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Investing in Curiosity and Exploration

Posted by Jessica Gaines
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Investing in Curiosity and Exploration

What makes one business outshine others in its field? A few things come to mind but committing to community often pushes a company ahead of its competitors.

 

Digital agency, Situation Interactive, is an example of this type of commitment. As a creative-driven agency that uses media and technology to tell immersive brand stories, Situation Interactive has been fortunate to be named one of the Best Companies to Work for in New York by the New York State Society for Human Resource Management (NYS-SHRM) in 2016. It’s not so much about luck however, Situation Interactive’s Founder Damian Bazadona attributes this type of recognition as a direct reflection of their clients and team. Their ability to gain this honor is further highlighted by the company’s beneficial and necessary commitment and investment in the community.

 

Every year, Situation rewards praiseworthy NYC public school students with a Broadway show experience. The program began with one middle school, MS 343 in the South Bronx, that is located in the poorest congressional district in the nation yet, one of the highest performing schools in New York City. Using funds slated for holiday gift baskets for clients and partners, Situation sent the entire school to see Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark – significant as most of these students had never been on a field trip, much less seen a Broadway show.

 

School trips to world-class arts and culture with access to working arts professionals: The Situation Project was born.

 

Now in its sixth year, the Situation Project predominantly provides Broadway-level experiences, see #TheatreMakesMe, but also boasts other art and culture experiences for these NYC middle school students including experiences like a tour of the Metropolitan Museum of Art for an 8th grade photography class before it had opened to the public.

 

With the Situation Project, Situation Interactive shows how they are on a mission to stimulate and expand the imaginations of students in their local communities.

 

Photo: Situation Project

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Research and Theatre: A Life’s Devotion

Posted by Jessica Gaines
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Research and Theatre: A Life’s Devotion

When Merrill Shugoll was selling candy at the Kennedy Center in her youth, would she have thought that she would become a research leader for arts organizations? As President of Shugoll Research in Bethesda, MD, Merrill and her team provide market research services to corporate and nonprofit clients including theatre companies, all over the country. In this interview from Broadwayworld.com, hear from the company’s CEO Mark Shugoll and President Merrill Shugoll – a husband and wife duo with a mutual love for research, theatre, and arts.

 

In the interview, Mark and Merrill talk about the importance of business and community leaders joining Boards of arts and theatre organizations.  They also share how their business came to adopt the arts as its corporate and philanthropic cause, and came to identify the arts sector as having the same [research] needs as the private sector.

 

Merrill also shares how theatre can open up one’s mind to other groups of people and that just one show, South Pacific, helped expose her to prejudice.

 

 

 

Not only is Shugoll Research a recipient of BCA 10 award but Mark Shugoll is also a lively and proud member of Americans for the Arts BCA Executive Board.

 

In January 2017, Shugoll Research was named by Chief Executive magazine a winner of its First Annual (2017) Corporate Citizenship Award for Culture and Arts. Shugoll Research was honored for its commitment to supporting arts organizations and helping to build future audiences for the arts among young people with its 20-year old initiative ArtSpeak!, which brings theater artists into public schools. These artists excite and educate young people about the arts by performing, participating in talk-backs, and talking about their careers. Coverage of the awards will appear in the March/April issue of Chief Executive magazine.

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Humana is Moving the Needle

Posted by Leslie Lyons
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Humana is Moving the Needle

Promoting the philosophy, The Art of Controlling Your Environment, Moving the Needle, a full service creative and production company, was founded on the belief that artistic practice can directly lend itself to good business. This manifests in a variety of ways as the company is made up of visual, graphic, video and recording artists. One recent project upended the trickle down flow which typically goes from corporate sponsor to arts organization to audience.


The Humana Festival of New American Plays represents the longest-running partnership between a corporation and a theatre company nationwide and is produced and presented by Actors Theatre of Louisville. For nearly four decades, Humana has funded this thriving point-of-entry for new theatrical work which reaches an international audience. One member of that audience is Moving the Needle Creative Director and founding partner, Leslie Lyons. “Our company is based in New York, but I was raised in Louisville,” says Lyons, “and the Humana Festival is in my DNA. So, in 2013, I began investigating the marketing materials of the Festival because we wanted to pitch working with them. I quickly realized that while the Festival seemed to promote each season year after year, there might be an opportunity to create a branding piece that would convey the process and collaborative, creative effort that goes into these productions overall.”


So, Moving the Needle wrote a treatment that would have high brow artistic value but
be cost effective for the non-profit entity of Actors Theatre. The result is a two-video
branded campaign that was produced during the 2014 Festival which will be used to
celebrate the success of each year’s festival all the while educating audiences about its
rich process and history.


