Partnering with Chambers of Commerce on the Road to Reopening and Recovery



As part of Americans for the Arts’ Annual Convention and Public Art and Civic Design Conference, we spoke with arts and Chambers of Commerce leaders who work together to find innovative solutions in in their efforts to jump start their economies following the shutdowns of COVID-19.

We believe that the arts are essential to thriving communities and are important partners in developing vibrant places to live and work. The session’s speakers, Wendy Bury of Southeastern Connecticut Cultural Coalition, Tony Sheridan of Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut, and Sheree Anne Kelly of the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives, all echoed the value the arts can bring to businesses and communities.

Chambers of Commerce and arts agencies have similar goals: attracting and retaining top talent, highlighting local talent,  developing safe and healthy communities, and creating social and community cohesion. When the arts and Chambers position themselves in spaces of collaboration rather than competition, communities will only grow stronger.

What’s the best way for arts and Chambers to spark these partnerships?

A combination of data and storytelling is key to putting the arts top of mind as an important partner alongside business. Research from the Arts & Economic Prosperity 5 has demonstrated the economic value the arts can bring to local businesses and downtowns. With the closure of arts and culture institutions in the face of COVID-19, the economic value of the arts has become even more obvious. The hypothetical question of “how would removing the arts and culture affect downtowns” is now a glaring reality that highlights how integral the arts are to business.

Chambers and arts organizations also need to look internally and create more inclusive pathways to the partnership table. The arts are the voice of the moment and will continue to play an active role in the Black Lives Matter movement. Arts organizations, many of which are primarily white, must hold up a mirror to see how they are complicit and determine strategies to move towards an equitable future.

If you registered for the Annual Convention and Public Art and Civic Design Conference but did not attend this session, it will be available for viewing for a limited amount of time. Select sessions, including Dismantling Racist Systems and Creating a Vision for Our Country's Future and The Importance of Evaluating Creative Efforts in Community Now, will only be available until August 20.

For additional information, check out our pARTnership Movement Tool-Kit: Building Partnerships with Chambers of Commerce.

In May, 140 Chambers of Commerce lobbied Congress for nonprofit arts and cultural institutions. On August 6, 204 Chambers of Commerce sent a new letter to Congressional leadership in support of arts and cultural organizations.