Where Business Meets the Arts: Interview with Nichole Anderson, President and CEO of Business for the Arts


Nichole Anderson 1Do business and art mix? They certainly do when Nichole Anderson and Business for the Arts are involved. Connecting the arts and business communities in Canada since 1974, BftA creates “strong relationships between business and the arts in order to strengthen our cultural institutions, support our artists and improve quality of life for all” through a range of exciting programs and events.

CAC interviewed Business for the Arts President and CEO Nichole Anderson to find out more about the invaluable ways BftA is supporting creativity in Canada.

Business for the Arts was founded in 1974. Can you tell our readers a little about its history and background?

Business for the Arts was founded in 1974 as Council for Business and the Arts in Canada by a group of influential business CEOs in Canada who saw a need to encourage strong relationships between business and the arts in order to strengthen our cultural institutions, support our artists and improve quality of life for all. Forty top businesses in Canada were brought on board to launch the organization as founding members, many of whom remain with the organization today.

As Canada’s only national charitable association of business members who support the arts, Business for the Arts continues their vision by working at a national level to communicate the value of investing in the arts and to address the concerns and interests of the arts and culture sector. Our programs, events, training and educational resources enable arts organizations to partner more effectively with the business community. Our goal is to develop the next generation of creative thinkers, innovators, influencers and leaders equipped with the knowledge, skills and resolve to guide arts and culture organizations in their financial and artistic management.

Business for the Arts “is dedicated to increasing the quantity and quality of partnerships between business and the arts through a cohesive set of programs that foster and promote business leadership in the arts, facilitate funding relationships, and connect businesses to the arts for funding, volunteering, and workshops.” Why do you feel it’s important to connect businesses with the arts?

Investing in communities is important to us. Harnessing the strengths and shared interests of the business community enables us to bring much-needed skills and training to Canada’s arts sector. A vibrant arts community means better opportunities for everyone. For businesses, supporting the arts can help boost their market share, enhance their brand awareness and community profile, engage their employees, win new customers, and inspire other businesses and individuals to recognize the economic and social benefits of the arts.

Businesses who invest in the arts also understand their investment improves the quality of life of the communities around them. The Business Committee for the Arts (BCA) conducted a survey in 2013 which noted that business leaders cite the improvement of quality of life for communities as the number one reason for investing in the arts, linking a healthy, stimulating cultural environment with healthy and happy communities. A 2010 Hill Strategies report revealed that Canadians concur, with 92% of Canadians believing that arts and culture make a community a better place to live. Moreover, we know that Canadians are consuming the arts in large quantity. Canadian spending on live performing arts in 2008 ($1.4 billion) was more than double their spending on live sports events ($650 million).

For arts organizations, establishing successful partnerships with business is an important part of the funding mix, and also can prove to be fruitful beyond the clear benefits of monetary investment. Bringing business on board for an arts organization can bolster human resources within the organization by adding new skill sets and invaluable services, such as financial and legal. An arts organization these days can’t rely on government funds alone. Public sector dollars need to be there to provide essential operating funds, but further private sector investment is needed to bolster activities and boost the capacity of an arts organization to really make a difference for communities. When business and arts work together, the community benefits.

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Business for the Arts runs various programs and initiatives to connect Canadian businesses with Canadian artists and projects. For instance, artsVest, boardLink, and artsScene. Our readers can visit your website for information regarding each, but can you give us a quick idea of what they are and how they are supporting Canadian artists/arts?

artsVestTM is a unique multimillion-dollar matching incentive and sponsorship training program, designed to spark new business sponsorship of arts and culture, and to build capacity in Canada’s cultural sector. It provides small to mid-sized arts and culture organizations in selected communities with the expertise and tools needed to approach their local business for sponsorship. Participants apply for a matching grant and then have six months to go out into their community and secure sponsorships for a minimum of their pre-approved amount. The program currently operates in Ontario, Saskatchewan, British Columbia and Nova Scotia. Since the expansion of the program across Canada in 2011, a total of 1,913 partnerships have been created between arts and business. Since the introduction of the program in Ontario in 2002 to 2014, 2,334 businesses have partnered with 678 cultural organizations through artsVest – of which 1,509 businesses were first-time sponsors of the arts. A total of $4.06 million in matching funds has generated over $9.96 million in private sector sponsorship and resulted in an influx of more than $14.02 million to the cultural economy.

