Arts and business news from around the country.


More Workforce Millennials Means More Diversity (and Art!)

Posted by Danielle Iwata
More Workforce Millennials Means More Diversity (and Art!)


If you have millennials at your workplace, you need more diversity and inclusion.


And you need the arts.


Here at the pARTnership Movement, we’ve covered the expectations of the private sector taking a stand and ways the arts can tackle top CEO concerns. With a new report released by Deloitte and Billie Jean King Leadership Initiative, The Radical Transformation of Diversity and Inclusion: The Millennial Influence, we’ve got even more reasons for your business to partner with the arts.


The Radical Transformation outlines differences in the way that millennials think about and engage with ideas of diversity and inclusion in the workplace. Within the next six years, this population will comprise almost 75% of the workforce, meaning the way they define values of diversity and inclusion will require businesses to adapt.


According to the study, “83 percent of millennials are actively engaged when they believe their organization fosters an inclusive culture, compared to only 60 percent of millennials who are actively engaged when their organization does not foster an inclusive environment.” This engagement stems from the millennial perspective that diversity is more than representation of folks from various communities and identities. Rather, diversity is about connection, understanding, and respect—it is about using the different experiences and ideas to create spaces and teams that push business towards innovation. Likewise, millennials do not view inclusion as acceptance and tolerance like older generations. Instead, inclusion means a vested interest in collaborating across diverse communities.


The report also showed that “millennials are less satisfied with their workplaces than members of older generations, and many point to a lack of leader emphasis on cognitive diversity and inclusion as a cause.” Moreover, millennials change jobs approximately every two years. Creating environments that take cognitive diversity into account would not only lead to more innovation and problem solving, but higher rates of retention.


How, you may ask, do the arts play into this conversation around diversity, inclusion, and the millennial workforce?


Data from our Business Contributions to the Arts Survey, conducted in partnership with The Conference Board,  shows that “the arts can be an important component of diversity and inclusion strategies because of the opportunity to support the cultures of minority employees, presenting arts organizations with a strong opportunity to form meaningful partnerships.”


Moreover, the arts can be used in cross-cultural communication and understanding. Don’t believe us? Check out how limeSHIFT’s workshops are invigorating the workforce. “The arts make up a significant percentage of how humans communicate with each other and see each other…Becoming aware of others’ mode of operating is essential to our own success. Understanding our similarities and differences is the foundation on which one builds healthy relationships.”


Still don’t believe us? Ask Floyd Green III how Aetna “uses the arts to drive diversity and inclusion.” The company “value[s] art so highly because it brings a different perspective to traditional ‘training.’ It helps to connect our employees to ideas in a creative and organic way.”


Not yet? Kindly refer to the United States Conference of Mayors (USCM), who passed a resolution stating “that the United States Conference of Mayors reaffirms the value of the arts in promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion; and … that the United States Conference of Mayors encourages businesses to leverage arts-based partnership to achieve internal and external diversity, equity and inclusion goals.”  


The bottom line is that businesses need to change. As millennials become more prominent in the workforce, businesses need to adapt to shifting definitions of diversity and inclusion. One of the best ways to do so is the arts. By engaging employees in meaningful arts training and experiences with a diversity and inclusion lens, companies can develop more innovative individuals, stronger teams, and better bottom lines.


Photo: cover page of Deloitte and Billie Jean King Report The Radical Transformation of Diversity and Inclusion: The Millenial Influence


How Businesses Have Used the Arts to Engage Muslim Communities

Posted by Mariama Holman

Businesses have the power to stimulate social dialogue on cultural themes and topics in which their consumers and employees have ownership. They can utilize the arts to engage in conversation and build relationships with authenticity, sincerity and sensitivity.


The steps to doing so begin with strong insights on consumer behaviors and attitudes.

Observe the examples of the companies below to learn how successful businesses have engaged Muslim communities through the arts.