Managing Director of Actors Theatre, Jennifer Bielstein leverages the point. “With an expanding global audience, the need to reach people online is essential. Videos like the ones Leslie created for us enable us to not only reach people, but to actually engage them in what we do and effectively tell our story. We also expect to use the campaign to inspire some current audiences as it conveys our core values of Creatively, Collaboration, Engagement and Excellence.”


Having the origin of this project come from an audience member is quite unique and, in
this case, the results were products created by artists which flowed back to benefit the
corporate sponsor. This idea of cross pollination between the community, arts
organizations and corporations is exactly the kind of artistic control over environment
that Moving the Needle seeks out.


From Humana Foundation Executive Director, Virginia Judd, “At Humana, we embrace several core values that influence the way we conduct our business and relate to others. Two of these values, cultivate uniqueness and thrive together, are reflected in our partnership with Actors Theatre of Louisville and, by extension, Moving the
Needle.”

 

For its outstanding partnerships with the arts, Humana received induction into the BCA Hall of Fame in 2006, and Humana Chairman Michael B. McCallister received the 2013 BCA Leadership Award for excellence in leadership through the arts.

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Theatre Arts Education Programs Create Innovative Thinkers and Workers

Posted by Bruce Whitacre
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A little over a year ago, National Corporate Theatre Fund (NCTF) announced the launch of Impact Creativity, a three-year, $5 million effort to secure the funding of education programs at our 19 theatres. Together, these theatres serve over 500,000 K-12 children and youth, with the large number of students experiencing the student matinée programs. We were very grateful to Ernst and Young for their contribution in 2012 that got the ball rolling.

 

Now, we are focusing our efforts on the world of innovation and creativity going on at our theatres. Seattle Rep Theatre is helping teachers better utilize arts techniques to enliven the classroom. Actors Theatre of Louisville is engaging students in classrooms through a Living Newspaper playwriting program. The Goodman Theatre is teaching STEM skills through a study of theatre magic found in their production of A Christmas Carol. Altogether, we identified 19 innovative projects and began asking our funding partners to help theatres sustain this creative burst through what we call our Impact Creativity Innovation Program.

 

These include programs designed for an array of children with different and sometimes challenging circumstances: Trinity Rep Active Imagination Network (TRAIN) in Providence engages children in the autism spectrum; Walnut Street Theatre in Philadelphia engages kids with plays that address diversity, civil rights and bullying, among other subjects; and American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco and Manhattan Theatre Club in New York are working with youth caught up in the criminal justice and school discipline systems. For a complete list of the programs, click here.

 

Happily, by the close of our fiscal year in June, several individuals, foundations and companies were as impressed with these programs as we were. Individual donors and family foundations joined us in sustaining these innovation programs. And the Hearst Foundations, one of the few national foundations active in the arts, provided a $100,000 grant for these programs. We have not met the full cost – total budgets for these projects in 2013-14 are nearly $1 million – but we are on our way.

 

As we continue to pursue support for these programs, a few things are becoming more and more clear. First, arts education supporters face unprecedented challenges. We have been around a long time and the field is very competitive. Years of advocacy can create a kind of fatigue around the issue. Schools and families, especially in disadvantaged neighborhoods, are more challenged than ever to engage. And that is not just for financial reasons. Rapidly changing school leadership, family instability and the challenge of sustaining the service to those who would most benefit from it affect arts education as they do all subjects. More problematic, research in the field is needed to document what is virtually universally known on an anecdotal basis: theatre education changes lives.

 

Finally, while companies are rallying around STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics), they have yet to fully grasp where the arts contribute to educating the workforce we truly need: creative, collaborative, compassionate, aware, AS WELL AS technically proficient. They seem more interested in a robotic, short-term tech worker than they are in the Steve Jobs or Sean Parker social visionary who can make our products truly improve lives and our companies worth working for. This is critical because as we see in other social change issues, such as gay marriage, corporate leadership is critical if this complex, multi-party field is to achieve true change. If companies don’t really step into this field as they have in STEM, we simply will not see the focused investment needed to secure a future engaged, creative America.

 

The Impact Creativity Innovation Program is about creating better lives for our kids today and for our country in the future. Theatres, like so many cultural institutions, are providing more than entertainment or community bragging rights. As we see with these programs, they are fostering improvements, making connections, providing services that will pay back in tangible and intangible ways for generations. How lucky we are to even witness this vitality and engagement. Even more fortunately, our partners understand the importance of this work and are rolling up their sleeves to help all across the country.

 

(This post, originally published on HuffingtonPost.org, is one in a weekly series highlighting The pARTnership Movement, Americans for the Arts’ campaign to reach business leaders with the message that partnering with the arts can build their competitive advantage.)

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