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By Laura Bruney, Arts & Business Council of Miami

When business supports the arts, everyone profits. I had the honor of serving as a judge for The BCA 10 awards this year and found tangible evidence that this is true.

The annual awards recognize 10 U.S. companies for their exceptional commitment to the arts. We evaluated nominees from across America—from small mom and pop companies to mega multi-national firms, the businesses we judged were all making valuable contributions to the arts that were paying dividends for their employees, their clients, and their communities. The value of the arts is proven over and over in neighborhoods, cities, states, and our nation. Deciding the winners was difficult. I was impressed with all of the nominees. As a member of the Americans for the Arts Private Sector Council, I was gratified to see such a wide variety of enterprises that treasure and support  the arts. After much consideration and comparison 10 amazing winners were selected.

The winners were honored in October at an evening gala at the Central Park Boathouse in New York City and the representatives from the winning companies all had something important to say about why the arts matter.

  • Alltech believes the arts are essential to creating a strong community. They sponsor cultural programs across Kentucky that impact more than 500,000. In accepting the award Pearse Lyons, president and founder, sent a clear message about his sustained support for the arts. When other companies cut back on the arts, Alltech cuts forward.
  • Bank of America is devoted to programs that engage communities and cultures in building mutual respect and understanding, as well as projects which strengthen institutions and contribute to the vitality of local economies.
  • Stephanie Madden, their arts & culture program officer, talked about how the arts contribute something special and magical. Communities come in all shapes and sizes and the arts connect them all.
  • Chaves Consulting have been deeply involved in the Crossroads Carnegie Art Center Project to improve the lives of children and adults in their small, rural community in Oregon. They have raised more than $1.6 million for the center.
  • In a moving testament to the importance of the arts, CEO Kathleen Chaves suggested that the arts saved her life as a child and she wants to do the same for others. The arts can expand horizons and show young people they have limitless opportunities.
  • Chesapeake Energy believes the arts enrich Oklahoma by bridging the gaps between cultures, advancing intellectual growth and promoting social benefit through discovery. In the past 20 plus years they have provided leadership and financial contributions of over $15 million. Teresa Rose, Senior Director of Community Relations, is impressed with the arts executives she works with saying, we have the easy job, the heavy lifting is done by the arts groups that provide the programs. The arts provide an essential quality of life to every community—unique and customized to each population.
  • Architecture firm, Earl Swensson Associates, has supported the arts in Nashville for 50 years with financial contributions, volunteers, pro-bono services, and employee giving campaigns. Dick Miller, President & CEO, said we know and value the cultural community. As part of the creative industries, the arts are in their DNA.
  • First Community Bank sees their support of the arts as an investment in their Texas community that provides great returns. The bank sponsors the South Texas Photo Contest, supports public art displays, and commissions artwork for their branch locations.
  • President and CEO Wes Hoskins told a story about a 12-year-old girl that he met at a photo contest they support. She was so proud of her photograph and so thrilled to see it hanging and viewed by others. Her enthusiasm was a measurement for him of the importance of the programs they sponsor for the children and people in their community.
  • Golden Artist Colors supports the arts because they believe in a business model that is responsive to their local community in New York and the worldwide community of artists. During the last 10 years they provided more than $720,000 in support. Company CEO Mark Golden explained that it is our privilege to support artists, it is our legacy and speaks about our passion and what we value.
  • Believing that the arts add immense value to the quality of life, Jackson and Company has been partnered with the arts since the firm’s founding in 1981. As a special event production and catering firm in Houston they provide tie-ins with their company’s products and services with in-kind donations for a variety of fund raising events. Contributing over $375,000 to the arts last year, they are enthusiastic about their affiliation with the arts. Founder and CEO Jackson Hicks talked about the arts being an extraordinary part of his life. Designing inventive opening nights and unique events puts their business on the map and lets their creativity and innovation shine.
  • For more than 80 years, Masco Corporation has been a passionate supporter of the arts in Michigan awarding grants totaling more than $10 million in the past five years. Melonie Colaianne, president of the Masco Foundation, talked about how investing in the arts returns dividends to all facets of the communities where they live and work. Involvement in the arts helps us retain our employees. In difficult times the arts increase the community spirit.
  • The Tampa Bay Times believes the arts are crucial to the creative and economic health of the bay area. Since 1985, they have donated more than $1.8 million of in-kind and cash support to increase awareness and attendance. Chairman and CEO Paul Tash talked about how the arts build a community. He said it is in our enlightened self interest to support a vibrant and rich cultural community and that we share a kindred spirit and creative energy with the arts.

From Oklahoma to Michigan, from Tampa to Oregon the message of the evening was loud and clear: supporting the arts is good business in every community, in every city, in every state. With emotion and resolve representatives from companies large and small made a convincing case for corporate support of the arts with their passionate remarks. Nominations are now open for the 2013 BCA 10 Awards! Visit AmericansForTheArts.org to nominate a business in your community today!

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