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Q and A: Using the Arts to Reach New Tenants at Orchard Commercial

Posted by Emily Peck
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Q and A: Using the Arts to Reach New Tenants at Orchard Commercial

 

An interview with Joe Lewis, President and Owner, Orchard Commercial

 

Americans for the Arts is proud to present an interview with Joe Lewis, president and owner of Orchard Commercial—the most comprehensive real estate operations company in Silicon Valley. Joe is responsible for overseeing all regional business activities, providing quality service to its customers, and maximizing profitability for its clients' commercial properties. Joe has over 30 years of experience in commercial real estate as a broker, manager, developer, and owner. Before joining Orchard in 1996, Joe served as executive vice president at Cornish & Carey, directing the property management division in addition to his brokerage practice. In 1988, he was elected Silicon Valley Investment Broker of the Year. He is a member of BOMA Silicon Valley, Institute of Real Estate Management, and NAIOP. Joe serves on the UC Berkeley Fisher Center Advisory Board. Before his real estate career, Joe served as a pilot in the U.S. Navy.

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Q) Describe the evolution of the 2665 North First Street project.

In 2006, Orchard Commercial purchased a 30 year old, 120,000 square foot office building in North San Jose. The building was quite neglected and only about 40% leased. The opportunity and challenge was to renovate the building and attract new tenants. The building, while well located, suffered from poor market reputation and very large common areas. A quiet pall seemed to hang over the common area interiors that soared three stories to the roof. “Lifeless” was a word that often emerged in our conversations about what to do with it. One day, the head of our design department said, “This place looks and feels like an art gallery. Why don’t we play to that?” And the journey began.

 

Q) How do you determine which art pieces to feature?

Our in-house designer saved the day by directing us to San Jose University’s Art Department. Graduating students in the Masters of Fine Arts program were exhibiting their final works as a graduation requirement. Some of them had very large works that were incredibly striking. We hired a recent graduate who had an undergraduate degree in Marketing & Communications and a Masters in Fine Art to become our part time curator. She was tasked to recruit artists from the program to exhibit their works in our building for a 3-month period. Our first exhibit had nearly 50 works of student artists. We held a reception in the building for the artists and everyone else in the community we could think of to invite, including all the real estate office leasing brokers. It all worked so well that we continued with our curator who sourced works from students, faculty, and other emerging artists to create new exhibits each quarter. Some works were sold directly by students and the rotation would start all over again.

 

Q) How do you think the art feature has impacted the success of this project?

The revolving exhibits and the quarterly receptions changed the reputation of the building. Brokers brought their tenants. The tenants were excited about the exhibits and regularly attended the receptions, creating a new sense of community within the building that was contagious. The reasons that people choose one office space over another are legion. They are usually described in terms of location, amenities, and economics – quantifiable attributes that can be explained in a memo to the board or the boss. However, most buildings on the tenant’s short list will be fairly equal, so there are not many unique reasons to choose one over the other. Most prospects can’t remember which spaces they toured. People finally decide on the basis of feelings–“I love the feel of this place”–to select their new home from several fairly equal choices. Art brought the building to life and it made a huge difference, although the real reason people leased our space remained a bit of an unquantifiable secret.

 

Q) How has art helped your business connect with the community and/or achieve other business goals?

The surprising thing is how quickly word spread throughout the larger community. We promoted the program with invitations to the receptions but soon organizations were seeking us out as a place to host events because it was so interesting and ever changing. ZERO1, a group that works at the intersection of Art and Technology, selected our building for their opening gala. We hosted political events for the Mayor and other community organizations and causes. If you have space to lease, the more people that visit your building, the better. It worked incredibly well in a world where it is difficult to get anyone’s attention. The lifeless building became fun, approachable, full of life, and fully leased.

 

Q) In what ways does art intersect with the property management business?

The highlight example was the annual BOMA party mixer with a Mardi Gras theme held in our building. Every property manager, lots of brokers, and most of their vendors were packed into our building lobby. When someone has been to your house, they know who you are. Everyone knew us!

 

Q) Has art played a role in your development as a business leader?

Our promotion of the arts and artists had made us unique. Business and the arts rarely cross unless the leader is a notable collector of art or philanthropist. I am not a notable collector of art but rather an exhibitor of emerging original art. That is in short supply in the business world. I maintain that if all the art that is in warehouses could be where people work, it would make a real difference in both communities.

 

Q) What do you love about the arts?

I like the way that art can change the world. Our business is Commercial Real Estate. We are providing space for people to live their work lives. Art can make a remarkable difference in the joy of those work spaces. Many artists are not promoters and their works will never been seen by the public. Giving them a voice on our commercial walls at the beginning of their careers–that could make the difference.

 

Q) Do you have upcoming projects that feature art?

