Business + Arts = Places We Want to Be

This month, Americans for the Arts is hosting a blog salon with arts professionals across the country weighing in on "changes in the nonprofits model and some of the reasons the field is constantly looking for a better way to conduct business." Margy Waller's most recent entry is below. To read all of the thoughts from arts leaders and supporters across the country, check out the ARTSblog.


One night in mid-May, the coolest place in Cincinnati was a party on top of a painting.

It was Cincinnati Fashion Week and we were all smack in the intersection of art and business. We went to parties celebrating Andy Warhol in the former Contemporary Arts Center, talks about fashion art at the Cincinnati Art Museum, and more.

That Thursday night, on a beautiful summer evening, Landor Associates (a global branding and design firm with offices in London, Paris, Tokyo, New York, Cincinnati and more) hosted a party celebrating Graphic Fashion. Landor Cincinnati is perfectly positioned to host a fashion party because it’s located in one of our city’s iconic department store buildings. Built in 1878, the Shillito’s Department Store location was a premiere shopping destination for the local business that became Macy’s (also headquartered here in Cincinnati).

The night of the party, in an alley outside the store building (converted to lofts and business offices several years ago), Landor unveiled new store window display art, projected videos onto a wall above the alley, offered temporary tattoos, and provided a painted street to celebrate.

Artists Danny Babcock and Mathew Dayler created the painting in one day. At 8 a.m. their company, Higher Level Art, began outlining the street pavement with chalk. By 6 p.m., they’d finished painting a bright graphic design all over the alley. When we arrived later that night, we could hardly wait to see it. (After all, we feel a little bit responsible as the organizers of a six-block-long street painting by 1,500 citizen artists last September.)

 

 

The Landor street art looked amazing – and the party was filled with workers business leaders have attracted to our city and want to retain.Everyone was saying, “This is the kind of thing that makes people take another look at our city as place to live, invest, and visit.”

So we were crushed to learn that the organizers planned to powerwash the paint right off the pavement when the party ended. Why? They thought that’s what the city wanted and would insist on since the event’s street closing permission ended at midnight.

Hearing this news, several of us pulled out our smartphones and started texting everyone we thought might be able to grant permission to let the paint (mixed with soap for easy removal) wash away more slowly – leaving the vibrant pavement color in place for as long as possible, and to let workers, shoppers, Reds fans in town for a game the next day, and other visitors share the fun.

Moments later, Mayor Mark Mallory arrived. And when asked, the mayor responded without hesitation, assuring us he would grant permission to waive the power washing – because this kind of partnership between artists and business is exactly what creates the places we all want to live.

Everyone in the alley that night knew it – the business that sponsored the art, the artists who created it, the city officials who saved it, and the party guests standing on it.