(Photo credit: The Aetna Jazz Band, made up of employee volunteer musicians, performs at the 2013 BCA 10 at the Central Park Boathouse in New York City. Photo courtesy of Glen Davis.)
The sun was setting over the Manhattan skyline as guests arrived at the Loeb Boathouse in Central Park last Wednesday for the 2013 BCA 10: Best Businesses Partnering with the Arts in America gala award presentation and dinner. The awards, given annually by the Business Committee for the Arts (BCA), a division of Americans for the Arts, recognize ten businesses for their exceptional commitment to the arts through grants, local partnerships, volunteer programs, matching gifts, sponsorships and board membership.
The evening kicked off with cocktail hour in the shaded Boathouse courtyard. Upwards of 150 guests, many of whom had flown in for the event, caught up with one another over champagne and lobster fritters. The party was soon invited into the festive Boathouse dining room where attendees were formally welcomed by Robert L. (Bob) Lynch, President and CEO of Americans for the Arts. Mr. Lynch drew attention to the release of the 2013 BCA National Survey of Business Support for the Arts, which found that business support for the arts has increased by 18 percent since 2009. He noted that “there are numerous reasons for this including an increased understanding of how the arts improve the quality of life within a community, help businesses build brand and marketing, and strengthen education systems and academic performance.” (Photo credit: Americans for the Arts CEO Bob Lynch greets gala guests in the courtyard of the Central Park Boathouse, photo courtesy of Glen Davis.)
After an introduction from Mr. Lynch, Chairman of the BCA Executive Board William T. (Bill) Kerr took the stage to present the first three awards. Kerr explained that each award was an original piece of art created by New Orleans glass artist Mark Rosenbaum of Rosetree Glass in New Orleans and asked that recipients “let these awards serve as a reminder of all that we work for.”
Bill then welcomed the first award recipient and BCA 10 Presenting Sponsor, the Aspen Skiing Company from Aspen, Colorado. Since its inception in 1947, the ASC has committed itself to investing in Aspen’s cultural life. Through a partnership with the Aspen Art Museum, unique initiatives in public art, and special exhibitions and programming, the ASC invites a diverse audience to connect with the arts in a vibrant and immediate way. (Photo credit: BCA Executive Board Chairman Bill Kerr, philanthropist Paula Crown, and Aspen CEO Mike Kaplan, photo courtesy of Glen Davis.)
The next award recipient was Atlantic Salt, Inc., from Staten Island, New York. Atlantic Salt is a family-owned and operated marine terminal on Staten Island that facilitates salt distribution for wintertime de-icing. Atlantic Salt offers unique resources for the arts community of Staten Island and beyond. In 2005, Atlantic Salt assisted the Noble Maritime Collection in developing an exhibition on the salt industry of New York City. Since the exhibition, the company has become a summer arts venue, frequently hosting free and accessible events for the community.
The third award went to BCA 10 Sustaining Sponsor Bacardi USA Inc., from Coral Gables, Florida. Founded in Santiago de Cuba in 1862, Bacardi demonstrates a strong commitment to the arts in the communities in which its employees live and work. Bacardi contributes cash and in-kind gifts for gallery openings and events, and Bacardi brands are known for coordinating design competitions and encouraging artistic enterprise. Bacardi has partnered with the Coral Gables Museum on exhibitions and also exhibits its own workplace art collections.
Following the first three awards, guests enjoyed their first course as the Aetna Jazz Band “The A-Train” took the stage. The band, made up of corporate employee volunteers, traveled to New York from Hartford for the evening to show their support for the BCA and also as a fun example of a successful merging of business and the arts.
The program progressed as Deborah Jordy, Executive Director of the Colorado Business Committee for the Arts And Americans for the Arts board member, presented the next set of awards, beginning with M&T Bank, from Buffalo, New York. M&T has long supported the arts, recognizing that vibrant cultural institutions are a vital component of strong communities. This support includes a strong relationship with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra and a history of generous giving to the arts. Since 1969, M&T has presented a daily concert series called the M&T Plaza Event Series, which is believed to be the longest running corporate-sponsored event of its kind in the country.
Ms. Jordy presented the next award to Redmond, Washington software giant Microsoft, recognized for a long-standing commitment the arts through cash and in-kind donations, direct grants, employee giving and matching programs, and volunteerism. Microsoft works to ensure healthy and nourishing communities with excellent, diverse, and accessible programming in the visual and performing arts, museums, and high-quality public television and radio programming. Microsoft also hosts a corporate art collection that includes almost 5,000 artworks in buildings across the globe. (Photo credit: Andrea Taylor, Director, North America, Citizenship & Global Affairs accepts on behalf of Microsoft, photo courtesy of Glen Davis.)
