Thriving arts communities need for-profit support

Posted by Mark Golden, Mar 22, 2018 0 comments

Recently I was honored to receive the Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Art Materials Association (NAMTA), which represents, supports, and promotes retailers, manufacturers, distributors, importers, and independent reps throughout the world in the art/creative materials industry. I had the opportunity to share with my colleagues not only Golden Artist Colors’ new vision statement, but my charge to our industry to support arts education across the country. I’m delighted to share some of these thoughts to a broader audience.

Almost exactly four years ago now, we at Golden Artist Colors embarked on a process to develop a new Vision Statement for our business. Over a two-month period, we invited 60 stakeholders of our company plus staff to spend some time with us and participate in a dialogue. We were joined by artists, our local businesses, non-profits, schools, politicians, suppliers, and 10 members from our retail community. What emerged through this process was a collective vision that was much greater and much more audacious than anything we could have imagined for ourselves. It is: “Golden Artist Colors is a catalyst, bridging together creative communities and inspiring global change through the arts.”

Our vision wasn’t to beat any other manufacturer or supplier in our industry, but to ask our peer companies to join forces and, together, help us create more abundance in the arts for every one of us to grow. The art materials industry is an enormously powerful, committed, and connected community of the arts. It is important to share some thoughts of what I think this can mean for all of us to raise the value of the arts and, in doing so, clearly benefit the future and well-being of our industry—not only ours but across the private sector. 

There are so many initiatives we can support that will advance the artists that buy our materials. But I believe there is one initiative that is the most important to our future: Arts Education. It is clearly the primary driver to the future success of our industry. It is a fact that people are five times more likely to take up art in their adult life if they’ve had a successful creative experience while they were in school. As art is driven out of our children’s lives, not only is our industry in peril but, even more importantly, our children will be deprived of this most critical area of creative thinking and processing.

Three years ago, we at GOLDEN started an initiative with our local schools to offer master art classes for local primary and secondary art teachers. What we’ve come to realize is that the most inspired art students come from programs where they have teachers who are practicing their art. What we’ve learned is that most art teachers no longer create their own art. That by simply providing them with a professional painting instructor, space, and materials, we could assist them to again get in touch with their creative passion. And in turn, that this creative spark is passed onto their students.

As an industry and for our own survival, we have a pressing need to support arts education, and also a responsibility because we are the beneficiaries of that support.

More than money, we need our Association, its members, and the broader private sector to come together to advocate at the local school level for greater support for the arts. Show up at your local School Board Meetings and meet with local Superintendents to express your support for arts programs. Advocate among your local, state, and federal representatives and drive home the fact that the arts are a major economic driver, and that the future of our workforce relies on strong arts education available in all American communities. Americans for the Arts has the tools to help you navigate those conversations. I would ask that every retailer, and any company deriving profits directly from the world of art, to join Americans for the Arts’ Arts Action Fund. There is no cost, just a commitment to get your company and the artists you support signed up—to be informed, and to act.

In any thriving sustainable environment, all stakeholders recognize their responsibility not just to take, but also to give back. The art materials industry is small in comparison to most, but we, and all industries that do business in the world of the arts, don’t have to act small. Together we can amplify the voices of artists, whose message can be so much more profound than ours. And in doing so, we can grow our industry and our support, inspiring global change through the arts.

The artist Kiki Smith, when asked about the advice she gives to artists, shared: “Do the work, it’s not enough to just be thinking about it. You don’t get from one place to another without doing the work.”

It will be our work together, colleagues, and competitors, both large and small committed to a common goal of making art matter. 

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