ArtsVest program encourages local business to invest in the arts

The Capitol Theatre is one of eight Nelson-area arts organizations taking part in the ArtsVest program. - Sam Van Schie photo
The Capitol Theatre is one of eight Nelson-area arts organizations taking part in the ArtsVest program.
— image credit: Sam Van Schie photo

Several local arts organizations are looking for financial support from businesses, after being approved for a matching incentive offered through a national program called ArtsVest.

Offered for the first time in the Columbia Basin, ArtsVest is a project of the Toronto-based charity Business for the Arts. Its goal is to encourage small and medium-sized arts organizations to find businesses to sponsor their projects by teaching them how to put together proposals and offering to match the amount they collect from new business partners before March 1.

Eight Nelson-area organizations are taking part in the program and have been pre-approved for different levels of matching grants. The Capitol Theatre and Oxygen Art Centre are eligible for up to $10,000; the Elephant Mountain Literary Festival, Slocan Valley Historical Society and Ymir’s Tiny Lights Festival can each collect $5,000; and Touchstones Nelson, Nelson Civic Theatre, West Kootenay Regional Arts Council could get between $1,000 and $4,500.

Each participating arts group took part in a free training seminar this past fall on how to approach potential business sponsors and, in January, they found out how much matching funding they’d been pre-approved for. Now the race is on to find businesses to donate before the deadline.

Both in-kind and cash donations are eligible to be matched by ArtsVest.

Roger Ley of the Nelson Civic Theatre is no stranger to asking businesses to contribute to fundraising efforts and has already exceeded the $2,500 available for matching grants.

“The feedback I’ve heard from businesses is that they’re asked to donate to all sorts of groups, so you really need to be able to give them a good reason to support your project over something else,” Ley said.

Generally it’s easier for brand new initiatives to attract the interest of business donors compared to ongoing projects. Over at Oxygen Art Centre, director Miriam Needoba, said she was able to bring a new business partner on board by earmarking the funds they donated to the development of a new youth arts festival.

“They were interested in seeing more spaces and activities available for youth and basically we said, ‘if you can fund it, we’ll make it happen,’” Needoba explained, adding that she’ll be able to leverage that base funding from the business to attract other grants for the project from traditional funding sources.

Oxygen hasn’t yet reached its total available for matching grants and is still interested in hearing from other companies interested in sponsoring something at the artist-run centre.

ArtsVest BC program manager Kathleen Speakman said there’s good reason for businesses to align themselves with arts groups.

“It’s one of the more effective modes of reaching customers and building business,” she said. “For the local grocer or the local realtor, it’s a way of building their brand and to have people recognize them as a business that values the same thing their customers do — the arts.”

Carla Stephenson, director of the Tiny Lights Festival, said the ArtsVest program changed her view on business partnerships. She learned how much businesses could benefit from sponsoring an event like Tiny Lights and that made her feel more confident when approaching new potential funders.

She’s currently reached about 70 per cent of the total available for the matching grant and is still looking for a few more donors.

“Partnering with a festival or an arts organization can be great for the business, not only for exposure but for community outreach, it gives them an opportunity to directly talk to potential clients in a fun atmosphere,” Stephenson said.

“With dwindling government grants available for the arts, partnering with local businesses is a great way to elevate both business and the arts.”

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