It is ever challenging to have enough time and money to bring the arts to the marketplace in a meaningful way. Currently we are supporting a project of the San Jose Downtown Association called “Downtown Doors.” High school students have an opportunity to submit their artwork through their teachers to be selected by a committee for publication in an unusual manner. Their work is turned into vinyl canvases and installed on the downtown streets on a variety of side doors and electrical utility boxes. That which was ugly turns into a work of art. Supporters contribute $2,500 to have this installation done and some money returned to the schools for art programs. There have been over 1,300 submissions and $90,000 distributed to schools since the program began. The winners are displayed as posters in a downtown reception at the San Jose Museum of Art. Orchard Commercial had copies of this year’s winners reprinted as posters and placed on display in our building lobby.

 

Q) Is there anything else you want us to know?

We do not spend a lot of money on this program, but it was something that had to be invented. It is very hard for students or emerging artists to get their works in public view. By putting their works in your public space, you are helping them. People that like the work will want to know about the artist, so a tasteful biography is appropriate as well as a sales price and contact point. Building owners and managers are constantly working to get as many people as possible to view their vacant spaces, so giving these prospects something to see and perhaps a glass of champagne to enjoy during a reception is a great move. It is a win-win proposition for your building, the community, and the arts.

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Q and A: BNY Mellon Jazz and the Community

Posted by Emily Peck
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Q and A: BNY Mellon Jazz and the Community

An interview with Stephanie Babich Mihleder, Global Citizenship and Sustainability, BNY Mellon

 

Americans for the Arts is proud to present an interview with Stephanie Babich Mihleder, Global Citizenship and Sustainability for BNY Mellon. BNY Mellon was named a BCA 10: Best Businesses Partnering with the Arts in America honoree in 2015.

 

Q) Can you give us an overview of BNY Mellon’s arts support?

 

Over the course of its more than 230 year history, our company has supported and worked with many leading art and cultural institutions around the world. BNY Mellon’s support of the arts is an extension of the company's rich cultural heritage. In 2015, our company provided more than $2 million in corporate grants and sponsorships to support the arts.  

 

BNY Mellon's art collection serves to enhance the workplace, stimulate creativity and reinforce the company's longstanding support for the arts. Through an active loan program with museums and galleries across the world, the collection creates positive visibility and strategic opportunities to connect with clients and employees.  

 

The company matches donations for arts organizations at 50 percent with a cap of $10,000 for all eligible charities. Employees also receive matching donations for their volunteer time and paid time off to volunteer for eligible charities, including arts organizations. 

 

There are numerous art related programs for employees, including occasional workplace performances.

 

Q) How did the jazz program first come about at BNY Mellon?

 

Pittsburgh has had a huge influence on the jazz world and is one of the foremost cities for developing jazz artists. Many of the jazz greats were from Pittsburgh and, due to the rich jazz culture, Pittsburgh had a thriving jazz scene and was always a tour stop for performers. BNY Mellon has always had a major focus on the arts, and so BNY Mellon Jazz was created in the Pittsburgh region to give back to the community.

 

Q) How has the program evolved over the years?

 

This year (2016) BNY Mellon Jazz celebrates its 30th year in Pittsburgh. Throughout that time, numerous local nonprofits have received support from this initiative and thousands of artists have played under its banner, including Tony Bennett, George Benson, Diana Krall, and Al Jarreau. By partnering with nonprofit organizations and educational institutions, BNY Mellon Jazz underwrites jazz concerts and concert series, CDs, educational initiatives, and scholarships. This year-round focus provides cultural and educational institutions with exceptional opportunities to offer the best in jazz artistry under the BNY Mellon Jazz brand.  BNY Mellon Jazz started with a Festival for the Pittsburgh community that has transitioned over time to a robust program where presently 13 different organizations are involved.

 

Q) What are some of the organizations you partner with on your jazz programs?

 

The 13 organizations we work with are very diverse. For example, we work with the University of Pittsburgh facilitating an annual scholarship for a jazz student. We work with organizations like Citiparks and the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust who facilitate community jazz shows. We are the title sponsor of Pittsburgh Cultural Trust’s JazzLive. This program has a weekly jazz show in the downtown area that is free to the public. We partner with Manchester Craftmen’s Guild for the MCG Jazz series at their concert hall. They are the most popular jazz subscription series in the United States and bring high caliber performers to the Pittsburgh area. We have also partnered with the Grammy Award winning MCG production team to produce CDs. One of the most interesting organizations we have worked with is City of Asylum. This organization provides sanctuary to endangered artists. Each year they organize a jazz poetry concert that showcases these artists’ talents and stories.  Every year seems to bring something new as there are always new opportunities. For example, in 2014 we worked with Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra to be the title sponsor of a Tony Bennett performance.

