PNC Bank (MO)Advance Corporate Objectives & Strategies
Investment in St. Louis Arts Community Pays off through PNC Arts Alive
When PNC Bank’s acquisition of National City Corporation expanded its foothold in the Midwest nearly four years ago, the organization’s leaders knew they’d need to build authentic relationships to gain the trust of their new customers and communities. Taking cues from the company’s PNC Arts Alive successes in Philadelphia and Columbus, Ohio, the St. Louis franchise embraced their artistic community through the company’s unique arts development program. The Greater St. Louis two-year, $1 million initiative to support the arts was designed to empower artistic organizations to find creative ways to expand and engage their audiences.
“The PNC Foundation provides funding to Arts Alive to identify locally the arts organizations that would be the best fit for the funding,” explained Mike Labriola, executive director of the PNC Foundation. “The priorities are set on a national level, but the execution is kept local.”
With funding from the PNC Foundation, the St. Louis leadership relied on strategic service partnerships with Regional Arts Center (RAC) and the Arts and Education Council to gain a broader understanding of the wide-ranging and eclectic arts artistic landscape and needs of the community that serves it. These community resources, complemented by PNC’s financial expertise and highly-regarded business relationships, perfectly positioned the Arts Alive initiative to make a big impact on the St. Louis arts scene.
In 2013, 17 visual and performing arts groups, spanning all genres and art forms, were named grantees. They help make the arts more accessible to the Greater St. Louis region’s diverse audiences by offering free and discounted arts programming, public events that introduce the arts in unexpected ways, ticket subsidy programs, and innovative programs that engage and build young audiences.
The PNC Arts Alive initiative demonstrates that there is an artistic outlet for everyone, regardless of age, economic background, skill level and taste. Preschoolers train as jugglers and gymnasts while learning the value of focus, persistence and teamwork with Circus Harmony, a 2012 grantee. Older students in the St. Louis area are connected with African students through African Musical Arts, Inc., another 2012 grantee which enables them to learn from and about each other through Skype, as well as through performances by the Songs of Africa Ensemble. Other grantees bring hands-on contemporary art experiences and education directly to the St. Louis community. The Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis’ CAM Arts Alive Bus serves as a mobile art studio, featuring surprise “pop-up” workshops with St. Louis-based artists as it visits schools, street fairs and festivals. These are just three of the 17 PNC Arts Alive 2012 grantees – imagine their impact in concert with 14 more arts groups dedicated to bring the arts to life in St. Louis.
Since its St. Louis launch in November 2010, Arts Alive has helped PNC Bank build not only brand awareness, but brilliant brand associations. In a recent survey, 85% of Greater St. Louis’ community and business leaders indicated that PNC Bank was known for its dedication to the early childhood programs, 70% named its commitment to the arts, and 30% felt that the bank was known for community development. The impact of the program has even caught the eyes and won the hearts of those outside the Greater St. Louis area. In February, PNC Bank was named a 2012 Missouri Arts Award recipient for its philanthropic efforts in the area with Arts Alive.
“We wanted people in the community to see that PNC is a bank that cares about the community, is authentic, and will come up with creative solutions,” said Rick Sems, PNC Bank regional president for Greater St. Louis. “Our program allows us to bring ideas to fruition and to promote them in the community to make it a better place.”
As the Arts Alive program continues, PNC hopes to help more arts organizations reach out to the community, expand their audiences, and make a lasting impact on the Greater St. Louis area. They already have. But, Sems points out, the bank and program leaders refuse to accept their recent successes as reasons to stop innovating. They are committed to continuously finding new ways to achieve success. After all, that’s the kind of spirit that Arts Alive embodies and encourages every day.