Two Miami Arts Organizations Share Success of Partnerships with Business

Written By Josie Gulliksen
March 24, 2016 at 1:49 PM

Two Miami Arts Organizations Share Success of Partnerships with Business

Oftentimes it is too time consuming for arts organizations to venture into partnering with corporations. Their time is spent planning their seasons and on marketing and fundraising, but creating a business partnership can easily accomplish the last two.

Proving this are Gold Coast Theatre Company and City Theatre, two long-standing groups that showcased their successful partnerships at the Arts & Business Council’s kick-off MAMP workshop.

That month’s Miami Arts Marketing Project workshop theme was “Maximizing MAMP: Partnering with Business.”

Jude Parry, founder and director of Gold Coast, spoke about the collaboration with the South Florida Water Management District during their participation in the Earth Day Festival.

The relationship began in the early 1990s when the SFWM District put out a request for proposals. They were looking for a play dealing with environmental issues that was suitable for kids. It would become part of presentations at public schools and festivals they participated in around Florida.

Gold Coast developed the play Earth to the Power of Ten specifically to submit for the proposal. The play tells a compelling story of the environmental hazards of overbuilding and education about the water cycle. “They accepted our proposal and after tweaking the play, incorporated it into their festival and public school appearances. That lasted from 1992-1996,” said Parry.

That four-year stint was a successful partnership and one that Parry felt “really touched communities that had never seen anything like this. It gave me them the opportunity to experience the arts with an environmental message.”

For Susan Westfall, co-founder and literacy director of City Theatre, one of the longest and successful business partnerships they’ve had is with the Epic Hotel. She says it really started out of a need. “We needed a hotel partner near the Adrienne Arsht Center to house guests and artists attending our Summer Shorts Festival,” Westfall said. “Once we began to work together, our relationship grew and we continue to find creative ways to enhance and expand our opportunities together.”

In 2009 the Epic Hotel became a sponsor for Summer Shorts and its umbrella of festival programming produced at the Arsht Center. They began by sponsoring a number of room stays for visiting guest artists and industry professionals attending Summer Shorts, and also included reduced rates advertised by City Theatre to ticket buyers interested in seeing the show and having an urban “staycation.”

“At the time, we were still coming through the recession and the downtown development was less abundant and vibrant around the hotel and the Arsht,” she said.

“In return for their sponsorship, we advertised the Epic Hotel on our printed media, social media, and Website, and provided them with a number of tickets for their guest, vendors and sales managers.”

Then in 2011, the Epic Hotel hosted the CityWrights Weekend for Playwrights, a conference to bring local, regional, and national playwrights together for creative workshops with master artists, and professional development sessions with theater industry professionals.

The artists and industry representatives who attended that summer, and all subsequent CityWrights, immediately loved the dynamic yet comfortable setting. It has also allowed participants to experience the transformation of downtown Miami into a dynamic and vital urban metropolis.

Two years later, in 2013, Eric Jellson, director of marketing and strategies for Kimpton Hotels /Florida and Cayman Islands, was invited to join City Theatre’s Board of Directors. Since his acceptance and appointment, Jellson and his staff have been instrumental in helping CityWrights grow through flawless execution during the conference. They also advocate by introducing and recommending CityTheatre’s work to their guests.

“Around marketing and visibility, both City Theatre and the Epic Hotel work closely to develop marketing opportunities, enhance premiums for our guests, and come up with creative activities that appeal to both of our markets. It’s a great relationship and we love Eric and the Epic,” said Westfall.

They continue to expand their reach into business partnerships and are now exploring one with the Related Group. The development company has supported City Theatre by providing affordable housing for Summer Shorts artists during the show’s run. There is now a Related Group executive on their board and they have also presented two “Running Shorts” performances to Related Group’s sales office locations.

“We are exploring the ‘portability’ of our art, combined with outreach and marketing for our arts products, including Summer Shorts, CityWrights, Shorts Gone Wild and Short Cuts tours,” said Westfall.

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