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The Arts are Integral to Business Success - Kohler Co.

Posted by Laura Kohler
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The Arts are Integral to Business Success - Kohler Co.

The following are excerpts from remarks by Kohler Company Senior Vice President
Laura Kohler at NASAA's Creative Industries Briefing:

 

Thank you for inviting Kohler Company to contribute to today’s discussion telling a story of the importance of art to this 144-year-old company, headquartered in Kohler, Wisconsin—one of the world’s strongest brands that employs over 35,000 people.

 

The arts are very important to me personally, as well as for Kohler Company. In fact, I am before you as a business executive with 25 years of experience who sits on the top team of a $6.5 billion company with an M.F.A., not an M.B.A. The value of the arts has been engrained in our company’s ethos, and we have been consistent advocates of elevating the importance of the arts in society through education, arts organizations and scholarships.

Art energizes our public spaces, emboldens our thinking, enriches our communities, and inspires pride and interaction with each other. It is a necessary inspiration in our busy world, and a symbol of our collective humanity—an unspoken means by which we can connect across cultures, geographies and generations.

As a company, we remain curious and adventurous and employ associates who have an unwavering appreciation for design and the arts, and a healthy appetite to explore and discover new technologies. We foster a collaborative environment where our leadership sets the tone and encourages all associates to be as imaginative and entrepreneurial as possible—from sketching an initial concept or penning a big idea, to testing a new product prototype or designing an amazing master bathroom suite.

A creative work force, particularly within a design-centric organization such as Kohler, is the backbone to drive product innovation and sustained business success.

Among our 35,000 associates across six continents, we invest heavily in promoting innovation and problem solving, through a cross-cultural and cross-functional team approach—whether it be designing a better process or developing a new way of working in this fast-paced, ever-changing world.

Art and innovation also permeate our efforts in sustainability and social impact. At Kohler, we Believe In Better, because business success doesn’t matter much if we can’t say we left the world a better place than we found it.

 

The Waste Lab originated at one of our Innovation For Good workshops—an annual convergence where our associates incubate new ideas for social impact products. In this instance, a team comprised mostly of artists and designers brainstormed methods to refine production processes, minimize industrial waste, and reuse waste where possible.

Since 2010, as a company, we have reduced the amount of production waste sent to landfills by 46%, and the Waste Lab team working out of a dedicated space in our enamel shop is trying to find ways to decrease it further. In doing so, they are turning pottery cull, foundry sand and other waste products into beautiful ceramic tiles—a poignant example of how associates are applying creative thinking to waste while designing artistic new products.

 

Taking inspiration from that goal, our Arts/Industry program was founded in 1974 as a partnership between the John Michael Kohler Arts Center and Kohler Company. It has endured as a unique collaboration between artists and industry in the United States—one that has brought us significant recognition, but more importantly, has brought to the world some beautiful pieces of art that otherwise would never have happened. Over 600 emerging and established artists from around the world have benefitted from this program and have left their mark.

 

There is no other artist residency program where artists’ studios are located right on the production floor of a manufacturing facility, such as our cast iron foundry or pottery. Artists are introduced to bulk materials, such as slip-cast clay and cast metal, and techniques that give them a new way of thinking and working creatively.

One of the most important aspects of Arts/Industry are relationships that develop between the artists in residence and our production associates. Artists in residence value the expertise and experience of these associates, and the associates in turn are engaged in helping the artists solve creative problems. Associates have remarked that working with these artists has helped them think more creatively about their own work to push the limits of materials, processes, colors and sizes.

 

Communities rich in arts and culture attract people because of their quality of life, character, and opportunities for participation and investment. Art fosters vibrant communities and allows them to create and sustain social networks, and to establish their identities outside of traditional demographics. Art allows people to learn valuable skills—across all walks of life—and to participate in nontraditional, creative outlets.

And as I have described today, the arts also play a vital role in sustaining and growing successful businesses, by inspiring creative problem solving and successful innovation for consumers.

 

I appeal to you to take a step back and both recognize and appreciate what the arts and creative industries offer in terms of elevating the American economy, as well as fostering exploration and innovation that lead to better solutions. Let’s come together—private sector, education, government and nonprofit—and ensure that the arts remain relevant and respected today and for future generations. That requires an investment—collectively—of our time, our expertise, our passion and our financial support.

 

This speech was given at NASAA's Creative Industries Briefing on April 17, 2018 at the U.S. Capitol. To view the full speech, click here. For the full transcript, click here.

Kohler won a BCA 10 Hall of Fame winner in 2011.

 

Kohler Co. was featuring in a pARTnership Movemeny Essay on Fostering Critical Thinking.

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Top Five Arts and Biz Picks for 2016!

Posted by Jessica Gaines
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At Americans for the Arts, the Private Sector Initiatives team works to strengthen partnerships between the arts and businesses communities. Hear from the team about its favorite arts and biz partnerships from 2016.

