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Pairing arts with business: Innovative arts funding program launches locally

Colin Payne
By Colin Payne
February 14th, 2014

If you’re a local business owner looking for a creative way to promote your business and get involved in the community, supporting a local arts organization is a great way to do — and a new program happening in the Kootenays this year gives local businesses a chance to do just that — and get more bang for their buck.

The artsVest program started up in Ontario about 10 years ago and made its way across the country gradually, launching its first program in British Columbia with a pilot project in Vancouver last year.

The program is being offered in five regions of the B.C. Interior this year, including the Nelson area.

Backed by funding from governments of all levels and corporate sponsors, artsVest encourages local businesses to provide funding to community arts organizations by matching any donations given.

Since the beginning of the program in 2002, 1571 business have partnered with 465 different arts and culture organizations – 968 of which were first-time arts sponsors – adding more than $9 million to the “cultural economy” across the country.

About $287,000 is up for grabs in areas of the province outside the Lower Mainland, including a total of $66,050 in the Columbia Basin area, and the list of participating organizations in the Nelson area includes: Capitol Theatre Restoration Society, Castlegar Sculpturewalk Society, Kootenay Literary Society, Touchstones, Nelson Civic Theatre Society, Slocan Valley Historical Society, West Kootenay Regional Arts Council, Ymir Community Association, and Oxygen Arts Centre.

Oxygen has had success

As outlined in a recent media release sent out by Oxygen, the non-profit local arts hub has a long history of collaborating with local businesses, including a long term sponsorship arrangement for its community arts education programs with the Nelson and District Credit Union, as well as recent collaborations with PK Sound and Can Filters, the Martin Hotel Group and other local businesses.

Oxygen spokesperson Miram Needoba says the artsVest program is a great opportunity for local arts organizations and businesses alike.

“They’re trying to encourage arts organizations to reach out and develop new partnerships with local businesses in the hope of diversifying arts funding and engaging the business community” Needoba says.

She adds that it’s not a replacement for the loss of community arts gaming grants many arts organizations experienced when the province brought in cuts in 2010, but the artsVest program is a great way to encourage arts organizations to look for different ways to fund their programming.

“It’s a neat idea . . . It’s a way we can be mutually beneficial. You can support arts in the community and get your business name out there. I think it’s a great opportunity for businesses to engage with more of the community. As opposed to selling yourself, you’re supporting something else put out there.”

A great opportunity for everyone.

Kathleen Speakman, program manager for artsVest B.C. says local businesses would be wise to take advantage of the opportunity presented by the program and sponsor a local arts organization.

“Sponsorship is one of the most effective forms of advertising these days,” Speakman says.

“The days of passive advertising are over and all businesses, small and large, have to work hard to capture the attention of people and get people thinking about their brand.. Instead of just running an ad or along with running and ad . . .  you have the opportunity to really reach people who might be ready to think about you significantly increases as a result of demonstrating, in real life so to speak, that you’re associated with things they care about.”

She adds that the program is equally successful from the arts organization end of things.

“It always engages many arts organizations to do things that only bigger ones have spent any time on, and that’s finding business partnerships . . . It results in a pretty high percentage of those organizations actually creating new partnerships with business in the community. And as a result it generates what is considered to be short and longer-term business investment in arts and cultural organizations.”

Given the active nature of Nelson’s arts organizations and the engaged business community, Speakman expects the program to be a success in the Nelson area.

The deadline for sponsorships is March 3, 2014. To learn more about artsVest B.C., visit this link.

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