The importance of businesses supporting the arts is not a frivolous pursuit. The arts play an important role and, when they thrive, it benefits not just the practitioners but also the country as a whole. In this economically driven world, the arts require adequate funding in order to thrive.
There is a growing international interest in the potential of the art, and creative, cultural and heritage industries to drive sustainable development and create inclusive job opportunities. The arts can do more than provide a living, they can help us express our values, build bridges between cultures, and bring us together regardless of ethnicity, religion, or age.
When times are tough, art is a salve for the soul. Patronage of the arts which include painting, sculpture, music, design and dance, poetry, theatre and architecture offers a number of opportunities. These include positioning a brand, rewarding customers, creating credibility, advertising, feel-good factors, and both tangible and intangible gains while encouraging urban regeneration, nation-building, education, preservation of cultural heritage and even philanthropy.
The arts are one of the biggest platforms of expression and potentially important contributors to social cohesion and nation-building through the promotion of inter-cultural dialogue, understanding and collaboration. For example traditional African art was and still is a functional and necessary part of everyday life.
Religion, Government, education, work and entertainment were all closely inter-related in traditional African societies. All of the arts, whether musical, oral or sculptural, were deeply woven into the very fabric of social life and played a central role in bringing together all members of the community through shared activities.
Think, for example, of the role played by music in the fight against colonial rule. A number of academics have postulated the significance of music in Zimbabwe’s political history, with special reference to its role in the experiences of Zimbabwe’s struggle for independence. A number of musicians sang, inspired, encouraged and taught the values of the liberation as given by the leaders.
They therefore expressed not only their thoughts but those of the fighters and the leaders, conveying the message and the principles from the principals to the masses. Music was therefore an important component of the liberation struggle and its contribution can never be over emphasised. In this regard public and private sponsorship and support of the arts, is particularly important to keep on emphasising the values of nation-building and social cohesion.
The cultural sector, including the visual arts, museums, theatres, is increasingly being seen as a potential driver of growth by governments and organisations charged with promoting economic development around the world. As such stimulating the development of a cultural sector that can then be both a source of local creativity, employment and social inclusion, as well as an attractor of tourists is essential.
Engaging with and supporting the arts is one way businesses can give something back to the community and develop direct links into the community. It also enables businesses to raise their visibility through extensive, high-profile branding opportunities, extensive media coverage, high-profile branding, networking events, invitations to key milestone events, receiving complimentary tickets and corporate hospitality.
Engaging art museums, galleries, design institutes, architectural institutions and other arts organisations offers the ability for a company to associate itself with something that is fresh, innovative, which has links to a culture and identity, and links to our ability to be a growing, sophisticated society with some very creative people at its core.
There is evidence of new and modern ways in which companies can benefit from investing in and sponsoring the arts, where art and culture become a significant component in the commercial value chain of the post-industrial, twenty-first century economy.
As we move from an industrial to a post-industrial economy, the arts and culture play a fundamental role in a world where goods and services are sold more on the basis of their aesthetic, social and symbolic value rather than their function or usefulness.
Sponsorship of the arts allows corporations to connect with clients, customers and everyone else through an emotional path that fits with peoples’ identities and lifestyles in a way that conventional advertising cannot. It also allows them to think about new products and ideas, and deepen their knowledge not only about consumers’ behaviour and preferences but also about creative and technical boundaries in product development.
George Washington wrote: “The Arts and Sciences essential to the prosperity of the State and to the ornament and happiness of human life have a primary claim to the encouragement of every lover of his country and mankind.’’ The arts and humanities serve us all.
They are as worthy as banks, corporations and other agencies of private profit to be objects of civic concern, subsidy and even bail-out. The arts communicate across barriers of language, class and culture.
They elicit an intuitive reaction when words alone often cannot. Painters, designers, composers, writers, film-makers, sculptors, architects, orchestras, museums, libraries, concert halls, opera houses contribute indispensably to the pride and glory of a nation. They are crucial to the formation of individual and national identities, traditions and cultures, and to their preservation and conservation.
They also entertain, challenge, give meaning, raise awareness and stimulate creative thinking. While there are many examples of other corporates investing in the arts sector in Zimbabwe, it is up to all businesses, big or small, multinational or local, to recognise the value art can add not only to their business but to society, and spur some action in the patronage of arts festivals, art weeks, exhibitions and arts educational programmes.