Written by the charming Suta Kavari who wears a suit to the bank where he works and who knows about assets, liabilities, finance and is generally rather impressive.
More often than not artists feel at the mercy of the whims of their funders and arguably, they are. For corporate Institutions who fund projects, deciding on arts funding is often more of a pragmatic consideration than an emotional one. Decisions are based on the ethos and philosophy of the institution and not necessarily on the artistry of a project. So even though a corporate-sponsored artistic pursuit may have inherent artistic quality and value, the seamless manifestation of the corporate image into the final display always lingers after the event.
Arts funding comes in all sizes and packages, be it through the sponsorship of an arts festival, funding grants to art students, workshop grants, group exhibitions invitations and many other kinds. Such sponsorship is commonly displayed on invitations and through marketing efforts leading up to the event, as well as being promoted at the event itself. Most corporate institutions use arts funding as a way of getting ahead of competition by using culture as a means of enhancing their brand. What this means is that as well as applying their corporate philosophy when deciding on funding, corporate institution also look for ways to demonstrate their (positive) impact and influence on local communities as well as their commitment to ‘sustainability’. In other words, they choose projects that make them look good.
Many corporate institutions are expected or even required to commit to ‘social responsibility’ initiatives. This is why we see companies investing in the same project for years; like Bank Windhoek does in Namibia through the Bank Windhoek Arts Festival and the Bank Windheok Triennial. In a similar vein, the FNB Foundation, which is the corporate social responsibility wing of FNB has a dedicated arts funding division that assess the essential avenues for investments in the arts.
Meanwhile the recipients of such funding rely on this financial support to ensure their survival. Recipients are not only artists and art productions but also programmes that support art and entrepreneurship in communities, and strive to foster sustainable living through the arts. Educational workshops or projects that transfer skills are the most frequent beneficiaries of art funding from corporate institutions, but even so many individual artists and project managers struggle to find the financial means to see their dreams made a reality. Clearly, much is at stake for those invested in the arts, on both sides; funding and funded.
While some might sneer at the thought of a commercialized art industry, corporate institutions (and their money) play a vital role in supporting and promoting the arts. Artists are constantly being asked to be financially resilient, but without the support of institutions with deep pockets, survival becomes harder and art the poorer. Supportive collaboration offers benefits to everyone: companies, artist and audiences alike.