 

Jessica Gaines, Business Committee for the Arts Coordinator

Jessica’s pick: Midday Dance Parties

 

"A trend that we covered here on the pARTnership Movement was Midday Dance Breaks or Lunchtime Dance Parties. Not only is a midday movement session needed, it’s a great way for companies to recruit and retain their talent. In fact, my teammate Emma and I were able to attend a dance break sponsored by Perrier and Flavorpill where we received this fun light-up swag that we now use to celebrate team wins or successes."

 

Video courtesy of Jessica Gaines.

 

Emma Osore, Program Coordinator, Arts & Business Council of New York

Emma’s pick: Con Edison’s mentorship and participation in the DIAL summer program

Photo courtesy of ABC/NY.

 

"Not only does Con Edison financially subsidize the DIAL (Diversity in Arts Leadership) intern stipends and provide in-kind event space, their employees have volunteered their personal time to fill two-thirds of the business mentor roles. This business mentor commitment strengthens the capacity of the young leader but also strengthens Con Edison’s business goals and engages their employees in a meaningful way."

 

Emily Peck, Vice President of Private Sector Initiatives

Emily’s pick: Kohler’s Arts/Industry program

 

"We featured this program in our pARTnership Movement essay on fostering critical thinking through the arts. We also got to hear about the program and how it benefits the artists involved and the company when Ruth Kohler joined us at our Sun Valley policy convening. Artists and Kohler associates work side by side on the factory floor."

 

 

Jordan Shue, Private Sector Initiatives Program Manager

Jordan’s pick: Austin Energy's collaboration with Forklift Danceworks

 

PowerUP- 3 min excerpt from Forklift Danceworks on Vimeo.

 

"Allen Small, Austin Energy Distribution Director, and Allison Orr, Forklift Danceworks Artistic Director, both participated in the BCA 10 webinar and it was clear that it was a true partnership in every sense of the word. Every time I need some inspiration I watch the videos of PowerUP performance!"

 

From the BCA 10 program book: In 2013, Austin Energy supported the Forklift Danceworks production of PowerUP—a free performance featuring more than 60 linemen, electrical technicians, and Austin Energy employees. The collaborative work showcased the work of numerous Austin artists such as award-winning choreographers Allison Orr and Krissie Marty and Peter Bay, conductor for the Austin Symphony. The production was presented to 6,000 people and thousands more through a nationally broadcast documentary.

 

Amy Webb, Director, Arts & Business Council of New York

Amy’s pick: SPRZ NY partnership between Uniqlo and MoMA

 

"SPRZ NY (Surprise New York) is a project designed around the concept of 'a place where clothes and art meet.' It features a special collection of modern art-inspired fashion products intended to surprise, including a collaboration with The Museum of Modern Art. We've featured the partnership in the past (here) but it always a stand-out to me."

 

If you know of other dynamic businesses partnering with the arts, consider nominating it for the 2017 BCA 10: Best Businesses Partnering with the Arts.

 

 

 

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Water Conservation is Music to Our Ears

Posted by Chris Zheng
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Water Conservation is Music to Our Ears

The arts and business can easily flow together, even when it comes to water conservation. Just ask Kohler Co., a global leader in manufacturing kitchen products, engines and power systems, premier furniture, and the operator of two five-star hospitality and golf resort destinations. Kohler recently teamed up with The Nature Conservancy, a leading conservation organization located in all 50 states and more than 69 countries, and the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival to promote smart water use to over 36,000 concert attendees.

 

Based on research from the EPA WaterSense program, Kohler noted that the average American adult spends 8 minutes in the shower, using 18 gallons of water each time. In the spirit of conservation and music, Kohler started the #CommitToSix campaign to get Kohler customers and Bonnaroo concertgoers to cut their water use by 25 percent by shortening their shower time by just two minutes. Showers at the festival facilities were equipped with Kohler Moxie Bluetooth-enabled showerheads, allowing people to enjoy quality music while becoming more aware of the amount of time they spent in the shower.

Senior manager of sustainability at Kohler stated “whether you sing in the shower or not, pledging to cut just a few minutes of shower time is a simple way that festival-goers, music fans and everyone else can reduce water use.” Through partnering with the arts in a music festival like Bonnaroo, Kohler is making it easier than ever to sing in the shower and save water.

 

With a partnership that so perfectly blends business, arts, and advocacy, it should come as no surprise that both Kohler and Bonnaroo are previous recipients of Americans for the Arts’ BCA 10 Awards (Bonnaroo’s award is via parent company is AC Entertainment), being among the top ten businesses recognized every year for being the partners of the arts. Whether it’s a song in the key of C or a sea of fans, Kohler and Bonnaroo are taking on corporate responsibility with the arts.  

 

Photo: KOHLER® Moxie Showerhead

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