Written by Diana Smith
Photography by Daniel Barcelo & PMoA Staff

JUST THIS PAST YEAR, the U.S. News & World Report ranked the Lakeland-Winter Haven metro area No. 70 in overall Best Places to Live, and No. 16 in its rankings of The 20 Best Places People are Moving to in the U.S. The 2016 third-quarter report produced by Cushman & Wakefield (released
by the Lakeland Economic Development Council) shows that Polk County’s overall employment increased by 1.4 percent over the last year. Lakeland’s vacancy rate is the lowest in the Tampa Bay region at 4.2 percent, and Lakeland, once again, is leading in new development in the Tampa Bay region.

With so much growth and possibility for new consumers and new talent, businesses must keep their brands front and center, maintaining a competitive advantage, to keep up with growing trends in the market. In order to help businesses find new ways to build a competitive edge and address these challenges, Americans for the Arts, the nation’s leading nonprofit organization for advancing the arts and arts education, launched The pARTnership Movement in 2012. This national initiative was designed to help businesses understand how the arts can aid in achieving many of their goals. From cultivating a culture that will inspire employees to further business agendas to enhancing your brand and reaching new customers, supporting the arts will inspire ideas and attention.

In line with The pARTnership Movement, businesses are partnering with arts organizations in unique and creative ways. Americans for the Arts provides those national success stories along with a myriad of resources — case studies, comprehensive guides and tools to help develop programs. The Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis offers arts-based training through staff development programs that merge law, business, and performing arts. A major supporter of Guthrie’s Continuing Legal Education (CLE) is Faegre Baker Daniels LLP, a general litigation and wealth management firm serving the greater Minneapolis area. Partner John Gordon comments, “Guthrie’s Continuing Legal Education combines the art of theater with the profession of law in a way that is insightful, profound, and practical. Lawyers can learn about themselves, their clients, and their profession in a way they are unable to achieve with other providers of legal education.”

Nevada’s NV Energy supports arts and culture initiatives and organizations throughout all of Nevada in a variety of ways. As a long-time supporter of Nevada Museum of Art, NV Energy supports the museum’s membership program by supplying employee volunteers for art openings and other member cultivation events. To engage their employees, NV Energy hosts employee art shows which results in a museum exhibition and company-wide reception. NV Energy’s President and CEO Paul Caudill said, “NV Energy believes the arts are essential to the quality of life for all Nevadans wherever they live. The arts build vibrant communities — whether large or small, urban, or rural. Not only are the arts good for communities, they are good for business and are critical to economic diversification, tourism, and educational reform strategies.”

Here in our own community, major partnerships like MidFlorida Credit Union’s annual sponsorship of Polk Museum of Art’s Mayfaire by-the Lake and Mosaic’s partnership with Mulberry Phosphate Museum and the Imperial Symphony Orchestra to produce the Fossils! concert are absolutely necessary to provide major creative community events. While such partnerships should be considered, if possible, small and medium-sized businesses can incorporate the arts into their strategies without donating tens of thousands of dollars.

The Polk Museum of Art and Emily Rogers Consulting have partnered to offer the community Mindful Leadership workshops within the galleries of the Museum. Rogers is a consultant, executive coach, and retreat leader who strategically advises organizations and individuals in growing and realizing their full potential. In the Mindful Leadership sessions, she asks attendees to examine works of art in the galleries and to use those works to illustrate leadership skills that they would like to cultivate. In sharing these thoughts in a collaborative group, attendees not only come to understand their own interpretations of the artwork and consider their own strengths and weaknesses as a leader, but they also have the opportunity to gain insight from the perspectives of other participants.

“Over the past decade,” shares Rogers, “an increasing number of businesses and organizations have discovered the advantages of incorporating mindfulness into their culture and professional development practices, and it has been my mission to introduce these practices to Lakeland’s leaders. Mindfulness is a transformational practice designed to intentionally cultivate and strengthen the mind’s capacity to be fully present. Museums are an ideal place to escape from the hustle and bustle of daily life, slow down, get present, notice, and be mindful. My intention for the workshop was to invite leaders to explore for themselves the possibility of bringing all of their mind’s power to each moment in their lives and work, resulting in enhanced performance, greater productivity, better decision-making, and improved well-being.”

Core Wealth Advisors Inc., a boutique financial planning firm, is an example of a small business making major efforts to instill a culture of creativity in their brand. After showcasing works of art by local artists, through Platform Art’s Corporate Art Loan program, Core Wealth Advisors Inc. started collecting their own permanent collection to create a more inviting workspace in downtown Lakeland. Just this year, they started providing their staff with memberships to the Polk Museum of Art as a way to support the Museum’s mission, but also to promote the arts in their personal lives. They also incorporate the arts into their social events, and promote artists in their marketing materials.

Core’s owner Chuck Foss says, “Supporting the arts is a part of our culture for many reasons. Aside from our team’s own individual interests in the arts, we see the clear relationship between a vibrant arts community and a thriving business community. To help promote the arts, we try to create opportunities for our clients and friends to experience the cultural opportunities that Lakeland has to offer. Whether it is a performance at the Lakeland Community Theatre or the Imperial Symphony Orchestra, or an exhibition and lecture at the Polk Museum of Art, we want to share those experiences with our friends and clients. Those experiences can spark insightful and personal conversations that help develop strong relationships, and our work is based on developing long-lasting relationships. I can’t think of a better way to relate to another person than through the arts.”

Whether the focus is on building a fresh brand and creative culture, recruiting, developing and retaining talent, or simply making an impact in your community, partnering with local arts organizations can help you achieve business goals that will allow your business to stand out in a crowded market.



  • What type of non-monetary rewards does your company currently offer?
  • What metrics or methods could you use to measure employee satisfaction with your
    overall rewards program or any arts-related components?


  • How strong is your corporate image in target markets among both customers and potential employees?
  • What steps can your organization take to gain a competitive advantage by strengthening its reputation as an artistic company, or one that supports the arts?
  • How could your company partner with artists — or take advantage of your employees’ own artistic skills — to improve or extend your brand reputation?


  • How important is creativity in your hiring decisions?
  • In what specific ways does your company value creativity?
  • How does your company track and/or reward innovation internally?
  • Innovation can lead to breakthroughs, but doing something in a new and different way inherently carries more risk that taking the tried-and-true approach.
  • Do you penalize failure so severely that employees are discouraged from pursuing creative and innovative but untested solutions to business problems? If so, how can you change that mentality and encourage the sort of risk-taking that leads to major innovations?
  • According to a Culture Works survey, artistic pursuits can help executives become more energetic and creative. How could your company encourage its managers and leaders to deepen their involvement in artistic activities?
  • If you do have employees with strong artistic background/skills, how could you capitalize on their creativity by encouraging innovative efforts?