Written By Josie Gulliksen
December 15, 2014 at 1:47 PM


The 2014 edition of Art Basel week in Miami featured the perfect marriage of arts and business. The city was alive with high-end private parties; pop up exhibitions and roving ads on cars, scooters and even people. Millions of dollars in art sales, restaurant meals, hotel rooms, and luxury car rentals exchanged hands.Beyond the dozens of satellite fairs and thousands of gallery booths catering to collectors, Miami Art Week offered a far more compelling benefit for businesses eager to court potential clients. Pacesetters from all industries and brand power houses swooned at the reach of art week. Developers, financial investment companies, tech start-ups, luxury car brandsand morecleverly leveraged the arts as a strategic imperative for business. These companies know the arts mean business.

During Art Week, the Arts & Business Council of Miami hosted an Access Breakfast Forum with the Beacon Council to discuss how the arts are transforming Miami and why the creative industry matters to business. Donna Abood, Chair of the Beacon Council, Miami’s official economic development partnership, welcomed participants and thanked sponsors. Laura Bruney, President and CEO of Miami’s Arts & Business Council opened the program with some astonishing facts. The arts industry in Miami-Dade has a 1.1 billion dollar impact and employs 30,000 full time workers. More than 13 million people participated in the arts this year and thousands of business professionals shared their skills as volunteers and board members. Cultural tourism, a major component of brand Miami brings 5 million visitors each year.

Featured speaker, Robert Lynch, President and CEO of Americans for the Arts kicked off the program talking about how the arts bring a competitive advantage to companies that are involved. He has worked for more than 38 years to empower communities and leaders to advance the arts in society. Under his direction, Americans for the Arts has become a leader in documenting and articulating the key role played by the nonprofit arts and culture industryin strengthening our nation’s economy.Nonprofit arts organizations are employers, producers, consumers, and key promoters of their cities and regions. Most importantly for today’s discussion they are valuable contributors to the business community.

The flash of transformation in any city is culture and art. Collaborations between arts and business enhance quality of life, especially in cities like Miami. He praised our vibrant cultural community. “I was immersed in art from the moment I stepped off the plane and walked through Miami International Airport which was filled art installations and marvelous art. Every time I come there is something new and I am always energized. Miami is a 24 hour city. As I was returning to my hotel at midnight last evening a lot people were just leaving to start their night.”

There’s always been tension between involvement with the arts and the need for the arts. There is a movement going on in our country that is shining a spotlight on the competitive advantage the arts provide to business.  “Business support for the arts isn’t a charity; it’s an investment that creates shared value through mutually beneficial partnerships.” He outlined the value the arts bring to business including brand empowerment, leveraging connections with clients and consumers, professional development that encourages innovation and creativity, and enhancing the workspace.  Involvement with the arts is good for executives, clients, shareholders and employees.

Mr. Lynch also talked about the BCA 10, Americans for the Arts awards that recognize 10 businesses for their exceptional involvement with the arts that enrich the workplace and the community. Hallmark Cards was a recipient this year. At the awards ceremony in October, their CEO, Donald Hall said “As the highest expression of the human spirit, the arts give form to profound insights and bridge cultures and generations. They stimulate creative thinking and create vibrant communities for us all…Hallmark sees the arts as a source of renewal and inspiration for our employees and our business.” Extending partnerships to span all industries and fostering collaboration is building the new economy of ideas.

Following Mr. Lynch’s inspiring talk our impressive panel took center stage. Ms. Bruney introduced each panelist and asked them how their organizations are connecting with business and the community.

Sonja Bogensperger, team leader for business development, real estate and marketing for the Miami Downtown Development Authority was instrumental in starting Downtown Art Days. “The arts are a critical component in the transformation of downtown Miami. The arts touch all aspects of the urban lifestyle we have created – residents, business professionals, business owners and tourists are all impacted in a positive way” Around the country boomers and millennials are abandoning the suburbs for the urban lifestyle. Downtown Miami has truly become an international center for arts and culture. “In its third year, one of our signature events, Downtown Arts Days grew from 50 activations in 2011 to over 200 this year. The population of downtown Miami has doubled and now has a critical mass of arts, it is essential.”

Suzette Espinosa Fuentes, Assistant Vice President for Public Relations at the Adrienne Arsht Center spoke about how they are creating a town center. Their strong partnership withMiami-Dade schools brings every fifth grader to the center to attend a performance of Rock Odyssey, an innovative show sponsored by the Knight Foundation and local businesses. “This unique cultural experience is building our audiences of the future. It’s the perfect example of how the arts renew the spirit, create transformational experiences and leverage partnerships. Arts in education is adding the A to STEM to make STEAM and foster creativity and ingenuity in our next generation.” In addition, the center hosts a free Family Fest four times a year that brings the community onto the plaza and into the center for free performances and activities. The Arsht Center has become a town center because the community wanted it and fostered it.

Leann Standish, Deputy Director for External Affairs at the Pérez Art Museum Miami talked about the museums first year and announced that the museum welcomed more than 300,000 visitors since opening in December of 2013. “Fostering community involvement the museum offers free admission the second Saturday of each month. Sponsored by Target, the free admission offer leverages marketing and outreach to bring visibility to the museum and its programs.”This is a great example of the win-win partnerships Robert Lynch discussed.  Innovative programs and compelling events are developing a community of arts aficionados. The building, with its expansive terraces and sweeping bayfront views is a work of art itself. Ms. Standish encourages Miami’s corporate community and entrepreneursto approach them about partnering. “I see a lot of opportunity and feel we’re only just beginning to see the best of those relationships in Miami.”

At the YoungArts Foundation, an organization started in 1981 by Lyn and Ted Arison to recognize young cultural talent around the U.S., Vanessa Leitman oversees marketing, events and alumni relations. Their new downtown campus is in the historic Bacardi building. The foundation partnered with the company and their donors to buy and preserve this iconic landmark. They do an incredible amount of outreach, recently partnering with Miami’s classic Hotel Inter-Continental on their YoungArts awareness day and hosting performances by YoungArts alumni at the Epic Hotel’s new Lilt lounge. “Arts in education is critical to developing strong creative talent.”

Beacon Council President & CEO Larry Williams closed out the morning on a high note sharing the impressive economic impact figures for Miami-Dade’s creative industries. Mr. Lynch summed it up the breakfast forum best by saying that extending partnerships to span all industries and fostering collaboration is building the new economy of ideas in Miami. 

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