 

Q) Did your partners approach you first or did you find them?

 

Most of our partners approached us with sponsorship requests.

 

Q) How does the jazz program help BNY Mellon to put your company in the spotlight?

 

Supporting the arts creates positive visibility for the company’s brand and demonstrates goodwill in the communities where BNY Mellon operates. Many of our sponsorship benefits include tickets to performances or special events that we can use for client-entertainment.

 

Q) What do you love about BNY Mellon’s jazz program?

 

People in Pittsburgh are extremely passionate about jazz and I am proud to be part of an organization that brings so many jazz related opportunities to the community. My personal favorite is all of the free concerts that we sponsor. Anyone can partake in those and they are spread all throughout the city.

 

Photo: Sean Jones plays at a JazzLive show, a free year-round weekly concert for the Pittsburgh community sponsored by BNY Mellon in partnership with the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust. Photo courtesy of Pittsburgh Cultural Trust.

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Q and A: Using Art to Connect with Diverse Audiences at Wells Fargo

Posted by Stacy Lasner
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An interview with Lisa Frison,

Vice President, African American segment strategy leader at Wells Fargo

 

Americans for the Arts is proud to present an interview with Lisa Frison, Vice President, African American segment strategy leader for Wells Fargo. Wells Fargo was named a BCA 10: Best Businesses Partnering with the Arts in America honoree in 2005.

 

Lisa Frison is responsible for developing and leading the enterprise strategy for driving engagement among African American consumers and communities. Her personal passions align with Wells Fargo’s vision to help all customers succeed financially. As segment lead, Lisa focuses on providing African Americans with the tools, resources, and product solutions necessary to help them make informed financial decisions. She is a thought leader, delivering data, cultural insights and strategic consultation to business and product groups across the company to help advance their business objectives through segment engagement. Lisa has held positions at Xerox and The Walt Disney Company. She is based in Charlotte, NC.

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Wells Fargo diversity and inclusion statement (excerpt)

Our commitment to diversity and inclusion is key to being one of the world’s great companies. It’s a business imperative that lets us take advantage of the creativity and innovation that come from multiple perspectives. It also allows us to respond quickly and effectively to customer needs wherever they arise. And it helps us understand our customers more fully, see business opportunities in new ways, and succeed in serving the needs of all customers. Read more.

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Q) How and why does Wells Fargo incorporate the arts in its diversity initiatives?

Support of the arts aligns with Wells Fargo’s ongoing strategy to cultivate a deeper appreciation of the African American experience. Through The Untold Stories Collection platform — which includes a national celebratory tour featuring The Kinsey Collection: Shared Treasures of Bernard and Shirley Kinsey – Where Art and History Intersect and #MyUntold— Wells Fargo is working to promote meaningful dialogue around the contributions of African Americans to American history and culture.

 

In 2013, Well Fargo sponsored a national tour featuring The Kinsey Collection-Shared Treasures of Bernard and Shirley Kinsey. The traveling exhibition (featuring art and artifacts chronicling African American history and culture from the 1600s to present day) created an opportunity for individuals in five major cities to develop a deeper understanding of the role of African Americans in the making of America. Even more, four of the five museum hosts were African American museums. In each case, we were able to increase visitation, membership, volunteer support, and funding for the museums. In some cities, we developed special programing and offered free admission for local students. We also offered free weekends to Wells Fargo customers, and hosted special lectures open to the community featuring the Kinsey family, historians, and community leaders.

 

While the #MyUntold campaign initially focused on stories shared on social media —and expressed through video, photos, and writing— we thought it would be exciting to take some of those stories and bring them to life through art in a “surprise and delight” effort where we presented the original pieces to the individual storytellers. We commissioned Atlanta-based artist Keith Rosemond II to create multiple illustrations reflecting experiences from several inspiring stories. Additionally, he designed three illustrations highlighting certain key aspects of African American culture (faith, family, and music) for Wells Fargo’s Card Design Studio® (for debit/credit card holders)

 

Q) How are programs like Untold Stories administered?

Campaigns like #MyUntold are led by Diverse Segment Marketing, and supported as part of a cross-functional integrated marketing strategy. This includes engagement with key enterprise partners responsible for delivering messaging to internal and external audiences, like: Corporate Communications, Enterprise Social Media, Virtual/Digital Channels, CSR, and Team Member Resource Groups. Equally important, a large number of the team members who develop and drive our multicultural campaigns are ethnically diverse.   

 

Q) Wells Fargo previously featured art on your cards supporting your diversity commitment, and now you’ve commissioned new art in connection with Untold Stories. Tell us a little about the history of Wells Fargo’s card-art.

