage business support. Arts organizations also recognize the importance of ROI and recognition of the business’ support, and the importance of community impact. Key factors that discourage support, from a business perspective, are lack of ROI and politically charged or controversial arts. Arts organizations agree that controversial art is a challenge for business, but also cite misconceptions about the arts and the overwhelming number of requests business receives (from all sectors) to be discouraging elements.

The key messages business wants to hear from the arts community when approached for support is “here is how this activity will benefit our community”. This is followed closely by the benefits the business will derive and recognition they will receive. Arts organizations, generally, deliver these messages.

In terms of the steps arts organizations should take to approach business, there is no clear preferred method. Each situation and approach is unique, and must be tailored to the two parties.

Arts organizations are split in terms of their views on resources and effort expended versus support received, although not in a negative way. Half say efforts have been very successful and the other half says efforts have been reasonable.

To strengthen the relationship between business and the arts, business feels more ongoing communication between the two sectors is needed. A number recommend arts organizations work through business and tourism associations, and the media. They also say one-on-one approaches and personal connections are important. Arts organizations want to organize events where they can invite business to see and experience “the business of art”, as well as exchange information and views on developing a mutually beneficial relationship.

Although business feels more dialogue is important, they feel it is up to the arts community to spearhead this initiative. Arts organizations feel business can help by encouraging employees to support the arts.

Demographics for both sectors vary widely and a good mix of size and focus for businesses and arts organizations, across the province, is included in the study.

Recommendations
In the consultant’s view, the importance of developing relationships at the individual level is the single most critical factor in strengthening ties between the business and arts sectors. There are no magic strategies that will succeed without this being front of mind at all times. Recommendations detailed in the final section of the report include:

  • The SAA should promote the importance of one-on-one relationship building as a focus for all arts organizations, individually within the arts organization and collectively as a community.
  • The SAA should develop a series of information “one sheets” on specific linkages the arts have to various areas (e.g. education, tourism, health, social cohesion, community revitalizations, economic impact) using real life outcomes and testimonials from the arts community. These information sheets should be updated periodically to keep the ‘evidence’ fresh.
  • Once complete, the “one sheets” should be distributed to all organizations with encouragement to use the information, as appropriate, when talking to business (i.e. matching the information provided to the company’s interest area); and to wherever possible, implant local examples along the same themes.
  • Membership-based arts organizations should (when appropriate) start referring to themselves as ‘community groups’ versus ‘non-profit groups’.
  • The SAA should develop a membership category for business within the SAA.
  • The SAA should distribute this report widely and should charge a reasonable fee for it (and others in the future) to individuals outside of the SAA membership.
  • SAA should develop a process to start nominating Saskatchewan companies for national awards in Business and the Arts.
  • The SAA should consider the development of a process to poll SAA membership on important issues of the day in a timely manner, and offer this service to business.
  • The SAA should connect with awards programs already taking place in the province to pursue the inclusion of SAA sponsored awards to businesses that are supportive of the arts.
  • The SAA should contract an in-depth study to substantiate the indicators in this report and determine business’ interest in the long-term strategy below. The SAA should approach organizations that represent business and would benefit from research results, to share in the costs of the research.

These recommendations lead up to the single strategy in this report. In order for this strategy to go forward three steps are necessary:

  1. Identify business leaders within arts organizations.
  2. Research affiliations with Saskatchewan amongst businesses located outside of the province who are involved in existing Business and the Arts awards.
  3. Organize meetings with key leaders of business organizations to discuss the value of forming Business and the Arts Development Committees in strategic locations around the province, and various initiatives to advance and strength the relationship between business and the arts.

Strategy:
Pursue the creation of Business and the Arts Development Committees in strategically located centers around the province, the purpose of which would be to create local initiatives to advance and strengthen the relationship between the business community and arts community.

A better understanding of the symbiosis between the business and arts sector is of benefit to both sectors. There is much room for improvement in each sector’s understanding of the other, and how each sector can help the other further their focus and mandates. Working towards mutually beneficial partnerships will create a win-win situation for business and the arts communities, as well as the people of Saskatchewan.

© For permission to reprint this article please contact the SAA info@artsalliance.sk.ca

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