The Athens Cultural Affairs Commission (ACAC), which advises Athens-Clarke County’s mayor and commission on cultural affairs and aesthetic development, has launched a new partnership with the Athens Area Chamber of Commerce.
Since its conception two years ago, ACAC has been busy developing new procedures, starting and completing new public art installations, and considering the many opportunities and possibilities for growth and support of the arts. In that time, the work and responsibilities of ACAC have grown rapidly. This growth produced two critical needs: staff assistance and visible, accessible office space.
Thanks to the help of the county government and county commissioners, and to Athens Area Chamber of Commerce President Doc Eldridge’s vision to bring an arts component to the chamber family, ACAC now has a place to hang its hat.
We are all aware that developing collegial relationships results in better outcomes. The opportunity has now been created for the organizations housed at the Chamber office to continue sharing, discussing, and collaborating on projects with the added perspectives and contributions of the arts. What makes this new partnership especially exciting is the fact that the arts fit so well with the chamber’s mission to help its members and the community grow and prosper.
I recently attended a public art conference in Pittsburgh as part of the Americans for the Arts National Conference. Americans for the Arts and businesses across the United States came together to create the pARTnership Movement, a resource for educating and connecting businesses and arts organizations. Their purpose is to provide opportunities, information, and resources to achieve the greatest level of benefit for both.
The eight reasons businesses partner with the arts are that employees want to live and work in a vibrant community; the arts help build market share, enhance brand and reach new customers; the arts help businesses get their message across in engaging ways; creativity is among the top skills sought by employers; the arts challenge employees to be their best; access to arts events is a way for businesses to show appreciation for employees, and when businesses partner with local arts, they partner with the whole city.
A number of cities have established business and arts organizations. The mission of the Arts & Business Council of Greater Philadelphia, for example, is to “strengthen our creative sector, including the arts, culture and for-profit creative businesses, by engaging the business, legal and technology communities, providing capacity-building services, and serving as a thought leader and a convener.”
Clearly, Athens-Clarke County is taking a very progressive step to create an opportunity to partner business and the arts by establishing a place for the ACAC at the Chamber.
The Athens Area Chamber of Commerce now houses LEAD Athens, the Clarke County Mentor Program, Adopt-A-Class, the Economic Development Department, the Athens Downtown Development Authority, and the Athens Cultural Affairs Commission. Consider the goals of these organizations and imagine the benefits our community can experience from their working together to positively impact the lives of our citizens: development of strong leaders; support of an improved level of education; new business and job growth; economic prosperity, cultural connections, enhanced environment, contributions to our quality of life and community pride.
The arts are business, and the arts support other businesses, even businesses not necessarily considered to be among members of the creative industries. In fact, just about every business accesses the arts at some level or in some capacity, in everything from website design to advertising to brand logos.
The arts are not an “extra.” They are an integral part of all we do as individuals and as a community. Let’s celebrate the new partnership of the arts with the Athens Area Chamber of Commerce. Together, these two arms of our community will join to successfully contribute to Athenians’ quality of life.
(This post, originally published in the Athens Banner Herald, is one in a weekly series highlighting The pARTnership Movement, Americans for the Arts’ campaign to reach business leaders with the message that partnering with the arts can build their competitive advantage.)