Business and Culture, Culture is Business

Blue Dress Diva Oil Painting 14x11
Blue Dress Diva Oil Painting 14x11

Yesterday I was on CBC Radio talking to Daybreak South’s Marion Barschel,

with fellow “culturist” Karma Lacoff. Karma is an event planner, recently completed the highly successful BreakOut West, and has done many many other cultural projects. I am a visual artist in the city, have been here for 9 years, and during that time have been involved in many of the cultural groups, both visual arts and performing such as being a board of Directors for the Kelowna Museums Society, a part of the original Life and Arts Festival Focus Group, FCA, Livessence, Okanagan Erotic Art Show, and Viva Musica, Okanagan Symphony, Mozart Festival, Ballet Kelowna, Mission Dance Centre and Sunshine Theatre are the top of mind.

Was I nervous? Yep, I was up since 3 am getting focused. I heard my daughter’s phone alarm go off no less than four times from 5 am onward. She finally got up at 540 – which is impressive since she is only 21 and loves her university studies. Well I think it is impressive; at 21 I was lucky if I got up at 8 am to be on time for work. Now I am unable to sleep in past 6 because of my cats. For some reason they like their breakfast at the same time every day.

The week before, after David F called and we talked on the phone, I made notes of different things that I could say and talk about – I’ve found that planning and organization, preparedness, to be the best defense against nerves. Nothing I dislike more than a microphone being thrust in front of my face, and my brain goes blank. I am actually fairly intelligent, but sometimes that is not the message that comes across.

Some of the things that I thought about when I was making my notes, had to do with business and the interaction of business and culture. Without business, culture will flounder, and without culture, business will stagnate. Since the CBC discussion was only about ten minutes long, and I hate to have things go to waste, here are the rest of my thoughts:

I think the biggest hurdle businesses face

is recognizing that the cultural groups are as legitimate as they are. Sure, there are some artists and some groups out there that really do not put forth a “business like” attitude, but one must remember that the artists and performers are not always trained in the “Way of the Numbers”. For many it is a struggle, for many they will try to overcome that struggle by learning new methods to deal with these challenges – others will just say “screw it”, and hope for the best. For me, I took the initiative to learn what I could do – I know what my limitations are and what they are not. So far I haven’t found too many limitations, well except for adding and subtracting. That can be a challenge sometimes.  Oh, and cooking. I burn food a lot.

The cultural health of a city could be measured,

in my opinion, by the number of businesses who support the cultural groups – the larger number of businesses, the more healthy. Many businesses choose to support a cultural group via a Silent Auction, but these tend to be the same businesses over and over again – I’m sure you could name at least three here in Kelowna who do it time and again.

Personally I don’t like Silent Auctions…. well, you know I would like Silent Auctions if those attending got in to the spirit of the event, and weren’t chintzy with their bidding.

For example, I know of one instance in Penticton, where there was an item up for bid, it was a lovely graphite drawing by Nick Bantock (of Gryphon and Sabine fame), and the starting bid was fairly low, I think it was $30 or $50, something like that. If the person who bid before me had started out with a substantial bid, there was no way I would have been able to afford it at my final bid of $130. Instead they cheaped out, I dashed a last minute bid in there substantially higher than theirs, and I won the drawing.

Lesson learned people, it is a fundraiser, so bid high and often.

You know what I would like to see

is a month long event, where the local businesses buy in to the concept that all art is removed from the walls. Let’s just start with the art, because it’s easy to administer the idea…

Remove the art from the walls for one month. Then take the temperature of the businesses and the clients/customers and the employees. Everyone who walks in to that shop, or office, or room…. ask questions like how did you feel when you walked in, did it seem friendly, if it was your first time to that office could you get a sense of their philosophy (artwork displayed is a subconscious or maybe even conscious projection of that company’s philosophy…) What other questions do you think you could ask? Use this opportunity to gain valuable insights from your clients/customers about your business. What a fascinating project that could be. Who will be the first? The first is the leader you know, the one who is in front of everyone else. What an opportunity to be an industry leader!

Cultural groups create from a space that is foreign from business. Artists and performers create from a space of (dare I say it) love. There is a greater good and return to money given with an open heart – something Kevin O’Leary probably wouldn’t agree with. Gosh I wish I could have said that on CBC! But it was such a short interview. Next time maybe.

What specifically businesses can do

1. Take the initiative and search out groups that you believe in from a personal and or professional point of view. Take the initiative! Set a budget each year. Meet it. Use that interaction to show other businesses that you are taking the lead to support the culture in the City. Make it a friendly competition. By approaching cultural groups you save them incredible amounts of time, which could be translated in to presenting a much more enjoyable show, which you are supporting! Better reflection on you, right?
2. Ask the cultural groups you support to give you feedback about your donation. How much impact did it have. Ask how effective their event was. Creating accountability also creates trust – trust in you that their event will be sponsored again, and trust in them that they are being effective and efficient with the funds given. You haven’t thrown that money away.
3. Put a sign in your window or prominently on display that you support Culture! It doesn’t have to be a ton of money – it could be $100, it could be $500 or it could be a stupendous amount like $10,000! (Send it my way too, please.)

Regardless of how you support the groups, just support them. We talk about tourists all the time in Kelowna, because we have a tourist type town. But there are many locals who would appreciate a richer culture too. Take care of our locals, and they will tell their families, who become tourists as they visit. Then the tourists will benefit, which will mean more tourists, and a better business for you. Remember that old Brek commercial in the 70s – they’ll tell two friends, and they’ll tell two friends, and so on, and so on……

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