In working with our planning team and creative agencies, we are always challenging ourselves to be as innovative and relevant as possible. Art is such an integral part of African American history and culture. Visual art in particular has always been a means for the community to express pride in its culture. With both the Kinsey campaign and #MyUntold, we wanted to extend the opportunity to the masses to “own a piece of art” – which we accomplished through Wells Fargo’s Card Design Studio®.

 

For #MyUntold, we worked with an agency to identify a local artist. We identified Keith as part of in-depth research into local area artists that might be a good fit for the program. We looked at things including artist style, storytelling ability through the artwork, connection to the African American community, and previous experience as part of our research. We did broad research looking through local art shows/exhibits, news stories/coverage and personal connections in the community. Keith was one of many identified as possible partners, but his profile rose to the top given that his art style and storytelling ability fit MyUntold so well already. Rosemond has formal training as an illustrator and graphic designer from the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) and has an appreciation for both traditional and contemporary art. 

 

We initially worked with Rosemond on the “surprise and delight” art pieces so it was a great opportunity to continue the collaboration and bring broader visibility to his work as an artist. For the Card Design Studio®, we worked closely with Rosemond to provide overall direction on the sentiment we wanted to convey, as well as our brand story. It was important that we worked with someone who understood the campaign and could connect with our vision to bring awareness to the diversity within African American culture. We did not dictate what he could create. Rosemond presented multiple concepts to us based on stories and themes that resonated with him, and as a team we selected the concepts with most cultural and emotional resonance. 

 

Q) Are your senior leaders and other employees involved in your arts programs?

We are intentional about engaging leaders and team members in our programs. Our leaders often participate in programs by acting as executive sponsors, spokespeople, and attending events that allow them to connect directly with the community. We always work with our team member resource groups to engage them in our programming by building awareness and developing unique programs to expound on diverse campaigns.

 

Often times our team members are on the ground volunteering to increase customer and community engagement around our events. During our Kinsey Collection tour, team members across the country partnered with the local host museums to execute programs, including some being trained as docents. Wells Fargo also hosted special events where team members could tour the exhibition at no cost. Many leaders also used the exhibition to conduct team building and diversity activities, taking groups of team members to tour the collection and have discussions around the content.

 

For #MyUntold, we identified multiple senior leaders to share their personal stories of success and triumph. These videos were later published to the #MyUntold platform; shared with team members across the company via internal channels; and on Wells Fargo’s #MyUntold YouTube channel.

 

For the Card Design Studio® opportunity, we leveraged multiple internal communications channels to ensure team members were aware of the effort. We immediately received positive feedback from team members who expressed interest in ordering the art. It was exciting to see team members of all cultures show enthusiasm and support. 

 

Q) Do you have any plans for the future of your arts-related diversity programming that you can share?

Wells Fargo is proud to be a founding donor of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. When the museum opens in September, artifacts from our own Wells Fargo history museum collection will be featured as part of an exhibition on Grafton Tyler Brown. Brown was an American painter, lithographer and cartographer who owned and operated his lithography company in San Francisco from 1867 to 1879. He was the first African American artist to create works depicting the Pacific Northwest and California. During this time, he created lithographs for stock certificates and letterheads for numerous companies in the area –of which Wells Fargo held several in its archives.

 

Wells Fargo has also provided programmatic and financial support to numerous African American museums across the country, including, the Museum of the African Diaspora; Harvey B. Gantt Center; Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History & Culture and Houston Museum of African American History and Culture.    

Beyond this, we will continue to look for opportunities to integrate art in our diverse programming because it has been a successful tool in celebrating history and culture. 

 

Q) Do you have any advice for arts organizations seeking to approach businesses with partnership ideas?

Take time to learn about the company and their priorities. Lead with questions to determine mutual interests and benefits, and be willing to co-create to deliver unique experiences. It’s also important to demonstrate how you will measure impact. As much as organizations want to contribute to communities, more and more they are being required to show metrics that also demonstrate how the relationship is valuable to both the organization and the community. 

 

Q) What do you love about using the arts to celebrate diversity?

Wells Fargo embraces the arts as a voice for history and culture. Programs like #MyUntold and The Kinsey Collection allowed us to share important stories involving the rich history of African Americans – a history of identity and struggle for equality that is both unique and shared by other diverse segments of our society.

 

Art also creates an opportunity for individuals to engage in meaningful conversations about culture. Through our programs we have been able to help dispel myths and promote dialogue around the role of African-Americans in the making of America.  

 

Art is universal. It provides an opportunity to teach others about diversity and inclusion through creative expression, which for some can be more “palatable” or relatable than other vehicles that aim to educate on diversity.

 

Learn more about the #MyUntold collection.

 

Learn more about Wells Fargo’s diversity framework on The Conference Board blog.

 

Want to know more? Share your questions on Twitter using #ArtsandBiz or email pARTnership@artsusa.org.

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