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2011 BCA Awardee, Aetna, Promotes Creativity in the Workforce

Posted by Mariama Holman
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2011 BCA Awardee, Aetna, Promotes Creativity in the Workforce

From music to dance, fine arts to performing arts, Aetna believes that the Arts can enhance one’s personal wellbeing, revitalize a community and create a world that bridges cultures and differences.

 

The company sees creativity in the workplace as essential to problem-solving and innovation, citing research from Psychology Today that indicates that creativity is the number one strategic priority for organizations and the world, at large.

 

Floyd W. Green III, Vice President and head of Community Relations and Marketing at Aetna says that, “Supporting the arts and people with an artistic background and passion aligns with Aetna’s goal of creating a talented, diverse workforce that can help this company thrive in the future. We are consistently striving to create unique new ideas that can help our business. At the core, art and innovation are incredibly similar and connected. In order to be a leader, we need to think creatively.”

 

For this reason, Aetna partnered with the Greater Hartford Arts Council to foster teamwork and creativity within employees by giving their workers a chance to create a work of art. The program, called Work of Art, gave Aetna employees a chance to work together on a painting that was assembled from small canvasses into one large painting, which would be displayed at the company’s headquarters.

 

Local artist, Nina Salazar worked alongside the Arts Council to help facilitate the project for employees – engaging workers to be creative and discover their artistic side.

 

Employees at first were excited, but hesitant, given they did not see themselves as artists, however by the end of the project, workers were inspired by their collective work and creative potential, becoming completely engrossed in the activity.

The work Aetna does with its employees is mirrored within the community. Aetna focuses on initiatives that explore the spirit of hope, health and diversity through the arts.

 

Historically headquartered in Hartford, CT, Aetna has directed more than 70 percent of its arts funding toward Connecticut cultural institutions, supporting 257 programs, events, and activities. Aetna is one of the founding funders of the Greater Hartford Arts Council (GHAC), having been a leader and core supporter since GHAC was established in 1971. Since 2006, Aetna has contributed more than $4.9 million to arts programs nationwide, sponsoring dozens of major exhibitions and performances.

 

Aetna also lends significant leadership to arts organizations’ programming and fundraising efforts. It was among the first to host a workplace giving campaign in 1995 and to enter the "$100,000 Club,” a special designation given to companies whose employees raise more than $100,000 a year for the Arts. Aetna’s workplace giving has raised $1,220,156. As for volunteer work, Aetna employees have logged more than 2.3 million volunteer hours since 2003.

 

Aetna is also a recipient of the 2016 BCA 10 Hall of Fame Award.

 

Photo: A message on the Apollo Theater’s marquee, thanking Aetna for sponsoring Apollo Theater’s Family Day. Image sourced from Aetna.

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Aetna Inc.’s Glowing Remarks at the 2016 BCA Gala: A Healthy Outlook on the Arts from a Health Care Leader

Posted by Jessica Gaines
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On October 5, 2016, Aetna Inc., leading health care company, received the 2016 BCA Hall of Fame award.  Aetna’s Vice President of Community Relations and Urban Marketing, Floyd Green, accepted the award on the company’s behalf at the BCA 10 gala at the Central Park Boathouse in New York City.

 

Floyd’s dynamic speech (video below) attributed the arts to so many necessaries of how we “live, work, and play”.  Touching on areas connected to mindfulness and creativity, Floyd acknowledged the artistic weave that arises in work, development, and production to spark innovation. 

 

As a 2011 BCA 10 honoree, it was very fitting that Floyd welcomed the other honorees in the room to the “family”. Watch Floyd Green’s acceptance speech below, and learn about how you can nominate a business that partners with the arts for the 2017 BCA 10. If you are a business leader or community leader who wants to share or learn more about partnerships that benefit both the business and arts community, please contact us.  We want to hear from you.

 

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The Artistic Star of Starwood Capital

Posted by Chris Zheng
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What kind of mind is needed to create and manage a multi-billion dollar real estate, hotel, and debt empire like Starwood Capital Group? A creative one.

 

Founder, chairman, and CEO Barry Sternlicht is not only a defining member of the international business community, but also an inspired artistic force, deliberately incorporating a visual vocabulary in each corporate endeavor.

 

Richard LeFrak, the chairman and CEO of LeFrak, which has conducted several deals with Starwood, described Sternlicht’s unique creative focus: “we would go into the building, and I wanted to talk about the elevators—he wanted to talk about the palm trees. But he’s a very visual person. That’s what jumps out at him.”

 

Dissecting complex commercial agreements through creative means and designs puts Sternlicht in a league of his own. This methodology is a driving force in the risks that Starwood is known for taking, carefully navigating a volatile economic landscape. In a discussion with Rusty Gregory, the chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Mammoth Resorts, during an acquisition meeting over the ski resort, Sternlicht pulled out a pad and began to draw hotel designs. “He put hotels on the base [of the mountain] with notations- the number of hotel rooms. Then there were the associated amenities, the spa, the restaurant,” said Gregory. “I’ve been in business a long time—I’ve never seen anyone express it like this. In a very organic way. More like a designer would do it.”

