By Karen Epper Hoffmann
B.Businesses large and small have long had close, supportive relationships with local and national arts and culture. In fact, financial institutions have played a key role not only in sponsoring financially, but also in actively supporting and participating in many arts and cultural initiatives, including building their own art collections. Erica Opstad, Community Affairs Manager for National Programs at US Bank, has spent more than two decades directing scholarship awards for the arts. She sees art and culture as a supporting pillar of customer and employee support at the bank. “It’s about a focus on philanthropy,” says Opstad. “Art institutes are small businesses and make a big contribution [their]City.”
Bank of America has long played a significant role in creating and loaning its own art collection and in supporting the arts and culture across the country. Rena De Sisto, global executive, arts, culture and women’s programs at Bank of America, says that over the past decade, the bank has not only shown paintings and sculptures in the bank’s 800 facilities, but has loaned its art collection for 150 exhibitions . Bank of America has 50,000 pieces in its private art collection, from posters and prints to expensive works.
“We get calls about our art collection a lot,” De Sisto says, “adding that the bank has often curated exhibitions at the Gantt Center in Charlotte, NC, where the bank is headquartered, and at the Nassau County Museum of Art on Long Island Museums in Milan, Seoul and Dublin.
Sally McCrady, PNC Foundation Chair and President and Executive Vice President and Director of Community Affairs, PNC Financial Services Group, oversees support for the arts and culture in the Pittsburgh area, including PNC Arts Alive, a multi-million dollar funding initiative Support organizations for visual and performing arts and make the arts accessible to all target groups. As of 2009, PNC has given more than $ 18 million to cultural organizations in central Ohio, Southeast Florida, Greater Philadelphia, Southern New Jersey, Delaware, and Greater St. Louis.
Some financial services institutions have supported their art practice for decades. Take the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC): According to Corrie Jackson, senior curator of the RBC art collection, the Toronto-based multinational has been building its own private art collection since 1929. In 2003, RBC expanded its already extensive collection to include works by up-and-coming artists and supported museum stays and other art programs through the bank’s foundation. “That was really when the collection really reflected the art world in general,” says Jackson. “There is a realization that supporting the work of living artists [makes for]a more modern collection. It becomes a catalyst for conversations. “
About 90 percent of the 5,000+ works of art RBC owns will be on display in RBC offices in 15 different locations around the world, with a significant portion of the U.S.-based art collection moving to a new space opening in 2022, notes Tricia Heuring. US Wealth Management Coordinator for RBC and US Collections Manager for the bank. The pieces installed in this US collection, slated to be based in Minnesota, will all focus on “the human figure and connection,” she adds, with the bank exhibiting various works to “change the dialogue.” as the exhibition develops, adds Heuring. In this way, banks like RBC are not only trying to “improve the workplace” for their employees, but also show how the experiences of the country over the past year are reflected in modern art. “This is how people feel,” she adds. “These are the times we live in.”
Banks often work closely with museums or other established art fairs as sponsors or active supporters of their exhibits. The international bank UBS has not only been collecting contemporary art for more than six decades – a collection with more than 30,000 works by artists from 70 countries.The Swiss bank has been a partner of the renowned Art Basel for 28 years, as has the US exhibition at the fair in Miami Beach actively supported over the past two decades, says John Mathews, head of Ultra High Net Worth Clients at UBS Global Wealth Management Americas.
“Our collection’s mission is to acquire and maintain artwork in the communities in which we operate, to buy it in the primary market to directly support artists and galleries,” says Mathews. He adds that the bank lends works to art museums and cultural institutions, such as Ed Ruscha’s current solo exhibition in the artist’s hometown in Oklahoma. To make art more accessible, UBS opened its own art gallery at its headquarters in New York City in 2019.
And cultural support and awareness is an arena that isn’t just reserved for the world’s largest financial firms. Kansas City, Missouri-based Lead Bank, with assets of $ 700 million, has expanded its commitment to the arts for many years, says CEO and Vice Chairman Josh Rowland. The former Garden City Bank, renamed in 2008, “needed a fresh start and a start-up after overcoming the financial crisis,” says Rowland. “We had the opportunity to redesign the bank’s activities.”
The bank and the Rowland family, who are majority shareholders, have been involved in the Kansas City performing arts scene for decades. The bank has become more active in helping the city symphony and the Kansas City Art Institute, and recently launched an emerging artist. “As a community bank [some think]we don’t have millions to spend buying art, ”says Rowland. “But we have a mandate to act quickly. These artists are small business people who [are]an economic engine for travel and entertainment and other services. ”This is critical now as the quarantine subsides.
In fact, many arts-supporting banks see their sponsorship of local art institutes, symphonies, events, and young artist programs as essential to strengthening their local economies, especially now that so many businesses have been hit hard by the pandemic. “This reflects our investment in the community in a direct and specific way,” said Jackson of RBC.
Jackson’s team and their colleagues at other locations are carefully considering how employees and customers “move through the space” in which their art installations live. They meet with customers and employees to get their feedback, and the bank’s cultural teams try to curate a “very diverse” range of artists of different origins, origins, ages and races. Heuring adds that RBC’s Minnesota collection, due out next year, was designed “not just to be aesthetically pleasing,” but to showcase more artists who are women and people of color.
“We are all still there as the artist communities were hit by COVID, how their audiences and sources of income were hit,” added Jackson. “All of this is shifting more than ever.”
Bank of America’s De Sisto agrees that part of their program’s mission is to “help museums through this troubled time.” To offer art viewing channels during the year-long quarantine, the bank recently launched its Masterpiece Moment program, which allows online viewers to virtually tour large and diverse art collections. It’s a compelling advertisement for the art institutes, and the bank has also helped its partners in the art community find new ways to bill their online listings to mitigate the loss of ticket sales.
“We work side by side with them,” says De Sisto. Until recently, museums would only have cost digital offerings without earning much for it. “We are interested in the local economy developing well. And the arts are an integral part of the health and vibrancy of our communities. “
Karen Epper Hoffman is a regular contributor to the ABA Banking Journal and has been writing about the financial industry and technology for nearly 30 years. Her work has appeared in American Banker, Wall Street Journal, PaymentsSource, and others.