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Finding Impact at the Intersection of Art and Business

Companies will find that meaningful art can impact the bottom-line


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It’s a well-known fact that when the lines between art and community intersect, everybody wins.

For years, designated art districts and, more recently, immersive public art installations have been celebrated, not simply because they exist, but because they’ve successfully transformed ordinary spaces into memorable experiences, inspiring a new generation of creatives, curating community curiosity and contributing to the local economy.

Look no further than the bustling galleries that line Santa Fe Street on First Friday, the crowds surrounding the 40-foot-tall “I See What You Mean” Blue Bear at the Colorado Convention Center or Civic Center Park’s Tree of Transformation as engaging examples of art’s transformative power. In fact, a 2018 report from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis and the National Endowment for the Arts revealed that the arts contributed $763.6 billion to the U.S. economy in 2015.

The relationship between art and business, on the other hand, is far less defined and frequently misunderstood. Art, to many business leaders, is a complex and mysterious topic that forces them to evaluate an art program’s impact through the lens of its return on investment.

Too often, these businesses, whether it’s a new real estate development, corporate office, hotel, hospital or otherwise, are pushing the easy button (or no button at all) when it comes to art. You’ve likely seen it before in your hotel room or office lobby. It’s a generic piece of artwork, selected by a corporate buyer from a catalog, shipped in bulk and quickly installed in the same location in each room or office. It’s a safe choice, but just as people won’t object to it, they won’t rejoice over it either. If you’re a business that needs to attract customers, residents, tenants or employees, that’s not a good return on investment.

The reality is, with the right approach, art’s impact can be measured – and it can be significant.

Art as a Bottom-Line Driver

Art draws you in, and as a business owner, half the battle is getting people to walk in your front door. McWhinney and Sage Hospitality – the visionaries behind Denver’s Dairy Block – understand this concept. Together with the team at NINE dot ARTS, they leveraged art throughout the development’s public spaces, including the activated alley, restaurants, bars, lobbies, as well as the guest levels of The Maven, its boutique hotel designed by Johnson Nathan Strohe. Altogether, there are more than 700 pieces of art, many of which are interactive.

Over time, inspiring artwork – like The Maven’s three-dimensional, 15-foot-long, 300-pound sculpture fashioned from reclaimed wood that’s suspended from the lobby ceiling (“The Quantifiable and The Ineffable” by Andrew Tirado) – can become an environment’s focal point, inspiring a reaction and forming an immediate connection between a person and a place (not to mention an Instagrammable moment).

Art also inspires happiness and productivity among employees. A strong corporate art program can indicate stability, longevity and good company culture – a signal of a well-run organization that cares for its employees and customers. A recent study by ARTIQ found that displaying artwork in the workplace increased productivity by 14%. According to UK-based research group Identity Realisation, people who worked in an “enriched” office, which featured a variety of art arrangements, worked 15 % faster than those in an office that contained only the things necessary to do their jobs.

Bringing art into a workplace environment fosters engagement that yields economic impact, supports employee recruitment, retention and a positive culture and it grows your bottom line.

Embedding Art Within Your Brand

Art also gives businesses an opportunity to tell a cohesive brand narrative in an increasingly competitive market.

Developed by East West Partners, The Coloradan, a new condominium community situated in Denver’s Union Station neighborhood, has incorporated a curated art program with the goal of creating positive experiences for its residents – and the city at large.

Not only does Union Hall, the new nonprofit arts exhibition space and Culture Concierge that occupies 1,800-square-feet on the ground floor of The Coloradan, create intrinsic value for the people who use it, but it shows how out-of-the-box thinking can illustrate your purpose and differentiate your offering to the community. As a 501(c)3, Union Hall’s initial funding comes from transfer fees associated with all condominium sales at The Coloradan.

The bottom line is that thoughtful and intentional inclusion of art allows businesses to grow and thrive, inspiring brand loyalty, creating a differentiated workplace experience, and improving the overall well-being of people who use these spaces by creating moments of discovery and inspiration. By investing in the arts today, we are laying a foundation for future generations to build stronger, more vibrant communities.

Martha Weidmann is CEO and Co-Founder of NINE dot ARTS, a Denver-based art curating and consulting firm. She also serves as executive director of Union Hall, a community-focused arts and culture space located on the ground floor of The Coloradan.

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