The worlds of arts and business came together on June 13 during Americans for the Arts’ Annual Convention Chicago, when three leaders from the local community came together for a session to discuss best practices in forming mutually beneficial partnerships.
Andrew Micheli, the Executive Director of the Arts & Business Council of Chicago; Raaja Nemani, the Co-Founder and CEO of BucketFeet; and Christine Hoisington, Director of Community Partnerships at Booz Allen Hamilton (a 2011 BCA 10 honoree), joined Americans for the Arts’ Vice President of Private Sector Initiatives, Emily Peck, for a frank conversation about what businesses want from partnerships with the arts.
Raaja Nemani, who co-founded BucketFeet four years ago after traveling around the world, spoke about the company’s work with Elizabeth’s Canvas, an arts organization dedicated to providing cancer patients, survivors, and their family members with free creative programs. BucketFeet, in addition to supporting arts groups, supports individual artists around the world by commissioning them to design shoes and other products, as well as accepting unsolicited proposals for new products. According to Nemani, “art is an agent of change…a way to bring different people together.”
Booz Allen Hamilton’s Christine Hoisington was very clear that businesses are not looking to sign checks for arts organizations; sustainable and mutually beneficial partnerships are way to go. She suggested that since “arts organizations are the best to partner with for employee engagement,” groups could approach businesses with value-added propositions for how the arts can play into a businesses’ goals, rather than seek outright support through traditional means like donations and sponsorships. In addition to supporting the Environmental Film Festival, Booz Allen Hamilton employees volunteer and are involved each year in the event.
Employee engagement, particularly through skills-based volunteering, is the way the Arts & Business Council of Chicago began its operations 30 years ago today with its Business Volunteers for the Arts® program. Andrew Micheli spoke of the organization’s push to educate local arts organizations about forming arts and business partnerships. By fostering board placements, engaging business employees through professional volunteering, and more, the Arts & Business of Chicago serves as the local voice for arts in the business community.
For more information on partnering with business or building your message, browse through our tool-kits for arts groups.