How is the relationship between art and business changing?

Art and business might not seem like easy bedfellows. But in a world where business is increasingly celebrating creativity and art is having to find new ways to sustain itself, have the two found allies in one other?

Graeme Galloway is relationship manager in the social and cultural team at Triodos Bank, UK, which has a specific focus on financing arts and culture. The bank has provided loans to 433 arts and cultural organisations and, says Galloway, has made it possible for 6.2 million visitors to enjoy cultural events including cinema, theatres and museums across Europe.

Among the projects it’s funded include Out of the Blue, which supports and promotes Scottish artists and provides working space for a number of artistic disciplines, Village Underground [below] a innovative art project set in Shoreditch, London, that supports a community of creative practitioners, businesses and organisations through provision of facilities and workspaces, and Copeland Park in Peckham, where traditional warehouses and industrial buildings have been transformed into workspace for a number of creative businesses. So, why do this?

"We believe that a dynamic arts sector is key to a thriving and resilient society, which is why we try to support and stimulate the sector in a creative way," explains Galloway.

"We believe in using the power of finance to create social, environmental and cultural value in a transparent and sustainable way," says Galloway. "Arts and culture play a central role in this approach, enriching lives and building a healthier and more sustainable society."

Galloway believes that sponsoring the arts can affect the bottom line: "We know from speaking to customers that our support for arts and culture helps to reassure them that we are connected to their communities and supporting important cultural hubs."

Read: Redressing the gender balance in the arts world

The cultural sector is dynamic and versatile, says Galloway, "and cultural entrepreneurship is booming. Many institutions are wholly or partly commercial and target a wide and diverse audience. The most important thing for companies looking to support the sector is connections. It’s vital to speak to local organisations and those involved in artistic endeavours to work out where you can add most value and what the real need is."

The economic impact of the arts and culture is widely documented. According to Government figures, cultural organisations and practitioners contributed £27bn to the UK economy in 2015. Moreover, arts and culture has an important benefit on health and wellbeing. Arts Council research shows that those who had attended a cultural place or event in the preceding 12 months were 60 per cent more likely to report good health, and theatre-goers were 25 per cent more likely to report being in health than the average. Businesses want healthy happy people to buy their wares (well, perhaps unless they’re selling medicine), so it stands to reason that business should want to support the arts.

The business world is wising up to the benefits. Business In The Community’s Arts Forward programme programme offers one-to-one business mentoring, board-level support or focused, short term business solutions to arts organisations free of charge. The organisation aims to have 100 arts and cultural organisations matched by 2019 and created 1,000 jobs by 2020. "With scarcer resources available to fund arts and culture, this kind of business support opens up more possibilities for the organisations to sustain their ambitions for economic growth," says ArtsForward’s programme manager, Nuno Menezes, "Equally, the business support creates more room for greater cultural and social impact in the communities we love."

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Edmund Inkin, along with his brother Charles, is joint owner of EATDRINKSLEEP, the company behind The Gurnard's Head and The Felin Fach Griffin, two dining pubs with rooms, and The Old Coastguard, a small seaside hotel in Cornwall. The company supports local artists across all three sites by hanging their paintings in all of the rooms (all of which are for sale). Inkin says, "Art in its various forms is just another piece in the puzzle for us. Food, drink and beds may be our bread and butter but we love a wider narrative to keep things interesting for our guests. We find it’s a good way to reinforce our relationships with them as well as attract a slightly broader demographic." While these things may not  necessarily make money, Inkin says, "they connect us just that little bit more with our local community and the people who influence opinion within it." Moreover, he adds, "Generally artists walk more of an economic tightrope and we find that often makes for more interesting people."

For some arts organisations business support is absolutely crucial, argues Barney Stevenson - director of Marsden Jazz Festival - an international festival in the Pennines. "The festival, now in its 27th year, would not be possible without the support of local businesses large and small. From the pubs and clubs of Marsden, who pay many of the artists performing at the festival so that we can keep the majority of festival events free to attend, to the cafes, B&Bs and taxi companies who feed, put up and transport our artists and visitors, we could not function without the infrastructure provided by these businesses.

"We also receive significant direct financial support from local businesses in the form of sponsorship, a critical part in the mix of funding required to deliver this well-loved festival every year. It’s a significant economic stimulus to the area, providing around £400,000 to local businesses each year - not bad for a Pennine village of under 5,000 population!"

This is a guest blog and may not represent the views of Virgin.com. Please see virgin.com/terms for more details. Thumbnail from gettyimages.

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