Wasl Properties, Dubai – Photography Competition

Wasl Properties, a leading Dubai property management and development company with a real estate portfolio of over 30,000 residential and commercial properties, utilized a key consumer insight to incite meaningful dialogue with its customers during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, using the arts.


Ramadan is considered to be a time to reconnect with one’s faith, family and friends – creating a period for working less and spending more time building relationships.  Per Google data, during Ramadan practitioners are more active online than during other points of the year – performing more searches and activities on their mobile devices. Digital literacy has increased in MENA (Middle East and North Africa) as viewers have normalized the process of watching web series and videos.


Wasl Properties’ Ramadan Instagram Photography Competition utilized this consumer insight on content consumption and integrated it with a relevant occasion to engage its target audience.


Wasl Properties utilized the arts to open dialogue on the meaning of Ramadan.


Individuals over 13 years of age were given the opportunity to participate in the Ramadan Instagram Photography Competition, which was open to tenants and non-tenants a like. All were invited to share photographs capturing “what they love the most about Ramadan or an inspiring act of kindness” on Instagram with the hashtag #waslRamadan2017 and mentioning @waslgroup. Entrants competed to earn an Apple TV every week from May to June. Children were also given the opportunity to participate with a painting competition that ran during the same time.




Coca-Cola, BCA 10 Awardee, Middle East and Northern Africa Division – Web Series


Another brand that has succeeded in capturing the hearts and minds of their consumers through the arts and a savvy use of consumer insights is the BCA10 award winner, Coca-Cola.


Coca-Cola cited psychological research as the source of their campaign consumer insight - the most important variable of happiness is a good social relationships with others.

For years, Coca-Cola has been recognized as the food and beverage brand that portrays happiness – emphasizing happy people in its TV commercials and print ads. Coca-Cola brand managers asked themselves if the company could create sustainable happiness in the communities it inhabited through meaningful social dialogue.


In 2014 Coca-Cola sought to demonstrate its commitment to Muslim consumers during Ramadan by initiating a Ramadan campaign that was focused on opening up dialogue within families, friends and the overall community. The campaign had the objective of creating happiness through stimulating inclusion and an open mind.   


The campaign that resulted was called #OpenUp under the catch-phrase of “Open Up. It’s Ramadan.” It features real stories of Muslims who opened up dialogue with their loved ones and the results that followed. Highlighted individuals include Top Chef star, Bader Fayez and Kuwaiti fashion blogger, Ascia.


"The Open Up campaign inspires people to open up to different points of view and acknowledge that although differences will always exist, the bonds we share are stronger than any obstacle," according to Tolga Cebe, head of marketing at Coca-Cola Middle East.


Wasl properties and Coca-Cola showcase just a few of many examples of how businesses have engaged in social dialogue through the arts. Browse through our Success Stories page to learn more about how businesses can use the arts connect with their communities.


Cultural Districts Opens Doors to Economic Opportunity

Posted by Mariama Holman
Cultural Districts Opens Doors to Economic Opportunity

What exactly is a cultural district, and why does it matter to businesses and communities?


Cultural districts leverage a unique resource or talent available within the community (a sustainable competitive advantage) to serve as a focal point for branding a city’s unique cultural identity and historical significance. 


Better branding leads to stronger differentiation from the surrounding community, which assists and supports the marketing of local businesses and nonprofit cultural organizations.


When contentiously utilized, a community’s culture and history does not just gather cobwebs in a textbook, but impacts future cash flow for city coffers and local business owners.


Per the National Cultural Districts Exchange Toolkit, cultural districts have a significant economic impact on cities, especially growing small businesses. As demonstrated by the  2017 Business Contributions to the Arts Survey, this could be why small businesses contribute a larger percentage of their philanthropy budgets to the arts.

The impacts of cultural districts on the business community are well documented in The Arts as a Strategy for Revitalizing Our Cities.


