alegent creighton health mercy hospital, art, art career, bison, carstens, carstens 1880 memorial farmstead, carstens collection, common values, concert on the prairie, corning, corning center for the fine arts, friends of neal smith national widlife refuge, guardians of liberty and peace, inc., non-profit, partnerships, tribute in light
I finished my final report for the Concert on the Prairie event. That made me think of all the partnerships I’ve had in my career. So, I thought I would share my personal philosophy on the benefits of organizations partnering with the arts.
Although this is written from the perspective of an artist, I think any business or individual can benefit from a partnership.
I sincerely believe in the idiom, “A rising tide lifts all boats.” when it comes to partnerships. In fact, even before I started my full-time art career, I had created several successful partnerships:
- 2006 Tribute in Light: This was a partnership between my employer at the time and the city of Omaha. I created, proposed and co-chaired a city-wide commemoration of the fifth anniversary of 9/11. This included: two 50 x 100 foot American flags hanging from the Woodmen Tower, two 10-billion candlepower light beams projecting into the Omaha skyline, and a public ceremony attended by Senators, mayors, other dignitaries and the public. Personally, I considered it public art.
- Carstens Collection: This was a partnership with the non-profit Carstens 1880 Farmstead, Inc. in Shelby, Iowa. Each year I would create an original drawing from one of the buildings on the historical farm and create 50 limited-edition prints. From 1999-2007 I donated a percentage of the sales from nine original drawings and hundreds of limited edition prints back to Carstens.
- Guardians of Liberty and Peace: This was a partnership between myself and the Corning Center for the Fine Arts in Corning, Iowa. I was accepted into a three month residency in Corning and wanted to thank the community for years of support. I created the painting Guardians of Liberty and Peace using citizens from the community as models. Along with creating a citywide commemoration of the 10th anniversary of 9/11, in which we donated $3,000 dollars to the American Red Cross from print sales, I donated the original work to the city of Corning. It is being held in the permanent collection of Alegent Creighton Health Mercy Hospital – Corning.
- Concert on the Prairie: This was a partnership between myself and the Friends of Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge. I wanted a special event to coincide with the opening of my exhibit Bison, Bison, Bison and so I proposed the outdoor concert event. This resulted in raised awareness of the Refuge, financial support and new-member growth for the Friends group.
In each of these cases I either raised awareness in, or raised money for, an organization I supported. In return I make some sales – but more importantly I make new friends, new business contacts and initiate new collectors. I also strengthen my brand. I think a perfect way to describe it is “cross pollinating” mailing lists.
A key thing to remember is, that in order for partnerships to really work, you must genuinely share common values. In each case I was already active in the organization or wanted to support them. For instance, the Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge’s mission is basically to protect, restore and maintain Iowa’s natural habitat and wildlife. The majority of my art depicts Iowa’s heritage and landscape. So, protecting and maintaining those things are important to me and my career.
There are drawbacks. Partnerships are not for the faint of heart. Be prepared for some resistance. Most small organizations have never partnered with the art world and so it is time consuming to prepare and communicate new ideas. They will naturally be apprehensive. An artist may challenge an organization to take some chances and this won’t be popular with everyone in the group. You fight this by being prepared and professional. If you are an artist pitching an idea to an organization, even if it’s organic and mutually beneficial, they may pass.
I don’t think I could exclusively work through partnerships. Frankly, it would be exhausting. That said, I think partnerships are a good part of an overall marketing strategy for an artist.
I have more partnerships planned. If or when they are approved you will be the first to know.
Links to stuff mentioned above: