Arts and business news from around the country.


Recruitment & Retention’s Secret Weapon

Posted by Stacy Lasner
Recruitment & Retention’s Secret Weapon


What keeps CEOs up at night? According to new research by The Conference Board, failure to attract and retain talent is at the top of the list, and innovation isn’t far behind. In December 2015, voluntary quits rose to nearly 3.1 million, the highest level since December 2006. For HR practitioners charged with battling these challenges, it’s time to raise the curtain on businesses’ secret weapon: the arts.


Build it and they will come.

Des Moines had an image problem. Creative millennials were leaving the city after graduation for more vibrant communities. To solve the problem, the city’s businesses banded together to fund The Des Moines Social Club, which now hosts over 700 events a year, manages four resident theater companies, and helps sustain many arts organizations in the city. The transformation is evident. In 2014, Fortune named Des Moines the #1 City with an Up-and-Coming Downtown and Forbes named Des Moines the #1 Best City for Young Professionals. The robust arts scene has helped creative employees see Des Moines as more than just cornfields.


Remember, inspired employees bring creativity to work.

Just as creative employees want live in a vibrant community, they crave a culturally rich work environment. An engaging company culture is a crucial asset for businesses competing for top talent. Facebook, for example, not only offers employees opportunities to take art classes but, like many companies of all sizes, it employs an artist-in-residence to help inspire creativity and present new ways for employees to think about their work. Other businesses like The Standard insurance company host employee art shows to engage employees, empowering them to exercise their creative skills and pursue their artistic passions.


Embrace diversity and open-mindedness.

According to a 2015 survey from Human Capital Media Advisory Group, the research arm of Talent Management magazine, "Almost three-quarters of human resources practitioners see diversity and inclusion as a strategic enabler for their companies' business strategy." Celebrating diversity communicates to employees and future employees that your business embraces an open exchange of ideas. Utility company PECO, for example, hosts multicultural events in Philadelphia, not only contributing to the city’s appeal, but also promoting its commitment to diversity in a visible way. Other businesses express their commitment to diversity by displaying corporate art collections in their lobbies.


     Take your employee communications cue from “AutoZone the Opera.”

Employee communication is key to retaining talented employees. Regardless of the industry, arts-training not only helps staff communicate better with one another, but artful messaging is more likely to hold employees’ attention. At AutoZone’s 2013 and 2014 national conferences, the company partnered with Opera Memphis to produce “AutoZone: The Opera.” The performances reminded employees about the company’s values and customer service procedures in a fun, memorable way.


Supporting the arts is not a new concept for America’s businesses, but in order to solve today's pressing human capital issues, HR practitioners need to tap into their own creativity and put the arts to work.


The pARTnership Movement is an initiative from Americans for the Arts to reach business leaders with the message that partnering with the arts can build their competitive advantage. Want to learn more?


Find additional ways that the arts can help your business thrive in 2016.


Read The pARTnership Movement essay on recruiting and retaining talent.


Read success stories showcasing how Americans businesses are using the arts to recruit and retain talent.


Find other examples of businesses using the arts to recruit and retain talent.


Sign up for our monthly arts and business newletter to receive more relevant research and examples of how the arts can help businesses recruit and retain talent.


Is your business using the arts to recruit and retain talent? Tell us about it on Twitter using #ArtsandBiz or email us at


The Arts Mean Business in Iowa

Posted by Stacy Lasner

On Wednesday, August 12, the Des Moines Register published an op-ed by entrepreneur John Pappajohn titled "The Arts Mean Business in Iowa."

“Ask an outsider what they know about Iowa, and they may say one of three things, CORN ...HOGS ... and FARMLAND.” But, “what may come as a surprise is that in Iowa, the arts serve as an economic driver that attracts companies, creates jobs and grows local and state revenue. Without a doubt, the arts mean business in Iowa,” Pappajohn says.

As Chairman of Equity Dynamics Inc. and owner of Pappajohn Capital Resources in Des Moines, and as a member of Americans for the Arts’ BCA Executive Board, Pappajohn has witnessed first-hand how the arts has helped recruit and retain businesses and talented employees in Iowa. For example, according to a recent Americans for the Arts study:


  • Nonprofit arts organizations and their audiences within Iowa’s Cultural Corridor of 11 counties alone generate $80 million annually and support more than 2,500 full-time equivalent jobs.


  • These jobs and related audience expenditures return $3.3 million in local tax revenue and an additional $4.1 million in state tax revenue.


  • There are 5,834 creative industry businesses in Iowa — which include everything from art museums to graphic art studios — with more than 22,000 employees.

Pappajohn mentions two Des Moines-based corporations that have directly profited from partnering with the arts–The Principal Financial Group, whose art-filled campus helps recruit and retain employees, and EMC Insurance Companies, who runs a visual arts competition for current and former Iowa residents. You can read more about how by partnering with the arts, these companies were able to recruit and retain talent in Iowa in the first essay in our pARTnership Movement Essay series, "Recruit and Retain Talent."


Thanks to the arts, Des Moines’ population is growing, unemployment rates are falling, and the number of young people engaged in civic life is increasing. A strong arts scene and a culturally vibrant community is a significant economic driver that shouldn’t be overlooked by businesses or its elected leaders.

Americans for the Arts will reinforce these messages this week at Des Moines’ Iowa Arts Advocacy Caucus. The statewide training event will educate arts advocates and messengers at the Iowa Presidential Caucuses, as well as invite presidential candidates to speak on their arts policy position. More information is here, as well as a press release on the caucus here. Twitter users can follow the event via #ArtsVote2016.