Take for instance, the example of The Warehouse Arts District in Tucson, Arizona and the Pittsburgh Cultural District. Three years after the establishment of the Tucson Arts District, there was a 23 percent increase in new businesses. Furthermore, 54 percent of businesses in the district increased their sales volume.


The Pittsburgh Cultural District generated $115 million in commercial activity via $33 million in public investment and $63 million in private and philanthropic funds within the first decade of operation.


The Oakland Black Arts and Movement Business District is now in the running to be recognized as a cultural and historical site in the State of California, an opportunity that could repeat the economic successes of earlier cultural districts across America. The state council recently selected the area as one of 22 semifinalists to be considered for the “California Cultural District” designation.


Oakland’s cultural district contains more than 20 small businesses and cultural spaces that have been serving the community for decades, including the Malonga Casquelourd Center for the Arts, Joyce Gordon Gallery and Geoffrey’s Inner Circle Club, a community music venue operating since the 1970s known for hosting music legends such as Wynton Marsalis and Phyllis Hyman. The district also features the Oakland African-American Chamber of Commerce and the Oakland Cultural Center.


Economic and community development initiatives in the East Bay area are especially important as the San Francisco affordable housing crisis continues, leaving many residents in search of  a better quality of life in the suburbs. Oakland suffered a 25 percent decline in African-American residents in the past decade, losing approximately 33,000 residents per the U.S. Census.  


Marvin X, one of the Oakland Black Arts Movement Business District founders, says “the district can add a whole lot of equity and tourism to the city.”


As seen by prior cultural district examples, through fostering the arts and culture sector the “California Cultural District” designation could create a stronger economic future for Oakland’s residents. 


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


Business Leaders Do Have A Role in Preserving Arts and Culture

Posted by Jessica Gaines

In the article “Why Business Leaders Should Support Culture and the Arts”, the author reminds us that the early art makers of the Renaissance were patron-supported.


Applying that historical practice to current times, he offers, “As a business leader, being a patron then is not only good for the arts, it’s patriotic. In fact, it’s arguably the best investment you can make.”


The author, James G. Brooks Jr., the founder and CEO of GlassView, smartly imparts these two factors in business leaders’ roles in preserving national arts and culture:




Culture is a potent source of international influence.

The art created says much about society’s culture and we often associate a national identity with these contributions to the cultural landscape.


It is critical that society, business leaders included, encourages art that reflects themes surrounding the environment, health and wellness, education, inclusion, heritage, and yes, even fun food.


The arts are where the next generation will hone critical thinking skills.

Unique and creative interplay enhances problem solving, teamwork, and inventiveness, helping to increase critical thinking skills. Whether applied to the next generation or the current workforce, these skills go hand-in-hand with advancing community and business goals.


Our pARTnership Movement essay “Foster Critical Thinking” contains deeper insight into how businesses partnering with the arts can help employees stimulate critical thinking.


To share #ArtsandBiz stories, send an email to Jessica Gaines at


Corporate Diversity ARTSBlog Series

Posted by Jessica Gaines

In this series from Americans for the Arts, four ARTSBlogs approach equity, diversity, and inclusion, with the arts as a contributor towards resolution. Below are excerpts from the ARTSBlogs. Click on each title to be taken to the full blog.


1. “Diversity + Inclusion = A Winning Strategy” by Floyd Green


We [Aetna] value art so highly because it brings a different perspective to traditional “training.” It helps to connect our employees to ideas in a creative and organic way. Not everyone responds and processes training in the same way. In order for everyone to get to the finish line, we have to meet people where they are. The arts allow this to happen, and will take them on the journey to where they want to be. The more we use the arts, the more we’ll reach innovation and imagination; the more people are able to come together without fear, be safe and comfortable, and express how they’re feeling.

Full ARTSBlog here.


Floyd W. Green, III is Vice President and head of Community Relations and Urban Marketing for Aetna, Inc. and is also on the Board of Directors for Americans for the Arts.



