Looking Outside The Arts

Amid all the furore over the current arts funding crisis, there has been a lot of talk of the arts embracing wider corporate business acumen.

It makes sense; the arts, while historically adept at making slim budgets stretch, is not alone in facing tough business decisions. And that’s the key word – business. While it may not sit comfortably with the creative community, ultimately the arts is a business and a hugely important sector for our country, both emotionally and financially. While the hard business world may seem at odds with the arts, in this competitive marketplace, those that fail to take a business-like approach may find themselves at a distinct disadvantage.

There does seem to be reluctance in some quarters, though, in sharing skills with the wider community.

While organisations are often approached for financial support and sponsorship, how often are businesses asked for in-kind support to draw on an organisations particular expertise?

There’s much potential for two-way benefits in such relationships. The arts can draw on an organisation’s particular expertise while, in return, there are many skills the arts can provide in reciprocal arrangement; presentation skills, public speaking, events management, for example, are all skills in great demand in business.

Some venues already foster strong relationships with their local business community but it is always worth reviewing, taking a step back and asking what the corporate world could offer.

One area that reluctance to embrace the wider world seems to be entrenched is the field of recruitment.

Yes, there are many roles that have specific industry requirements, but others in the fields of administration, marketing, fundraising and sales, for example, could surely benefit from an injection of fresh ideas and experience of the wider business community.

Yet, despite the opportunity to bring new skills into the industry,, a random (and totally unscientific) search of current job adverts in these fields shows many requiring ‘3 years theatre experience’ or more prescriptive ‘5 years inner London theatre experience’.

While of course you want to attract the very best candidates and ones with a passion for the arts, could those requirements really be classed as essential? Contacts and experience are important but the lack of industry specific experience could easily be counterweighted by solutions that your organisation hadn’t considered.

Go on, take that first step and engage with the wider business community – they are not that scary and there’s a great potential just waiting to be tapped.

Article originally written for Arts Professional Magazine

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