artsSceneTM is a national network of leading young business professionals under 40 who support the arts through volunteerism and patronage. The program aims to inspire interest and engagement in the arts.

boardLinkTM helps connect young business professionals with volunteer board positions with non-profit arts organizations in cities across Canada through live matching events – much like a speed-dating experience. It’s a great opportunity for arts organizations to leverage the skills and expertise young professionals have to offer. There is also an online portal where young professionals can sign-up to view available volunteer opportunities and arts organizations can post positions.

The annual Canadian Arts Summit is a national forum that brings together the Chairs, Executive Directors and Artistic Directors of Canada’s 50 largest arts organizations to share best practices, innovative ideas and initiatives to support Canada’s arts and culture sector. This year’s Summit in March included a first-ever one-day livestream of panels and discussions in both official languages. Our next Summit will be held April 10-12, 2015.

Our Canadian Arts and Business Awards is an annual celebration of the extraordinary contributions made by individual arts and business leaders and companies who have shown outstanding commitment to the arts through philanthropy, volunteerism and innovative partnerships. It’s a celebration of all that we do as an organization and our efforts to bridge the gap between arts and business. This year’s gala will be held on November 14 at the new Aga Khan Museum in Toronto. The Hon. Hilary M. Weston will receive the Edmund C. Bovey Award for a lifetime of philanthropy in the arts and Chris Farias of Hamilton, Ont., is our Arnold Edinborough Award winner for volunteerism in the arts.

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“The Canadian Arts and Business Awards honour Canada’s foremost business and arts leaders and companies who support the arts.” Can you tell our readers about a few businesses (perhaps awards winners) who are actively supporting Canadian Arts and how?

Many of our business award winners, whether they are a large multinational or small local company, have a long-standing history of supporting the arts, and are wonderful examples of what can be achieved when business and the arts come together. They have had a wide and deep impact on major arts events, artists and audiences by supporting community theatres, artist collectives, street festivals, art galleries, orchestras and film festivals, to name just a few.

What is going on currently with Business for the Arts and what do you have planned for the future?

This year we are excited to celebrate our 40th anniversary at our Canadian Arts and Business Awards on November 14. In addition to our Edmund C. Bovey Award and Arnold Edinborough Award, we’ve established new award categories that recognize companies and individuals who have shown outstanding commitment to the arts in Canada, and who understand and appreciate the extraordinary impact arts partnerships can make in communities across the country.

On the heels of last year’s successful soldout national boardLink Live tour, our live matching events kicked off in Vancouver on May 27, 2014 with more than 80 young professionals in attendance and over 30 arts organizations participating. Remaining events in Calgary, Edmonton, Halifax, Ottawa-Gatineau, Montreal, Toronto, and Winnipeg are scheduled for the fall.

We recently launched the artsVestTM Ontario Mentorship Program, which will connect participating artsVest organizations in Ontario with experienced mentors who will provide support and guidance on board governance and corporate sponsorship.

We are also developing a comprehensive e-learning course called The Art of Sponsorship that is designed to dovetail with our artsVest program. The series of six modules will start with a general overview of the process of securing sponsorship and will be followed in the coming year with five additional in-depth modules that will cover specific stages of the sponsorship cycle.

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Be sure to visit our website at www.businessforthearts.org, and follow us on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn for all the latest news and developments.

Nichole Anderson is President and CEO of Business for the Arts (BftA). Since joining the organization in 2006, Nichole has led an extensive expansion of the organization’s programming to reach communities large and small across Canada with training and investment designed to stimulate new partnerships between business and the arts. She is also a trained violinist and plays informally with a quartet from time to time.

* Originally published on Canada Arts Connect Magazine.