2. “A Win-Win Culture: How Inclusivity Drives Innovation in the Business World” by Elizabeth Thys and Yazmany Arboleda


“Diversity is being invited to the party; inclusion is being asked to dance.”


This blog highlights the idea that cultivating a diverse and inclusive culture is a win-win for companies and shows three ways that diversity and inclusion drive innovation:

  1. Employee Resource Groups: Based on the company’s internal LGTB Employee Resource Groups, Clorox’s Burt’s Bees® launched its first LGTB-targeted product. Miriam Lewis, Principal Consultant, HR, noted that “inclusion equals innovation.”
  2. Knowledge Management
  3. Diverse Employee Perspectives


Full ARTSBlog here.


Elizabeth Thys is CEO and co-founder of limeSHIFT and Yazmany Arboleda is a New York-based public artist who lectures internationally on the power of art in public space.



3. “Am I What You’re Looking For?” by Catherine Heitz New


In 2016, we were inspired by an innovative collaboration between Wells Fargo and the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art (SECCA). As part of their 12x12 series, SECCA featured an exhibition of works by photographer Endia Beal entitled Am I What You’re Looking For?, which portrays young, black women as they contemplate their identities in the often-competing contexts of self and career. Endia Beal is a North Carolina-based artist, educator, and activist, who is internationally known for her photographic narratives and video testimonies that examine the personal, yet contemporary stories of minority women working within the corporate space.

Full ARTSBlog here.


Catherine Heitz New is Chief Advancement Officer and Deputy Director of The Arts Council of Winston-Salem and Forsyth County.



4. “Driving Diversity Through Board Service” by Alexandra Hallock


In what ways does your organization wish to deepen board diversity?


That was one of the critical questions we asked while ramping up for the most recent round of BoardLead. BoardLead is the primary program of Cause Strategy Partners, LLC that strengthens social good organizations by recruiting, placing, training and supporting talented professionals from top companies for high-impact board service. Through a partnership with The New York Community Trust, BoardLead Arts NYC was created to help small to medium sized nonprofit arts organizations elevate, diversify, and transform board leadership. Goldman Sachs, Google, and MasterCard partnered with BoardLead to make board placement opportunities available to high potential and diverse employees.

Full ARTSBlog here.


Alexandra Hallock is a Consultant of Cause Strategy Partners, a purpose-driven social enterprise that believes in harnessing the power of business for social good.


Emphasizing Inclusion with the Arts

Posted by Jessica Gaines
Emphasizing Inclusion with the Arts

The pARTnership Movement essay “Embrace Diversity & Team Building” brings to light how the arts can assist in enhancing a company’s diversity and inclusion initiatives. BCA 10 winner U.S. Bank shows how to be a leader in this area.


In celebration of and support for the LGBT community and to highlight the bank’s emphasis on diversity and inclusion, the company held the LGBT Debit Card Art Contest where they asked artists to submit art in any medium that celebrated the LGBT community. The contest would allow three finalists with the winner receiving $7,500 and that design becoming one of U.S. Bank’s permanent card designs. The runner-up received $5,000 and the third-prize winner received $2,500.


Ann Dyste, assistant vice president and LGBT strategy manager at U.S. Bank says, "We believe the three winning designs all honored equality, progress and unity, and we wanted to leave the final decision up to the public, so their voices could be heard."


After 400 design submissions, the public selected Olivia Ogba, ER medical transcriptionist preparing for the MCAT (Medical College Admission Test), as the winner with the card design shown above. Ogba’s design is connected to the June 2015 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that same-sex marriage was legal nationwide. The digital painting is purposefully patriotic, featuring rainbow colors shooting from sparklers on the Fourth of July. "That's what America stands for – the ability for everyone to go after the American dream without any sort of discrimination," Ogba said.


As the fifth largest commercial bank in the United States, U.S. Bank has made strong commitments to increase outreach to the LGBT community. This national art competition helps reiterate their corporate message of inclusion along with sponsoring Pride festivities and LGBT organizations across the country, making the bank a “Best Place to Work for LBGT Equality” for 10 years in a row.


