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Engaging Corporate Citizens – ‘Begin with the Small and Possible’

Blogger Hoong Yee's sketch of Stephanie Madden.

Does this happen to you at a convention?

I find myself feeling being swept under by the torrent of talk, ideas, cool people to follow up with, session after session of topics I am intrigued by and of course, the beautiful San Diego weather, and views of the bay are a constant distraction as well.

The fear pounding in my heart is, “What difference can I make now, right now?”

Where to start, who to talk to, what part of the world first?

I hate when this happens. So bad for the skin.

So I was delighted to hear a poetic piece of advice cut through a cavernous ballroom, something that Stephanie A. Madden, the Arts and Cultural Manager of Bank of America, shared with us in answer to this very sentiment at a conference session at the Americans for the Arts 2011 Annual Convention in San Diego.

“Begin with the small and possible.”

How great is that? That is the place for all of us.

Bank of America is an American bank doing global business in fifty countries. Diverse countries, diverse communities.

To increase your international footprint, it makes sense to invest in the right shoes.

Shoes are after all, being close to my heart, a vehicle to move on this earth. Like a wave or a wind that gathers people together in a single motion. Shoes that can feel very much like art and culture.

Stephanie spoke of many bank initiatives and they seemed very large and institutional in scope, such as their support of the overseas tours by the Chicago Symphony and Alvin Ailey Dance. My question about the purpose of these tours is: Where will this go? What will people in different parts of the world think of American culture and the arts seeing this level of cultural export?

The hope is that it will serve as, what Chicago Symphony Maestro Muti and cellist Yo Yo Ma call, “ambassadorship.” That from this there will be outreach, talkbacks, education, and perhaps most importantly, a forum for discussion.

A place to host interactivity, the unexpected, conversations staccatoed with varying visions of cultural exchange, business as art, the role of diplomacy, potential, and outcomes — a discussion that has in its DNA the desire of creating business opportunities through the arts.

Arts and culture are the vehicle to engage with the world’s corporate citizens. Bank of America currently has invested $1.5 million in community development initiatives — projects that work with art because it made business sense.

Some of their support fall into the following categories:

art in communities
philanthropy
sponsorships
cultural exchange

The goal of Bank of America is to advance business interest.

Back to the small and the possible…

The work I do in Queens often seems tremendous and unwieldy. Building cultural awareness and understanding – what else could I possibly do?

Diversity – I can’t turn around without bumping into the newest huddled masses.

Creating new business? Let’s talk.

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