Arts and business news from around the country.


What's so important about creativity?

Posted by Emily Peck
What's so important about creativity?

We might work in the arts field, but our day-to-day work looks like any other business. We stare at Excel charts, spend hours on conference calls, write reports, and try to find the bottom of our never-ending email inboxes. Like every other industry, our work only succeeds if we are creative and innovative, if we try new things and look at old problems in new ways. As arts administrators, we are well versed in the role the arts can play in bringing creativity to the workforce—but we don’t always put this into practice.

However, this summer, we reminded ourselves of the importance of the arts and creativity to our daily work. Our inaugural Johnson Fellow, artist Tanya Aguiñiga, led Americans for the Arts’ New York office through a collaborative felting project. As a group, we explored the creative person that is inside of all of us and doesn’t always get a chance to escape at work. We had the opportunity to collaborate on a design process and experiment with new ideas and techniques. The project took us out of our usual way of working and collaborating, and it made us think about things in new ways. And, in the end, we created a piece of art that represented each of us individually and as a group.


No matter what industry you work in, Americans are seeing the value of creativity in their jobs. From our recent public opinion poll, Americans Speak Out About the Arts in 2018, 55% of employed Americans agree that their job requires them to be creative. And an even larger percentage, 60%, believe that the more creative and innovative they are at their job, the more successful they are in the workplace.


And how are they finding their inner creative spark? For many businesses, the answer lies in partnering with the arts. Our recently released Business Contributions to the Arts 2018 Survey, conducted in partnership with The Conference Board, asked business leaders if the arts contribute to stimulating creative thinking and problem solving—and 53% of them agreed that it does.


These trends align with the report Ready to Innovate, conducted ten years ago by The Conference Board, that explored the role of the arts in building creativity in the workforce. The report, aimed at business leaders, concludes, “The arts—music, creative writing, drawing, dance—provide skills sought by employers of the third millennium.”

When asked about their current challenges, CEOs interviewed by The Conference Board talked about the importance of creativity and innovation. Less than 10% are extremely satisfied with their organization’s ability to innovate. These CEOs also said that as part of their long-term vision, the want to emphasize creativity and innovation as a part of their corporate values.


That might sound a little grim—but there are great examples across the country of businesses engaging with artists and arts organizations to bring creativity into their workplace.


At Milliken, employees are surrounded by art throughout their campus and in their day-to-day work. They even integrate art into their training sessions and encourage artistic endeavors through an employee band. CEO Joe Salley reports, “Innovation, art, and design are the heart of our corporation, and are inherent in our training. The arts open our minds to the seemingly impossible and help us think with fresh perspectives, which is what our nearly 7,000 associates worldwide do every day to bring the Milliken spirit of innovation to life.”


Hallmark’s #my5days program offers five work days per year for creative employees to renew, explore, learn, and think differently about the world and work around them by participating in their creative pursuits. According to CEO Don Hall, “As a creatively based company, Hallmark sees the arts as a source of renewal and inspiration for our employees and our business.”


Like our own experience, like that of Hallmark and Milliken, businesses and their employees are valuing creativity and innovation more and more as an integral part of their work experience to inspire new ideas and new ways of working that impact the bottom line. We want to provide the data and best practices to inspire even more businesses to engage with the arts.


Photo: Staff in the New York office making art with Tanya Aguiñiga


This blog originally appeared on ArtsBlog


Businesses Are Looking Towards the Arts for Employee Engagement & Creativity, According to New Survey by The Conference Board & Americans for the Arts

Posted by Emily Peck

Only 28 percent of companies attempted to measure the business or societal impact of arts contributions


Friday, June 30, 2017


NEW YORK, NY — As employee engagement becomes a priority for companies, many of them are turning to the arts in an effort to fuel attraction and retention, according to Business Contributions to the Arts: 2017 Edition, published by The Conference Board and Americans for the Arts. Nearly 70 percent of companies surveyed responded that they offered board service opportunities at arts organizations for their employees, while 65 percent offered volunteer activities and 63 percent provided free or discounted tickets to arts events. However, measuring the business or societal impact of arts contributions continues to challenge most companies and their partners, as only 28 percent of businesses reported making an effort to measure these impacts.


