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Q and A: Business Leader Discusses Advocacy and Strategic Connections to Art Groups

Posted by Jessica Gaines


An Interview with Mark Golden, BCA Executive Board member and CEO of Golden Artist Colors, a BCA 10 company


Americans for the Arts is proud to present an interview with Mark Golden, CEO of Golden Artist Colors. Golden has 30 years of industry experience and was chosen as a recipient of the Small Business Person of the Year for New York State award. In addition, he was recognized by President Bill Clinton for his activities in creating a business that exemplifies the spirit of corporate citizenship in providing a work environment that values all employees.


Golden has been a guest lecturer at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C. the Getty Museum in Los Angeles, the Tate Gallery in London, and the College Arts Association convention. He has served as guest lecturer in colleges throughout the U.S., Europe, and Japan, and has co-authored several technical papers on issues dealing with conservation of modern materials and acrylic paintings. He is a member of Americans for the Arts BCA Executive Board.



Q: As a business leader, how have you been able to support the arts? What impact has this had on your business and on the arts community?


At Golden Artist Colors our business is making and selling artist colors. As such, we are intimately connected to the visual arts community. Our vision statement attests to this connection and value of our creative communities. Our Company “is a catalyst bridging creative communities and inspiring positive global change through the arts.” For us, it is simple. In order for us to be successful we need to find ways to help our customers succeed. It is what Paul Hawken described as the “ecology of commerce”. By helping to support the artists and the many organizations that support artists, we have gained their support in return. This is the nature of any sustainable system, that each needs the other to fuel its success.


Some of the specific examples include our education program, which 

provides income to close to 200 artists who educate a wide range of art groups and colleges on the use of artist materials. The dozen artists that work at our facility provide a valuable resource delivering one-on-one access for technical and application information to thousands of artists. The company is actively engaged in studies that are advancing the knowledge of arts materials and their archival qualities, assuring that artists can work with better and more stable materials. We have supported a wide range of artists’ murals all over the world for those who are actively supporting their local communities with their efforts. We continue to provide custom resources to artists and also to museums around the world in their need for dedicated conservation materials. We created new partnerships with various organizations including the Alliance of Young Artist and Writers that supports the largest art award program for middle and high school students. We are involved with the Alliance of Artist Communities that is the advocacy voice for artist residencies around the world, providing space, support and time for artists to engage in their work. There are hundreds of examples each year of finding ways to reach out to our arts community. It is not by accident that through these efforts as well as our commitment to our employee owners, the quality of our products and services, that we our company continues to grow and thrive.



Q: What advice or encouragement would you give to a business interested in partnering with the arts?


The greatest advice I can give to any organization wanting to partner with the arts is to find a natural connection that feels like part of your organization. Artists’ work is about igniting that creative spark and what organization doesn’t want to feel that level of excitement about breaking through boundaries or finding new solutions? Often in business we see our decisions as quite binary, thinking it must be ‘this way or that way’. Trusting the artists’ process allows us to envision multiple paths. Without a doubt, it is wonderful to provide a portion of your philanthropy to artists or organizations, yet even more powerful is finding more strategic connections to art groups. Whether this is advancing your HR activities, marketing or new product development, allowing artists in and engaging in the creative process with them can yield incredibly far-reaching results.


Q: Tell us about your experience and involvement with Arts Advocacy Day and the CREATE ACT. Can you talk about your own experience starting a small creative business and how the CREATE Act would have helped you?


This past March I participated in my first Arts Advocacy Day. Besides offering a chance to actually provide a voice for supporting the NEA, it was also a valuable learning experience. For me it was an important opportunity to become a more effective advocate. As a small business starting with just 4 family members, it took us years to be able to convince lending agencies that an artist paint company could truly be a viable business. For four years and working with multiple banks, we could not secure an SBA guaranteed loan to help us with our growing pains. It is quite ironic that in 1996, I won the SBA award for a small business in New York State. 


During this past Art Advocacy Day I had the honor to participate in a session with Narric Rome, the Vice President of Government Affairs and Arts Education at Americans for the Arts for a discussion of the CREATE Act, a bill sponsored by Senator Tom Udall from New Mexico. This bill provides a mechanism which is budget neutral to provide artists and non-profit art groups some of the same opportunities that other entrepreneurs enjoy in the small business community. The act has several areas of emphasis but I think the most important to business was offering artists some of the same opportunities already offered to small business and to expand loans through the SBA. It also suggests a mechanism to provide incubator assistance and grant options to support this creative community. Through these programs artists can contribute their unique talent for invention and entrepreneurship that has allowed creative centers to thrive. Artists continue to build both business base and growing significant value in the communities they’ve gravitated to. It is time to recognize this and to provide the support these artists need.



Q: How do you think business leaders can be better advocates for the arts locally and nationally?


Business leaders recognize the importance of creativity in their organizations. They value invention and innovation as the tools that will allow them to succeed past their competition. Unfortunately, many businesses continue to act as though those resources will only arrive from MBA applicants. Businesses continue to attend job fairs in communities and colleges recruiting the same sort of candidates. What if some of these same businesses also actively pursued artists and art majors? At least to engage them to find the diversity of skills that might be lacking in the organization. If you want creativity, hire creativity. It is through recognizing that skills in creativity can be just as important as other more traditional business skills. For this to be realized, businesses need to be powerful advocates for arts in education.


Business leaders who are asked regularly to participate in sponsoring ads in the local newsletter or program guide need to ask the arts organizations for bigger, better and bolder ideas on how your support will be meaningful to them, but as importantly, how your support of their organization will support your mission as an organization. Ask these organizations that thrive on creativity, to provide some of that creativity to produce solutions that create a synergy of activity. It is great to see your company’s name on the evening’s performance guide…better is to find greater points of connection to your business. Art organizations have no need to go hat in hand to donors as they have valuable products to offer. Business leaders, on the other hand, need to ask these organizations how your support will both benefit the arts organization and the business itself.  

Finally, businesses need to recognize the incredible value that the arts provides them for entertainments for uplifting performance, for growing the excitement of what it means to live within a creative community. For so long artists have been marginalized, moving from region to region to afford space to live and create. Once they do so, it isn’t long before properties begin to soar in value and again, artists need to move out to more affordable spaces. This benefit has long been ignored as ‘just the way it is’. It is time that we reward these pioneers and adventurous creators and allow them in some measure to also enjoy the fruits of their labor.


Photos: Golden Artist Colors


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