Art as the Solution
In 1988, when major companies were first deciding to move their headquarters to lower Manhattan at the World Financial Center, leadership at the global real estate company Olympia and York realized the need to create a lively and energetic downtown community. In 1996, Brookfield Office Properties acquired the Olympia and York USA along with the arts program. Now 17 years later, Brookfield Office Properties has expanded the arts programming to over 25 buildings and launched Arts Brookfield as a global platform to present year-round, free to the public performances and exhibitions. Since its establishment, Arts Brookfield has animated Brookfield spaces with over 5,000 performances, films, and exhibitions, and serves more than 5 million people. (Photo credit: Third Rail Project performs "Roadside Attraction" on the campus of Brookfield Office Properties, courtesy of Arts Brookfield.)
Speaking to the success of the initiative, Debra Simon, Vice President of Arts and Events at Brookfield Properties, said, “There is an acknowledgement that a vibrant arts program is a key component of our expertise in place making.”
Today, Brookfield sees its properties as more than just office buildings, constantly working to animate the public spaces as destinations for arts and culture. Providing hundreds of complimentary events each year, Arts Brookfield’s programs have now expanded to other major cities including Los Angeles, Houston, Denver, Perth, Calgary, and Toronto. Overall, the company has found that its investment in the arts, in tandem with renovations and other tenant amenities, has paid off with a better class of tenants and higher rents.
Arts Brookfield is active in the River to River Festival, an annual performing arts festival with events held from June through July in Lower Manhattan. The festival was started after 9-11 with the intention of bringing people back into the area and recreating a sense of neighborhood. Arts Brookfield joined the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the Downtown Alliance, Battery Park City Authority, Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, and South Street Seaport to create the River to River Festival with support from American Express.
Using new and avant-garde music, dance, theatre, visual arts, interactive performances, and literature, and placing them in unexpected places around the neighborhood, the partner organizations worked to breathe life and celebration back into the area.
Twelve years later, River to River now takes place over the course of 30 days and consists of over 150 performances from 60 artists at 28 locations, including four Brookfield properties. The festival has succeeded in creating a sense of neighborhood where creative and interesting things happen that entertain the increasing area residents, employees, and visitors. (Photo credit: Third Rail Project performs "Roadside Attraction" on the campus of Brookfield Office Properties, courtesy of Arts Brookfield.)
Succeeding in its original mission, River to River, currently under the leadership of the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, is now all about creating and curating new programming. For its involvement in the festival, Arts Brookfield hosts and commissions site-specific works that perform and rehearse in Brookfield public spaces, often catching employees and visitors that stumble upon the art by happenstance.
Arts Brookfield has found the festival to be highly successful as a marketing umbrella, building market and brand recognition for Brookfield by attracting audiences to the area and people to Brookfield retailers and restaurants.
Through its expertise in placemaking and culturally literate leadership, Brookfield is using art as the solution to advance company objectives, build brand awareness, and establish a sense of neighborhood in major cities around the world. Essentially, Brookfield has realized art can be the solution for community and business.