The PNC Financial Services Group, Inc. was honored with the next award for its company belief that the arts are an economic driver, creating jobs, boosting tourism and connecting with broader audiences. Funded by the PNC Foundation and started in Philadelphia, PNC’s Arts Alive! program has worked successfully to expand arts audiences through new programming, marketing and use of technology. PNC Arts Alive! has since expanded to Columbus and Central Ohio, and the St. Louis and Southern Illinois area. PNC also encourages employee involvement in philanthropy by giving employees 40 extra hours of paid time off to volunteer for PNC Grow Up Great, its early childhood education initiative.
Jordy presented her final award to Premier Bank from Dubuque Iowa. Since its inception 15 years ago, Premier Bank has allocated 40% of the company’s philanthropy budget to arts and culture support. Premier is dedicated to the arts and culture of its local community, believing the arts not only improve a community’s broader economic outlook, but also are essential to the creativity needed for growing businesses and spurring innovation. Premier Bank has found that its commitment to participation, education, and cultural enlightenment keeps employees engaged and leads to high retention.
Dinner entrees were served while Edgar Smith, member and Chairman-Elect of the BCA Executive Board and CEO of World Pac Paper, took the stage. Before introducing the next recipients, Smith took a moment to recognize Americans for the Arts’ Private Sector Network partners across the country.
The first award presented by Mr. Smith honored Scholastic Inc. of New York City, who for more than 90 years has contributed to the literary talents, artistic works, and recognition of children and teens. In 1923 the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards were created, recognizing and offering scholarships to youth with exceptional creative talent. The company also has a global literacy campaign to support every child’s right to read, Read Every Day. Lead a Better Life. (Photo Credit: BCA Executive Board Chair-Elect Edgar Smith, Jr. with Scholastic Inc. CEO Dick Robinson, photo courtesy of Glen Davis.)
The next award presented by Mr. Smith went to Turner Broadcasting System, Inc., of Atlanta, Georgia, for its belief that a community filled with the arts fosters creativity in the workplace and drives business. Turner Broadcasting dedicates 50% of its philanthropic support to the arts. The company also encourages employee volunteerism within its arts partners, offers a grants matching program, and hosts an annual performance by local theatre groups.
The final BCA 10 award was presented to Yum! Brands, Inc.for its commitment to supporting the arts in Louisville. Yum! Brands believes that a diverse and energetic city, enhanced by the arts, helps to attract and retain top talent from all over the world. The Yum! Family series provides programming through a partnership with the Fund for the Arts and seven local arts organizations, inviting families in the Louisville community to experience the arts at a reduced cost.
Following the presentation of the BCA 10 awards, BCA Executive Board Member and CEO of Shugoll Research Mark A. Shugoll introduced the evening’s entertainment, Broadway and TV veteran Brian d’Arcy James. Brian is an acclaimed Broadway actor whose career highlights include a Tony nomination for his portrayal of the title role in Shrek: The Musical. He regaled the audience with a fabulous, captivating vocal performance which included works from Shrek, Godspell, and songwriter Johnny Mercer. (Photo Credit: Brian d'Arcy James entertains guests at the 2013 BCA 10, photo courtesy of Glen Davis.)
Before the evening wound to a close, Bob Lynch returned to the podium to present the final two awards.
Michael B. McCallister, Chairman of the Board of Humana Inc. received the BCA Leadership Award, which recognizes individuals whose vision, commitment and leadership champion the arts. McCallister has been a philanthropic leader in Louisville, KY and is a major personal donor to the Fund for the Arts. Under his leadership, Humana has consistently been the top local corporate donor to the Fund. In 2006, during McCallister’s tenure as Humana’s CEO, Humana was inducted into the BCA Hall of Fame. (Photo credit: Michael B. McCallister, Chairman, Humana Inc. and 2013 BCA Leadership Award honoree, photo courtesty of Glen Davis.)
In the final presentation of the evening, Mr. Lynch honored Milwaukee-based Northwest Mutual with induction into the BCA Hall of Fame. Northwestern Mutual is the largest corporate contributor to the arts in the state of Wisconsin. The company believes that the arts are important to attract and retain talented employees, and that they contribute positively to economic development. In 2008, the company was a BCA 10: Best Businesses Partnering with the Arts in America honoree.
The event came to an end with closing remarks from Mr. Lynch, who expressed gratitude on behalf of Americans for the Arts to those businesses and individuals who remain committed to supporting the arts. We look forward to raising our glass to the 2014 honorees!
Nominations for the 2014 BCA 10: Best Businesses Partnering with the Arts in America will be open online this December. Stay tuned to www.AmericansForTheArts.org/BCA for details. (Photo Credit: The 2013 BCA 10 award, photo courtesty of Glen Davis.)