“We want employees and prospective hires to know that U.S. Bank is an open and inclusive workplace where all are welcome," said Eduardo Sayan, U.S. Bank vice president and director of multicultural strategy. 


Learn more about the finalists and the card art competition here.


Photo: U.S. Bank


Classical Movements Uses a Fellowship to Encourage Diversity and Promote Access

Classical Movements Uses a Fellowship to Encourage Diversity and Promote Access

BCA 10 honoree Classical Movements is driven by a love for music and the performing arts. The company arranges more than 50 concert tours per year for choirs, youth orchestras, and professional ensembles to more than 140 countries around the world. Yet, while working in nearly 145 countries across seven continents, during Classical Movements’ 25 years of business, India has remained a rare musical destination.


For Founder & President Neeta Helms, growing up in India she observed that there was a tiny population of people there who loved Western classical music. More recently, though, perhaps due to increased globalization and/or the larger number of Indians studying abroad, Helms came to realize that India’s interest in Western classical music has been steadily growing. In fact, the Shillong Chamber Choir, a Western-style singing group founded only in 2010, won top prize on the popular television competition India’s Got Talent.



Despite that ever-increasing number of music schools for children, in India today, there is no university course that teaches choral singing, or even a program to teach teachers how to teach choral music. “When I visited my homeland in December of 2015… I was struck by how many Indian singers were want for vocal training, desperately seeking skilled teachers to come and teach and conduct,” Helms shares.


January 2016, Classical Movements made a big announcement, calling for choral luminaries to go on retreat in India. In January 2017, Classical Movements has officially launched the India Choral Fellowship (ICF), featuring award-winning singer, conductor and educator Kevin Fox as its inaugural recipient engaging the cities of New Delhi Mumbai and Chennai.


With Classical Movements’ ICF, Helms hopes to help inspire future Indian musicians blend with the ancient traditions and forge a new horizon for classical music in India.


More stories on businesses using the arts to encourage diversity can be found in the pARTnership Movement essay “Embrace Diversity & Team Building”.


Want more on this topic from another corporate leader? Read “Diversity + Inclusion = A Winning Strategy” from Floyd W. Green, III, Vice President and head of Community Relations and Urban Marketing for Aetna, 2016 BCA Hall of Fame and 2011 BCA 10 honoree.


Photo: Headshot courtesy Classical Movements. Group photo courtesy Shillong Chamber Choir.


An Environment of Convergence

Posted by Melyssa Muro
An Environment of Convergence

Conversations surrounding equity, diversity, and inclusion are currently affecting almost every industry.  From tech to home sharing, leaders are approaching new ways to engage employees, thwart exclusion, and consider people on the margins within their work environments and also within their communities. 


So, how are leaders approaching this area as it effects the arts and culture sector?


MoMA’s president emerita, Agnes Gund, has worked to diversify the scope of the museum, stating, “We serve a population.” In other words, the works should reflect the range of the population served.


To fulfill this need for diverse works, Gund reached out to individuals like AC Hudgins, who joined the board of directors in 2012. He has since contributed his collected works, including pieces by David Hammons, Henry Taylor, Senga Nengudi, and more, and in doing so, has enhanced the exchange of ideas from those with differing backgrounds. By housing these works down the hall from those of Van Gogh and Dali, MoMA cultivates an environment of convergence. In this way, Hudgins’ additions are immensely appreciated; as his friend and colleague Marie-Josee Kravis frames it, “[W]e have three million visitors a year… We have to be an agora, not a temple.”


Hudgins, as well as many leaders of color within boards, brings in diverse art and draws in a wider and newly engaged audience. As art and culture leaders work to close the gap between neighborhoods and lifestyle, they always keep at top of mind that the arts are the bridge that transcend that gap.


Photo: MoMA. Marino Miculan courtesy of Flickr.

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