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The Arts Mean Business on the East End of Long Island

Posted by Stephanie Smith
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The Arts Mean Business on the East End of Long Island

Last week, we packed out a partially restored 1930s single-screen movie house in our town’s up-and-coming downtown area. How did we do it? Three simple words: Arts Mean Business.

 

We, being East End Arts, a nonprofit community arts organization out in eastern Long Island, operating a School of the Arts, an art gallery, and presenting a variety of events and programs to promote the arts year-round.

 

“Arts Mean Business” was a forum that we presented for the region’s arts and business leaders: we invited business owners, artists, local government, arts organizations, community leaders, nonprofit organizations, and community members to the seminar with keynote presentation and panel discussion by notable arts and business leaders demonstrating the value of partnering with the arts to strengthen the economic vitality of Long Island.

 

We weren’t so sure how the community would respond to this sort of forum, but the immediate responses to our first marketing efforts proved that it would be a successful venture and indeed it was.

 

“Arts Mean Business” completely sold out—we were thrilled to learn that our local community wanted to know what we had to say about a very important topic: partnership between the arts and business communities of all shapes and sizes.

The group of 150 attendees represented a great sample of the people we were hoping to reach. It was really a 50/50 crowd of arts people and business people, with a few government officials in the mix.

 

We are so grateful that our friends at the Suffolk Theater agreed to host us in their space. The 1930s art deco-style theater has been closed since the 1980s, but is in the process of being restored with the goal to open by the end of 2012.

 

Guests were excited to see the majestic and historic space and meeting there really spoke to the creative process—and the endless possibilities for the future of our downtown area on the rise, and for the economic strength of all of Long Island.

 

Emily Peck, director of private sector initiatives for Americans for the Arts, joined us as the keynote speaker of the event, presented The pARTnership Movement, and reviewed the eight reasons that businesses should partner with the arts.

 

Some of the statistics that really resonated with the audience related to the economic value of the arts to the community and region: Nationally, the nonprofit arts and culture industry generates $166.2 billion in economic activity every year—$63.1 billion in spending by organizations and an additional $103.1 billion in event-related spending by their audiences.

 

Much like the audience, our panel of speakers for the second portion of the forum represented a nice range of arts and business leader perspectives for the panel discussion: Eric Alexander from Vision Long Island; Rob Salvatico from Hotel Indigo; artist Elaine Thompson; Bob Spiotto from the Suffolk Theater; and Michelle Isabelle-Stark from Suffolk County Economic Development.Our moderator was David Winzelberg from Long Island Business News.

 

An important piece of the design of the day was to have this panel discussion be as interactive as possible—with attendees’ burning questions being answered on the spot. After the keynote presentation, attendees were asked to submit questions for the panel, and each question was addressed, as well as any others that came up.

 

A goal of this event was to help connect people and industries. Attendees stayed well after the forum closed—and well beyond lunch and the theater tours—to discuss their greatest ideas and to make as many connections as possible.

 

We were thrilled with the success of this event, and have since decided to hold a similar event on a regular basis.

 

We thank the Long Island Community Foundation for funding this program, as well as event media sponsor The Times-Review Newspapers. Additional thanks goes to the Riverhead Chamber of Commerce for partnering with us on this, and to Digger’s Pub & Restaurant and the Blue Duck Bakery for providing the food. Special thanks goes to our friends at the Suffolk Theater for hosting us in their beautiful, partially restored space.

 

And, breakfast provided by the Blue Duck Bakery is a perfect example of a successful partnership. The new bakery will be opening its doors in a few short weeks and the owners approached us prior to the event looking to donate some baked goods. Not only did they feed the crowd with their pastries and set the tone for the morning, they benefited from exposure to 150 people who now know they will be opening soon. Now that’s what we call a win-win!

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