VIEWPOINT: Arts are a good investment for business

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This summer, there are two red-letter days for the arts and cultural scene as well as our city and state: the official opening of the new home of the Herron School of Art on the IUPUI campus, which was set for June 3, and the dedication of the Indianapolis Art Center's ARTSPARK Aug. 21.

These events are only two of the many activities in 2005 that will help position Indianapolis as an arts and cultural destination, a goal set by Mayor Peterson when he took office.

Businesspeople and companies should support this effort because it is not only good for our community, but also good for business. Indianapolis needs a vibrant arts scene to compete with other cities for jobs, major events, company relocations, residents and tourists. Sports alone won't do it.

The presence or absence of a healthy local arts infrastructure significantly affects any community's business climate. The arts attract and maintain a quality work force. Who among us, when faced with a transfer to a new location, hasn't asked, "What is there to do?"

This point was reinforced in a speech by Eli Lilly and Co. President and CEO Sidney Taurel to members of the Central Indiana Regional Corporate Partnership, a group of area business leaders.

"In an even more global economy, central Indiana is as likely to compete for investment and jobs with the Research Triangle, London or Singapore as it is with Louisville or Cincinnati," Taurel said.

"Companies like Lilly can succeed over the long haul by attracting and retaining the very best talent we can find. We must continue to promote the kind of community life that appeals to a diverse community of knowledge workers and to all kinds of people in central Indiana. This spans top-notch cultural activities and world-class sporting events."

In addition, the arts prepare students for jobs and arts education builds specific work-force skills valued by business. Studies show that the arts help students think and work across traditional disciplines. The ability to think outside one's discipline and understand how one part fits into the whole is what leads to creativity and innovation.

There are many ways in which business can support the arts:

Give money. Not-for-profit arts organizations must depend upon support from those who benefit-individuals, companies, foundations and government.

Encourage employees to provide financial support to arts organizations. Companies can match employee contributions as Eli Lilly and others do.

Give in-kind contributions, including your time and your talent. Join the board of an arts organization.

Encourage your employees to give their time and talent by establishing and nourishing an active employee volunteer program. If you are the company president or a senior officer of your company, lead by example.

Attend arts and cultural events.

Purchase art for display in your offices and building common areas as well as your home.

Another avenue for support by companies is through sponsorship of art programs and/or events. Via sponsorship, a company can place itself in a favorable light with the generally affluent, educated patrons who travel, dine out, purchase real estate and buy expensive cars. The association can only help the image of the business with those who see its name in the program, on the marquee or in the brochure.

Ernest Boyer, former U.S. commissioner of education, said: "Art is humanity's most essential, most universal language. It is not a frill, but a necessary part of communication. The quality of civilization can be measured through its music, dance, drama, architecture, visual art and literature."

Let's help ensure that Indianapolis has its share of art and culture, which is vital to our quality of life as well as our business environment.

Basile is senior vice president of Gene B. Glick Co.

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