“Engaged, creative employees who are encouraged to think in new, innovative ways are more likely to be productive and active in improving both the company and their own business skills,” said Robert L. Lynch, president and CEO of Americans for the Arts. “The arts build empathy, observation, and problem-identification and problem-solving skills, which translates to better customer service and a deeper understanding of the constituency.”


“Impact measurement has become increasingly important to the corporate philanthropy sector in recent years,” said Jonathan Spector, CEO, The Conference Board. “Our data shows, however, that measurement within the arts world has not advanced as successfully as other social causes. The benefits are clear, but companies and their arts partners need to become more sophisticated at demonstrating this in a business context.” 


Companies consider the arts to be important in building quality of life, stimulating creative thinking and problem solving, and offering networking opportunities and the potential to develop new business and build market share. As a result, arts organizations enjoyed a positive three years between 2013-2016 in terms of contributions from businesses, with the vast majority of companies either maintaining or increasing their arts support. 


The majority of arts contributions comes from philanthropy budgets—either foundations or corporate giving accounts. Ninety percent of companies reported giving to the arts through contributions budgets, but 41 percent of companies also supported the arts through marketing or sponsorship dollars, which can help to explain why there has not been a slowdown recently in overall contributions to the arts, as companies turn to the arts to support brand recognition and growth. 


Other findings from the report include:


  • More than half of respondents overall (53 percent) reported that arts support contributes to stimulating creative thinking and problem solving. Clearly, supporting the arts as a way to encourage creativity and innovation at companies is a growth area for arts and business partnerships.
  • Smaller companies demonstrated a greater interest in arts support than their larger counterparts. The percentage of arts giving in overall philanthropy budgets for small companies is approximately 20 percent higher than large companies.
  • Private sector funding could play an increasingly important role in getting resources to a sector that faces potential government cutbacks—the Trump Administration has threatened to cut the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). In interviews, companies expressed an intention to increase their support of the NEA should these public funding decreases happen. In such a situation, companies expressed their intention to support arts at a local level.


About Business Contributions to the Arts: 2017 Edition

Since 1969, Americans for the Arts, through the Business Committee for the Arts (BCA), has been conducting the BCA National Survey of Business Support for the Arts. The survey looks at trends in support for the arts from small, midsize, and large US businesses. For the first time since the initial BCA survey in 1969, Americans for the Arts has partnered with The Conference Board to conduct the online survey, building on previous findings to examine trends in business support and employee engagement for the arts. The survey draws on 125 responses from companies that participate in corporate philanthropy, employee engagement, volunteer programs, or sponsorships. The survey was conducted in the fall of 2016 and asked for information based on corporate practices existing at the time of the survey compilation. 


In addition to the quantitative survey, Americans for the Arts contracted with Shugoll Research to conduct qualitative research to understand businesses’ attitudes about arts philanthropy among current arts donors. A total of 15, 20-minute in-depth telephone interviews were conducted with philanthropic decision-makers at businesses that donate to the arts. The interviews took place between February 9, 2017 and February 24, 2017. The decision-makers were recruited from lists provided by the BCA. Quotes from these interviews are included throughout this report.


Americans for the Arts serves, advances, and leads the network of organizations and individuals who cultivate, promote, sustain, and support the arts in America. Founded in 1960, Americans for the Arts is the nation’s leading nonprofit organization for advancing the arts and arts education. Additional information is available at


The Conference Boardcreates and disseminates knowledge about management and the marketplace to help businesses strengthen their performance and better serve society. Working as a global, independent membership organization in the public interest, The Conference Board conducts research, convenes conferences, makes forecasts, assesses trends, publishes information and analysis, and brings executives together to learn from one another. Additional information is available at




The Conference Board

Jonathan Liu



Americans for the Arts 

Inga Vitols



Feeling Threatened by Creativity? Here's The Antidote

Posted by Jessica
Feeling Threatened by Creativity? Here's The Antidote

After reading the article “Most People are Secretly Threatened by Creativity”, I was depleted and infuriated. It was total nonsense; how can people be secretly threatened by creativity? Creativity is the backbone of most of my identity as well as nearly 100% of the people I have come to know in varying communities including arts administration, marketing, event and hospitality management, and performing arts - even my engineering-focused friends at my alma mater were open-minded, creative vessels.


So, what is with this idea that creativity is threatening?


The article extended this interesting conflicting gem:

IBM recently asked 1,500 executives which leadership characteristics they most desired in employees. The number one trait: You guessed it, creativity. But the same study noted that more than 50% of executives said they struggled with, and felt unprepared to recognize and embrace, creative solutions. Study after study shows that new ideas are chronically rejected at many companies, even businesses that say they want more innovation.


And then these two:

Research shows that many teachers define creativity as a skill that’s mainly associated with the arts—thereby downplaying the essential role that creativity plays in everything from math and science to argumentative writing and sports.


Teachers routinely label creative students as “disruptive,” treating outside-the-box thinking not as a strength but as a problem to be dealt with.


What stood out most? The notion that creativity’s ability to break paradigms is problematic.

Creative ideas break paradigms… People who are motivated to choose a correct solution demonstrate a clear negative (but unacknowledged) bias against creativity—even when they outwardly claim to love and cherish it.


Well, I’m not having it!


In a desperate move to find inspiration, I lunged deep into Fast Company’s list of the Most Creative People in Business in 2017 because, well, 1) I sit on a team of brilliant minds that promote the special intersection of arts and business (shout out to the Private Sector Initiatives team at Americans for the Arts), and 2) being under the influence of the pARTnership Movement, I just can’t ignore picture-perfect stories highlighting top business leaders who are conduits for creative and artistic influence.


I had to shake that article out of my mind.


And with that, I was able to consume12 Lessons From the 100 Most Creative People of 2017:


1. LEADERS FIND A WAY by using a corporate perch to address the foulest problems of modern society.



We love function. We also love style. We want both. Product enhancement majorly increases when artistic design helps rethink how something is used.



This is “augmented intelligence,” and it’s helping companies integrate creative technology into operations.



If your company is interested in having a political and social-conscious voice, get creative about how you share the message. Think public art like the Fearless Girl statue of Wall Street.




Think outside the box to discover remedies for helping your neighbor and others in your community.



Think outside the box and create new ways to tell stories and make connections for us lifelong learners. Sesame Workshop created a hijab-wearing Muppet to champion female literacy in Afghanistan.



Remaining creative and flexible can help you sail past your own limitations.



“Financial Technology” like digital payment platforms are also re-imagining standard business operations.



Utility power, that is. We’ve long seen utilities, energy companies, and environmental agencies rethink their business and improve efficiencies which helps generate revenue.


10. HEALTHY LIVING IS GETTING EASIER and moving people “from sick care to self-care” with wellness products, apps, and more.



With underrepresentation at top of mind, companies are discovering how to match match marginalized communities with companies. These connections make for more inclusive teams that push companies to be stronger and higher functioning.



Actually, this was the brightest, shiniest nugget of them all - need we say more?


It’s no secret that artists are infusing entertainment with social impact. And the human component of corporate advancements cannot be ignored as Facebook’s Vice President of Product sums it up best, “Feelings are universal.”


Photos: Donald Glover by Ioulex, Fearless Girl, Sesame Workshop


Trips to the Art Museum are Good for Business

Posted by Jessica Gaines
Trips to the Art Museum are Good for Business

In the pARTnership Movement, we affirm that when a business partners to support museums, (theater, music, dance or public art), they help to make the community more attractive to current and future employees. And, happier employees make for a happier workplace. We also share stories about Panasonic bringing exciting new technology to the museum world or merchandise collaborations between museums and the private sector.


In the article “Can a Trip to an Art Museum Ignite Creativity in Business?”, author Jon Darsee, Executive Vice President of Health Policy and Payer Relations for iRhythm Technologies, Inc. (a privately held digital healthcare solutions company that works in cardiac arrhythmia information) offers “One way to facilitate out-of-the-box thinking is by viewing art.”


And, we totally agree.


Darsee interviews Jim Leach, the former 15-term Iowa congressman and former chairperson of the National Endowment of the Humanities who is now the interim director of the University of Iowa Museum of Art, who says “A good museum, for instance, displays art that stretches the imagination and expands cross-cultural understanding.”


In our essay “Foster Critical Thinking”, we explore how the arts can harvest success toward business goals. When strengthening innovation, progress, competitive advantages and more, including the arts, perhaps museums, is a great way to improve your company’s position.


