Kenji Maeda, artsVest program manager, speaks in Kelowna about the program that helps teach arts organization how to attract business-world partners and sponsors. -Image: Alistair Waters/Capital News

Successful program marrying arts and business groups in Kelowna comes to an end

But city officials say knowledge learned from artsVest program will continue to help local groups

After four years, an innovative program that links business and the arts in Kelowna has come to an end.

And, according to city and program officials, the artsVest has been a stunning success.

Business for the Arts and the City of Kelowna announced at its wrap-up celebration on Tuesday evening participants of the artVest program provided a boost of more than $1 million to the arts and culture community in Kelowna from 2014 to 2017.

The artsVest program is a sponsorship training and matching incentive program that helps small and medium–sized arts and culture organizations secure sponsorships from businesses in their communities. The program is delivered by Business for the Arts in communities across B.C. with funding from Canadian Heritage and the province.

In Kelowna, the city provided $100,000 over the last four year for the program which kept it operating her for four years. Typically, it runs for just one year in a community.

Kenji Maeda, artsVest program manager said over the last two years, Kelowna was the only municipality in B.C. providing seed money for the program to help bring the business and arts worlds together.

“The $1 million investment in our local arts and culture community is a substantial accomplishment,” said Christine McWillis, the city’s cultural services manager. “We have been excited to see the development of strong and sustainable community partnerships between the arts organizations and businesses over the last four years.”

Between 2014 and 2017, 34 Kelowna based arts organizations benefited from participating in the program, and 176 new business partnerships were created.

“We are thrilled to see arts and business leaders in Kelowna collaborate through artsVest to invest in the city’s cultural life,” says Nichole Anderson, president and CEO of Business for the Arts, which runs the program.

“A vibrant arts and culture enlivens our civic life, gives a boost to business and leads to a better quality of life for all in our communities. I notice also that so many of the partnerships in Kelowna between arts and business are long-term investment relationships, which shows great leadership on the part of the business community to invest in the creative sector in Kelowna.”

While the formal artsVest program has come to an end in the city, Kelowna officials say they hope to see knowledge learned from the program continue to help arts and culture organizations here attract business sponsors and spread to other groups, such as sports organizations.

“Its not about the money as much as it is about the knowledge gained (in how to attract business world partners and sponsorships),” said Sandra Kochan, Kelowna partnerships manager, and the woman who brought the artsVest initiative to the city in 2014 when she was the city’s cultural services manager.

“artsVest was invaluable to our organization,” said Karma Lacoff, executive and creative director of Creative Okanagan Artist and Event Development Society. “The training supports arts organizations in more ways than just sponsorship training. I look forward to seeing the impact it makes in other small centres.”

According to Mayor Colin Basran, the City of Kelowna provides nearly $2 million in support for the cultural community each year, including major cultural facilities and grants for organizations. This year, 23 operating and project grants representing a $163,265 investment was made in the arts, culture and heritage community.

Founded in 1974, Business for the Arts is Canada’s only national association of business leaders who support the arts. It aims to strengthen arts and culture in Canada by connecting arts organizations to business patrons, volunteers and ambassadors, and by providing resources for arts and business leaders to establish and build successful partnerships.

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