Whenever I consider what makes a city or town cool, I realize it’s a no-brainer. it’s a vibrant arts and cultural scene. It’s an atmosphere that goes beyond a glut of artists, performers, galleries or art-related events. It’s a public attitude, a community pride in local art and cultural assets.

For more than a decade, Joplin has been working in this direction, bulking up its art offerings and dedicating itself to building a vibrant arts culture. But there remains a large part of the community that isn’t invested in it.

That goes beyond the individuals who have no affinity for the arts. It applies to businesses that are dragging their feet on buy-in. It’s not to say that we don’t have several companies — retail and professional, large and small — that are supporting the arts in one way or another. But there’s a large swath of our businesses sector that hasn’t gotten on board.

It could be that they don’t understand the economic benefits of engaging in arts and culture or how it can influence their work culture and promote the creative thinking skills of their workers. Maybe they just haven’t thought about it one way or the other.

There’s plenty of documentation about how the arts can help companies’ bottom lines as well as their work cultures.

A national study, Arts and Economic Prosperity V, conducted in 2016 from the local to the national level, showed that nonprofit arts and cultural organizations contributed $1.03 billion to the state’s economy that year. That was the direct and indirect economic impact. Event-related expenditures poured more than $436 million into the state economy. That includes money that had an impact on local businesses.

But there’s a trickle-down significance to that fiscal impact. Investing in the arts community has also proven to attract and retain employees, which also effects the bottom line.

An initiative of Americans for the Arts, a national advocacy organization, has demonstrated how partnering with arts organizations can improve a work culture, helping maintain staff and attract new talent.

Backed by an Americans for the Arts statistic that 73% of our population believes that the arts improve understanding of diversity and other cultures, the initiative, pARTnership Movement, has shown companies that arts collaborations can help build a more inclusive work environment. It has also demonstrated that a relationship with the arts can enhance the critical thinking and creative skills of employees.

These benefits can be reaped through a variety of collaborative avenues.

Sponsorships are among the traditional ways that companies can help local arts and cultural programs. It may be event sponsorships or in-kind sponsorships, where goods or services are donated. These can be tailored to specific interests, such as helping with arts therapy programs for veterans or those with mental or emotional disorders, or sponsoring scholarships for art students. There are plenty of arts programs that can allow companies to target their interests.

For companies that are reticent about the costs of sponsorship, smaller contributions can be made by buying tickets for employees to attend local theater productions, concerts, opera, or ballet performances or annual fundraisers of arts organizations.

Helping individual artists is yet another way businesses can promote the local arts. Any business needs art on its walls and buying locally only makes sense. Local hotels and restaurants can promote tourism by purchasing locally created art that showcases talent or highlights our history, landmarks and scenic beauty. Medical professionals can contribute to the calm and healing of patients by decorating their office walls with nature-related artwork. Any type of business that shows local artwork on its walls projects support of the local art community.

For those companies still recovering from the economic sting of the COVID-19 pandemic, there are other ways to engage with the arts with no financial commitment.

Several restaurants, coffee shops and professional offices host exhibits of local artwork, and there are many more businesses that could be doing this. It costs nothing, but it supports artists by giving them exposure and opportunities for sales.

Yet another alternative for engagement is promoting employee involvement in the arts, including volunteerism. Certainly, every company has employees with an interest in some type of art. Urge them to further that interest by participating in local theater, dance, music, or visual arts groups or volunteering with programs or events in their areas of interest. It can be anything from volunteering with children’s art programing or art festivals and fairs to helping with ticket sales and ushering at events. The volunteer opportunities are unending.

Increasingly, companies of today are being rated by their community involvement and social responsibility, and engagement in the arts can reflect that. It can give businesses a competitive advantage, while also advancing a vibrant arts and cultural scene. It’s about developing an attitude of pride in what our arts and culture have to offer.

Businesses that need more information on how to connect with particular arts organizations or individual artists may contact Connect2Culture, our arts advocacy organization, at www.connect2culture.org or by phoning 417-501-5550. You’re also welcome to email me for more information at mp churchwell04@yahoo.com.

Marta is an arts columnist for The Joplin Globe. 

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Marta is an arts columnist for The Joplin Globe.