ArtWORKS PHX—Spotlighting Phoenix as a Creative Urban City

Posted by Carol A. Poore, Ph.D, Liz Meyers, Devney Preuss, Feb 02, 2017 0 comments

Phoenix, Arizona is the sixth-largest city in the United States with a population of more than 1.6 million residents. Those of us who live here can experience a gorgeous outdoor lifestyle, an innovative and creative business climate, and a welcoming culture of optimism.

After all, for 150 years Phoenicians have built upon the innovation of our ancient founders—the Hohokam people—who developed a sophisticated water delivery system still essential for life in Phoenix today. Creative ingenuity continues to be the heart and soul of business in our beautiful city, yet even our own leaders often fail to recognize its existence.

Phoenix Community Alliance (PCA), a 30-year-old business advocacy organization focused on the urban vitality of downtown, surveyed its business membership and found more than 80 percent believe that a city’s creative culture—including arts and public spaces—is vital to recruiting and retaining a talented workforce.

While this is no surprise, we were shocked when this group of business leaders rated Phoenix as a “5” on a 10-point scale with respect to arts and creative vibrancy. We, the leaders of PCA’s “Arts, Culture & Public Life Committee” knew better.

Two years later, taking this dismal community self-assessment to heart, PCA launched ArtWORKS PHX, a novel arts and business advocacy campaign shaped to increase community awareness about, and advocate for, the economic impact of Phoenix businesses partnering with the arts.

How did we develop this campaign, when past efforts to launch an art-related campaign lost steam?

First, we secured the support of Phoenix Community Alliance, an influential business leadership organization whose mission is to create a vibrant downtown, overcoming years of urban decline. We chose to spotlight what’s right about our city’s arts and business and culture ecosystem, engaging PCA Members who have incubated a variety of successful arts and business programs within their own organizations. This localized our campaign and created a strong coalition of exemplar business leaders eager to inspire a virtuous circle of arts and business engagement.

Phoenix business leaders kicking off ArtWORKS PHX.

Second, we researched best practices in arts and business campaigns and were delighted to find the pARTnership Movement, a national initiative developed by Americans for the Arts designed to reach the business community with the message that the arts can build their competitive advantage. We quickly determined that the pARTnership Movement provided the core messaging needed for Phoenix to lead a successful local campaign, as well as the credibility of being connected to a national movement.

Leveraging the pARTnershipMovement’s key messages, ArtWORKS PHX case studies show how:

  1. Phoenix employees want to work and live in vibrant communities.
  2. Engaging with arts and culture can help businesses stand out.
  3. Arts and culture in the workplace brings out the best in employees.
  4. The arts foster an environment that embraces cultural differences.
  5. The arts stimulate creativity and critical thinking.

Third, we created a sustainable and cost-effective digital campaign aimed at changing the business community’s negative perceptions of our city’s creative culture. We created ArtWORKSPHX.org, a website that includes a gallery of highly visual, exciting arts and business case studies, along with convincing testimonials from business leaders who are reaping the benefits of these arts integration activities. Our campaign is not an appeal to raise money for the arts, or a self-promotion by the arts community. Instead, the power of the campaign comes from the members and mission of the Phoenix Community Alliance: business advocacy.

A brilliant ArtWORKS PHX example includes Alliance Bank of Arizona and its 14-year commissioned arts, culture and history project, At Work in Arizona—an artistic photographic essay sharing the state’s economic history.

In 2003 Alliance Bank of Arizona CEO James Lundy wanted to fill the walls of the branches of a newly formed bank system with a black and white photo essay of the economic history of Arizona. He interviewed artist Marilyn Szabo, who with a degree in history and an extensive career in the photographic arts, was chosen to develop the project. Today, the bank’s seven branches throughout Arizona—three in Phoenix—each feature spectacular, local images in a unique display that shares the significance of each photo in Arizona work and economic development history.

When the photo collection was completed, the executive team at Alliance Bank of Arizona decided that there were enough images to publish a book. In December of 2014 a “coffee table” book, At Work in Arizona, The First 100 Years, was produced, with proceeds dedicated to supporting Arizona’s education-focused nonprofits.

Alliance Bank is just one of nearly three dozen Greater Phoenix business case studies featured on ArtWORKSPHX.org, with many more to come. Arizona’s largest healthcare system, Banner Health, incorporates the arts into a clinical program with Alzheimer’s patients. Goodman’s Interior Structures uses innovative design to foster creativity and partners with Ballet Arizona to bring life to their office furniture showroom in a social video that’s getting a lot of eyes.

The website also provides practical tips and resources for businesses of all sizes that want to start their own arts partnerships, as well as arts and business workshops. An annual ArtWORKS PHX arts and business award will debut in 2017.

To learn more about ArtWORKS PHX, go to our ArtWORKSPHX.org website. Like us on Facebook. Learn how Phoenix businesses are working together to shape a vanguard, vibrant Phoenix.

Our wish for 2017? When the PCA conducts a follow-up survey, we want the Phoenix business community to move the needle in our city’s arts and culture esteem from “5” to a perfect “10.” 

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