Expansion of Business for the Arts’ artsVest Program to Saskatchewan! Coverage in the Leader-Post:

Business and arts join forces in Saskatchewan

By Peter Mills, Leader-Post August 15, 2011

REGINA — The business of arts and culture is about to boom in Saskatchewan.

On Monday, Business for the Arts, a national association of business leaders, announced the artsVest program will be delivered in the province with $500,000 from each of the government of Saskatchewan and Canadian Heritage over the next two years.

The program is a sponsorship, training and matching incentive to help cultural organizations generate new, private-sector support.

Nichole Anderson, president and CEO of Business for the Arts, said the program will go beyond just building relationships.

“The more the business community is able to partner with arts and culture, the better it is for our quality of life,” Anderson said.

Businesses are often inundated with requests, while arts organizations are often unsure where to start.

“The unknown can be a barrier to entry,” she said. “It’s just learning the language of both sides. I think there is some intimidation factor on the business side too.”

Anderson said her favourite part is eliminating such barriers.

“Seeing that light bulb go off when arts organizations realize that businesses want to partner with (them) … It’s this wonderful affirmation that the arts don’t live on the periphery of society and that business is, in fact, supporting them,” she said.

Anderson said, in Ontario, the program has stimulated relationships between 485 businesses and 175 arts and culture organizations. Three hundred of those businesses had not previously supported the arts community.

Anderson said the key for arts organizations is a combination of knowing what you need and partnering with a business that can help.

In Thunder Bay, a theatre troupe teamed up with a mall and created a very successfully relationship that flourished under the program.

“You don’t think that a theatre company and a mall are necessarily going to have anything in common, but when the arts organizations bring these creative, crazy ideas to businesses, they actually love that,” she said.

“A lot of these sponsorships become board-level relationships as well, where the CEO of a company becomes the champion for an arts organization.”

Bill Hutchinson, minister of Tourism, Parks, Culture and Sport, said the program will contribute “enormously” to the economy and quality of life in rural and urban Saskatchewan.

“There is nothing better than being an artist and being able to do the art or craft that you love in the province that you call home,” Hutchinson said. “That’s what this is all about.”

Anderson said artists shouldn’t be intimidated to approach businesses and hopes the program will help them overcome that uncertainty.

“It’s about securing sponsorship and we offer training programs that are really geared toward cultural organizations that have zero experience,” she said. “They’ll leave that feeling empowered to actually know what to do in the process.”

pmills@leaderpost.com

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