Spotlight On: Suku Radia, President & CEO of Bankers Trust Company

Posted by Emily Peck

We sat down with Suku Radia, the newest member of our Business Committee for the Arts Executive Board, to discuss his personal giving philosophy and strategy.


Q. What directs your personal philanthropy and is that mirrored in the work of Bankers Trust?


A. We are a privately held bank and just completed our best year of financial performance in our 95-year   history. We are Iowa’s largest community bank. We contribute at least $1 million annually to the community. My wife and I are very generous because we have been blessed with two great careers and three gifted children.


Q. You are incredibly involved in the Des Moines community. Why is giving back so important to you?


A. It is about paying my civic rent. I watched my father’s dedication to community growing up in Uganda. I firmly believe that I have an obligation to leave the community a better place than I found it. It is the “right thing” to do.


Q. Could you describe the ways your engagement and support of the arts has evolved?


A. Very early in my career, I became involved with United Way. As Des Moines embarked on a commitment to the arts, I realized that I could not only support human/social services, but the arts also.


The arts are vital not only for the vibrancy and attractiveness of a community, but they are an integral component of education. Throughout my career, I have been involved in my community. Serving on 15 nonprofit boards has made me realize that for a community to be really successful, it has to come together efficiently and effectively.


Q. The pARTnership Movement, illustrates how engaging with arts organizations can help a company build its brand, attract new business, and retain employees. Is this how you see the partnerships with arts organizations, like Bravo Greater Des Moines?


A. Whenever I become involved in recruiting a senior executive to Central Iowa, which I do a fair amount, I always point out the strength of our arts and culture organizations. One has to disabuse them of the notion that we grow corn in downtown Des Moines! Our partnerships with major arts and culture organizations are very effective because what we have to offer is truly world class. Our senior executives from the major arts organizations are very well-connected and they do a great job of collaborating with the business community. Bravo has elevated the profile of the arts organizations. We place significant emphasis on education with full recognition of helping the kids from underprivileged families. We offer a quality of life second to none.


Suku Radia is President & CEO of Bankers Trust Company in Des Moines, Iowa.


Vital signs: Heading into its 75th year, the Des Moines Symphony remains in remarkably good health

Posted by Emily Peck

An article in The Des Moines Register celebrating the 75th anniversary of the Des Moines Symphony Orchestra recognized that the arts are an important component in building and sustaining communities and a good investment for the business community.  The article quoted from an earlier op-ed by Robert Lynch, President and CEO of Americans for the Arts and Suku Radia, President and CEO of Bankers Trust and a BCA Executive Board member.  Here is an excerpt from the article:


"In Des Moines, corporate and community leaders understand the role those “cultural service agencies” have played in the city’s transformation. Bankers Trust president Suku Radia and Americans for the Arts president Robert Lynch made the case in a joint essay in last Sunday’s Register.


'The arts are big business in Greater Des Moines and a good investment for both residents and businesses,” they wrote. “Creative placemaking is a vital mechanism to create and sustain a place that residents and businesses can not only be proud of but enthusiastically call home.'”


Read the entire article in the Des Moines Register.


Iowa View: Fine arts nurture growth of cities

Posted by Robert Lynch and Suku Radia

By Robert Lynch, President & CEO, Americans for the Arts and Suku Radia, President and CEO, Bankers Trust Company


Creative placemaking — leveraging the arts to help shape and revitalize the physical, social, and economic character of neighborhoods, cities and towns — is a hot topic across the country right now, in light of the National Endowment for the Arts’ ArtsPlace America initiative. And utilizing the arts to effect a transformative impact on community vibrancy is something the greater Des Moines area has been doing, and doing successfully, for many years now.


Dating back more than a century with the “City Beautiful” program — which inspired the construction of some of Des Moines most beautiful Beaux Arts public buildings, including the World Food Prize Hall of Laureates, the Polk County Administrative Building and the City Hall — Des Moines and its residents knew that the best way to attract people and businesses was to ensure their city was a place where residents could not just work but truly live. And they knew a thriving arts community was the best way to ensure Greater Des Moines would always be an attractive and energetic place.


The drive for and successes of quality creative placemaking in Greater Des Moines are still going strong today. The Greater Des Moines region has a range of diverse arts, cultural and heritage offerings. The city boasts numerous museums, and performing and visual arts options are plentiful.


In addition, the city’s architectural heritage is significant. What’s more, Des Moines’ commitment to arts and culture, as part of its very fabric, is evident from the moment you arrive in town and see both the Pappajohn Sculpture Park and the soon-to-be-completed Principal Riverwalk.


Without the arts, Greater Des Moines would not be the culturally vibrant place it is today. But it takes a team to create and sustain an arts sector as rich and diverse as Greater Des Moines’. And one of the key players in the city’s arts funding ecosystem is its business sector.


Greater Des Moines’ dynamic arts community exists in part because many local business leaders have ensured their companies have engaged in deep partnerships with Greater Des Moines’ arts sector throughout the years. These leaders have a clear understanding that arts and culture are essential to the health and vitality of the community. But they also know that when their company’s partnership with the arts goes deeper than mere sponsorship, they will see the positive impact that partnership rewards to the company’s own bottom line.


And in this current economic environment, businesses are continually seeking new ways to build their competitive advantage. To help them reach this goal, in January, Americans for the Arts, the nation’s leading nonprofit organization for advancing the arts and arts education, launched The pARTnership Movement, a new initiative designed to create mutually beneficial partnerships between arts and business institutions.


Read the entire op-ed in The Des Moines Register.


Jaume Plensa (Spanish, born 1955)

Nomade, 2007

Painted stainless steel

324 x 204 x 216 inches

Promised gift from John and Mary Pappajohn to the Des Moines Art Center

Photography © Cameron Campbell


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