 “Without innovation, without the ability to continually develop new ideas, a business is lost. Art museums can help develop this aptitude in multiple ways; they open doors to thinking that were not open before. Museums, through the art they present and interpret, are transformative mechanisms. The concept of innovation can transfer to other arenas of activity, including the business world,” says Jeff Fleming, Des Moines Art Center Director, in the article.


Make note: sometimes, to get a big creative spark, you might have to reach FAR outside of your organization, to a museum.




More Inspired with LIFEWTR

Posted by Jessica Gaines

U.S. Bank's CEO Speaks Out For the Arts

Posted by Stacy Lasner


On October 6, 2015, U.S. Bank's CEO Richard Davis accepted the BCA 10 award on the company's behalf at the BCA 10: Best Businesses Partnering with the Arts in America gala at the Central Park Boathouse in NYC.


During his inspring speech, he claimed that creativity is the most crucial trait for tomorrow's business leaders, that the arts help businesses tell their story, and that business leaders must come together to recognize the improtance of supporting the arts. Learn more about the BCA 10 and the nominations process.


Are you a business leader engaging with the arts or interested in learning more about how the arts can help your business? We want to hear from you!


Watch Richard Davis's acceptance speech:



Transcript: Thank you Julie and congratulations to everyone here tonight. So here’s the deal, we are very stoked to have this award because it’s a very special recognition of something we don’t talk enough about in America, which is the fine arts.


So tonight we’re really celebrating goosebumps. Right? Goosebumps. Think about it. The downbeat of the conductor’s baton and the beginning of the timpani roll at the orchestra. That perfect pirouette at the ballet, where you can’t believe that he or she could do it so perfectly. That amazing moment when in the confines of a beautiful building some reveals a piece of art… that breathtaking moment. And think about all these wonderful points in time that are brought to us by the fine arts. You know we celebrate the musicians, the theaters, the thespians, the performers, but they need support. So tonight we’re celebrating the goosebumps they bring to us, and business intersecting with the arts.


Now, there’s wonderful good news for you. I’m part of the Business Council of America, which is the top 150 companies in the country, and we gather three times a year, the CEOs, to talk about relevant events. Somehow I got stuck with the job of doing the survey. That’s my job, I’m survey guy. And in doing this last survey we asked the 150 CEOs of the largest institutions, “what is the most important attribute of a future C-Suite senior leader in your company?” and for the first time in history, by far, creativity came to the top of the list. [Applause.] So think of this, finally the right brain takes over! All of us are left brainers, at least at the bank we are, and this right brain, this creativity, this innovation, this thought provoking way of changing lives is what’s now in the offing. And so the greatest news of all is now is the time to get involved and be excited about what we can do intersecting business and the fine arts.


I’ll close with this very last thought. You see what we have here is storytelling. It doesn’t matter if you’re at the ballet or at the opera, if you’re listening to music or if you’re pondering a piece of art. It’s to your soul, not to your mind. And what we need to do today is celebrate the idea that business has found its moment in storytelling. So all of you here tonight, all nine of the great companies receiving this wonderful award, and those that fall before us from 2005 to today, we need to create this core of advocates, vocal, visceral advocates, to express that now business is reliant on the arts. Because the arts wouldn’t make it as far as they do without business, but the world wouldn’t make it at all without the arts. [Applause.] And so let the story be told that tonight we’ve got something to celebrate! And so here’s to more goosebumps, and Deborah Jordy, thank you for the nomination. We’re indeed honored to receive it on your behalf. Thanks everybody. Congratulations.


Actor Tim Daly speaks on the value of the arts and the Creative Coalition

Posted by Patrick O'Herron

Emmy-award-winning actor Tim Daly, a Creative Coalition board member, believes that art is a part of everything we do. According to him, this means that we need creative thinkers to take business, innovation and invention to a new level. Why? Because creativity allows business to "leap over the competition."


Watch Tim's informative interview below, part of the Noble Profit video series, in which he details just how the arts and creativity impact the economy, using examples from Tesla Motors and IDEO.



Creative Coalition board member
Creative Coalition board member
Creative Coalition board memberCreative Coalition board member

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