 

Indeed, in each facet of business, Sternlicht acts as a designer, whether that means drawing ideas on paper to use in negotiations or critiquing landscaping designs for his newest hotel. Additionally, his artistic business acumen reaches beyond real estate. As a sitting member of Americans for the Arts’ Business Committee for the Arts Executive Board, he is critical to managing key initiatives in promoting strategic partnerships between the arts and the private sector community. 

 

Sternlicht embraces this responsibility wholeheartedly: “I’m an artist by nature—I love to paint and draw and sculpt. Last count, I think I was one of two businessmen inducted into the Interior Design Hall of Fame. I’ve won a lot of awards, but that one’s my favorite one.”

Barry Sternlicht is the engine behind the capital giant Starwood and his vehicle of choice in business is creativity.

 

Photo: Barry Sternlicht inside of his Greenwich, CT. Photo by Yvonne Albinowski for Commercial Observer.

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Lincoln Financial Group Leads 2014 United Arts Campaign in Hartford

Posted by Tim Yergeau
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The Greater Hartford Arts Council is proud to announce that Lincoln Financial Group will chair the 2014 United Arts Campaign, reflecting the company’s unwavering dedication to the arts and cultural community in Central Connecticut. Lincoln Financial has been a steadfast supporter of United Arts through generous foundation support, employee engagement and a strong example of local corporate citizenship.

 

Laura Dambier, site leader for Lincoln’s Hartford operations and Senior Vice President of Partner Solutions for Life, Claims & Distribution, will chair a Campaign Cabinet of community and business leaders to ensure the success of the 2014 campaign.

 

"Lincoln has a proud history of giving generously of our time and our resources to the communities in which we live and work,” said Dambier. “The arts enrich our lives in so many different ways, which is why it’s our honor and privilege to chair the 2014 Greater Hartford Arts Council Campaign. We are extremely excited to lead this year’s campaign and partner with other organizations so the arts can continue to thrive locally."

 

Running from February to June, the Arts Council’s United Arts Campaign is a community-wide fundraising effort that joins together corporate contributions, government and foundation funding and individual donations to support more than 150 local arts and heritage organizations across Greater Hartford.

 

United Arts is critical to the health and vitality of the region’s cultural assets. Each year the Arts Council invests more than $1.7 million in operating and project-specific grants, provides a range of programs and critical services to local arts organizations and artists, and promotes the power of art through community outreach, public art, advocacy and arts education.

 

“Lincoln Financial Group is a tremendous supporter of the arts,” said Cathy Malloy, Chief Executive Officer of the Arts Council. “We are extremely grateful for the company’s leadership—and the incredible commitment of Lincoln Financial employees—as we work to uphold a strong, vibrant cultural community today and into the future.

 

The United Arts Campaign Chair acts as an important link between business and the arts, encouraging corporate leaders to invest in the local cultural community. The 2013 United Arts Campaign, chaired by United Technologies, raised $2.6 million.

 

Lincoln Financial Group holds an exemplary record of supporting the arts in Connecticut’s Capital City. Each year, Lincoln’s Hartford office hosts a United Arts workplace giving campaign to encourage employees to share their individual artistic talents and exercise their creativity; last year’s employee effort raised more than $20,000. The Lincoln Financial Sculpture Walk—a series of sculptures and installations along the Connecticut River that celebrate the life and legacy of Abraham Lincoln—was dedicated in 2008 and remains a key component of the city’s public art collection. Lincoln employees also proudly serve on the boards of the Greater Hartford Arts Council, The Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, Wadsworth Atheneum, TheaterWorks and Riverfront Recapture, in addition to numerous other non-profit boards.

 

Arts and cultural funding is one of the significant priorities of the Lincoln Financial Foundation. As a portion of more than $800,000 in charitable funds awarded locally by Lincoln Financial Foundation in 2013, $182,000 in grants were provided to cultural programs at Artists Collective, the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, Charter Oak Cultural Center, Hartford Stage, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra, Riverfront Recapture and the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art. The Lincoln Financial Foundation has been a longtime supporter of Neighborhood Studios, the Arts Council’s nationally acclaimed summer apprenticeship program, which provides area teens with world-class arts instruction and career skills training suited to today’s workforce.

 

For more information on the United Arts Campaign, visit www.LetsGoArts.org/UnitedArts.

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United Arts Funding: Why It Matters

Posted by Jordan Lohf
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Have you ever wanted to give to the arts institutions in your community, but were concerned about oversight and accountability? Or, maybe you see the potential in the arts as an economic driver for your area, but don’t know how to create the most possible impact. Supporting or starting a United Arts Fund (UAF) may be the solution you were looking for. 

 

UAFs are nonprofit organizations that raise local money for the arts in a combined effort for three or more cultural institutions. Primarily, UAFs are created by business leaders that want to see a strong arts community in their area, but want to ensure their support is utilized to create the largest impact possible. Today, allocations of UAF funds are increasingly more open to the diversity of the community, requiring member organizations to reflect the differences and needs of the whole community through project grants, capital grants, capacity building grants and neighborhood and community grants. Community planning is also becoming a large driver in funding and allocation decisions.

