I would characterize our relationship with our local business community as “maturing” and “promising.”
As a united arts fund agency, Allied Arts of Greater Chattanooga has received significant support from our businesses over our 43-year history. Thanks to an influx of significant new businesses and a fresh look at our cultural resources, our future relationships with corporations are even more promising.
Despite our nation’s economic challenges, Chattanooga is experiencing a renaissance thanks to the impact of major new industries locating in our community, most notably Volkswagen (Did I mention that the Passat is a GREAT car?).
Fortunately for our arts community, when Volkswagen announced their decision to build their new Passat production plant they chose to do so at our fantastic Hunter Museum of American Art.
In their announcement, Volkswagen noted that in making their decision “the intangibles became tangible.” We, of course, have been touting to everyone that they were referring to the arts and the role they play in making Chattanooga a great place to live and work.
In addition to our Volkswagen boost, during the past two years, Allied Arts has facilitated a community cultural planning process that we named Imagine Chattanooga 20/20 (IC 20/20). Through this process we have deepened our connection with the community and have increased the perceived value for the arts.
Key to this effort was engaging two extremely well respected individuals to serve as chairs of IC 20/20. Ruth Holmberg has been a long-time advocate for the arts. As the former owner and publisher of the Chattanooga Times (and with direct connections to the New York Times), Ruth is a 90-year-old dynamo that has been amazing in her influence to move Chattanooga forward for decades.
Her co-chair, Tom White is a senior vice president with Unum, a leading local corporate citizen and the most significant business contributor to the arts in Chattanooga. Their leadership attracted other community leaders to participate in our cultural planning process and I can honestly and proudly claim that our steering committee was truly comprised of a who’s-who in Chattanooga.
Thanks to the guidance of our consultant, Dr. Thomas Wolf of WolfBrown, throughout Imagine Chattanooga 20/20, we kept our focus on not what the community could do for the arts, but rather what the arts can do for the community. We were able to engage significant community leaders in meaningful discussions about arts and economic development.
It also helped that the President of the local newspaper, The Chattanooga Times Free Press, was on the steering committee. Not only has Imagine Chattanooga 20/20 received great coverage, the newspaper developed the website for our cultural plan.
As a result of this new relationship with the paper, they are developing a comprehensive community event calendar—print, online, and mobile versions—through a partnership with Allied Arts, our local NBC-TV affiliate, the Chattanooga Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB), and River City (our downtown development agency).
Speaking of the CVB, we have had great interactions with them about cultural tourism and have recently convened meetings with them and our local arts organizations. Together we are working to utilize the arts to attract arts-focused conventions, use the arts to attract and serve non-arts focused conventions and train the hospitality community about our cultural resources.
The icing on the cake that has reaffirmed all of our new relationships with the business community is the new findings from Arts and Economic Prosperity IV. Already we have received great feedback from our local report which shows the arts making a $106 million impact on our local economy.
As you can see—we mean business when we say that the arts mean business in Chattanooga.
*This post was originally featured on ARTSblog.