 

The Greater Hartford United Arts Fund, a member of the Americans for the Arts Private Sector Network, is a great example of how a UAF can help vital arts organizations “live and breathe,” as one arts leader put it. By providing general operating support, programming grants, and educating the community about the different area arts organizations and what they have to offer, the Greater Hartford United Arts Fund is strengthening the arts community and the greater Hartford area as a whole.

 

Click the video below to view images and testimonials of the art and organizations Greater Harford United Arts Fund is supporting in its efforts to maintain and bolster the local arts community.

 

For more information on UAF chapters in your community, contact Valerie Beaman, Private Sector Initiatives Coordinator, at vbeaman@artsusa.org.

 

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A Utility Player Comes Through

Posted by Tim Yergeau
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A Utility Player Comes Through

Mayor Pedro Segarra and the Northeast Utilities video team getting ready to film.

 

The arts and corporate communities have an interesting, long-standing relationship—especially here in Hartford. In fact, the Greater Hartford Arts Council owes its very existence to the corporate community.

 

Back in 1971, businesses got together and encouraged the creation of one fundraising and grantmaking entity to support the arts and cultural organizations in Hartford that were growing at an astonishing pace—and, understandably, had increased their need for donations and institutional support. Since then, a somewhat amusing relationship has formed between the arts and business: companies like strong arts organizations—they attract workers, give the neighborhood a rich, vibrant flavor and provide opportunities for positive stewardship.

 

The arts, too, rely on business for more than just philanthropy: the wealth of resources in the corporate world, from providing pro bono services and building connections with local leaders and everyday employees, businesses have much to offer the arts.

Yet we all seem to get hung up on the almighty dollar.

 

Trust me, it’s something we talk about every day. Probably multiple times a day. How much is this company willing to give? Who can we get to sponsor this event? How many employees do they have—and, how successful will the employee giving drive turn out to be?

 

The unfortunate reality of an unforgiving fundraising climate is that we sometimes miss the forest beyond the trees.

 

Businesses have a lot more to offer than financial support, so we need to make sure we take advantage of every resource. As marketing, fundraising, and community outreach professionals, we must always be looking for new opportunities to help the arts—even if there’s no dollar sign attached.

 

A lesson beyond the bottom line.

I learned (well, re-learned) this lesson the good way the other day. We’ve been having conversations with Northeast Utilities (NU) about their annual workplace giving campaign, and suddenly they struck upon an ingenious idea: wouldn’t it be great if the arts council had a compelling, well-produced video appeal to use for the 2012 United Arts Campaign? And, what if it featured Mayor Pedro Segarra, this year’s campaign chair? Is that something NU could offer?

 

The answer was yes to all of the above.

 

Obviously I loved the idea. The professional video and editing services at Northeast Utilities go way, way (way, way, way) beyond what I could afford to pay. So sure, they’re not cutting us a check. But, their pro bono, in-kind support will give us a valuable fundraising and community relations tool that we wouldn’t have been able to create on our own. Plus, it reminds the community of all of the good work our corporate partners do for nonprofits—a win-win for both of us.

 

Meaghan, one of our workplace giving associates, joined me at City Hall to meet the team from NU to film the Mayor’s address. While we don’t have the final cut yet, I can tell you from seeing the first edit that this is going to be a great video. What I can do is post a few of my (in)famous blurry cell phone picks for a ‘behind the scenes’ video set-up of the Mayor and the NU tech team in action (see above).

 

This was a great, eye-opening (or eye-re-opening) experience about what businesses can contribute beyond the bottom line.

 

I was talking to another staff member today—Laura, also from the workplace giving team—about Americans for the Arts’ pARTnership movement, an evolving campaign that aims to build better, mutually beneficial relationships between arts organizations and the business community.

 

This story would be right up their alley…

 

Special thanks to Laura, Jon and Mark from Northeast Utilities, and everyone in the Mayor’s office for making this project a reality.

 

(Editor’s Note: This post original appeared on the Greater Hartford Arts Council Blog on May 10, 2012 and was re-posted on ARTSblog.)

Tap into the Region's Culture of Creativity

Posted by Emily Peck
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Tap into the Region's Culture of Creativity

Anthony Cronin, Business Editor for The Day newspaper in Eastern Connecticut knows that the arts are important to the economy and businesses of the region.  In a column in the Day's business section, Cronin writes about many of the benefits arts bring to business.  He says, "Having a vibrant arts culture is essential for a region's quality of life. For business, it's an important tool for recruiting, and for keeping, the best and the brightest.  Major employers in this region can point to a symphony, a regional arts center, regional community theater and museums like the Florence Griswold and Lyman Allyn, and the many galleries." 

 

He adds, " And you can't mention the arts scene in this region without mentioning the impressive business support. Look at a local playbill and you'll find numerous businesses, large and small, from big utilities to local law firms, which are longtime supporters of the arts.  That relationship between business and the arts is essential to preserving the quality of life that many of us have come to expect, and enjoy, here in southeastern Connecticut."

 

Read more about Eastern Connecticut's Culture of Creativity.

 

*Photo courtesy of alexdecarvalho.

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