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Arts Champion: Bank of America

Bank of America is among the largest corporate funders of the arts, supporting more than 2,000 arts organizations worldwide. ArtsFund has proudly partnered with Bank of America since 1979, and we recently sat down with Kim Vu, Bank of America’s Seattle Market Executive, to learn more about their support of the arts and commitment to investing in communities.

Why did Bank of America first become involved with ArtsFund? Why have you continued to support?

Bank of America’s relationship with ArtsFund dates back to nearly four decades of partnership and investment to the local arts and culture community in the Puget Sound. The deep insights and relationships that ArtsFund has of the local arts community has been invaluable to us as a partner in helping us better understand the regional impact, both economic and social, that arts and culture has to the health and vitality of the region. We have continued to support ArtsFund and its partners because arts continues to play a critical role in our region not only to encourage the exploration of creative thought and expression, but also as a form of much needed storytelling and a space for courageous conversations in our current sociopolitical climate.

How does investment and partnership in arts & culture align with Bank of America’s commitment to community? 

Bank of America Foundation is committed to economic mobility for individuals, families and communities and invests in driving social progress to ensure local economies thrive. Arts and culture plays a role in creating inclusive and thriving communities and can take a lead in the diversity, equity and inclusion conversation. Locally, we have partnered with organizations like Fifth Avenue Theater to shine a light on stories from communities who have historically been missing from the larger conversation and have uncovered new ways to engage our employees and clients in courageous conversations like being out in the 21st century workplace and creating inclusive workplaces with individuals with intellectual disabilities. Together with Pacific Northwest Ballet, we hosted a pre-show talk about diversity in dance and with Seattle Children’s Theater. We moderated a talk about building empathy and inclusion in children through the work Ezra Jack Keats’ production of A Snowy Day.

 What value to you see in connecting your employees with the arts/what relationship do you see between art & workforce development?

Engaging our employees with our arts and culture partners creates a space for our employees to think creatively, explore new ideas and to enrich their process of problem solving, innovating, or tackling a challenging issue or topic. It also creates opportunities for creative partnerships like the Better Money Habits financial literacy day for Fifth Avenue Theater’s Rising Stars youth program members, where our employees volunteer to facilitate interactive financial education workshops for young actors; or having our Asian Leadership Network partner with Seattle Symphony Orchestra’s Celebrate Asia program to invite and engage other corporate Asian employee resources groups to network and engage in the local arts community.

How do programs like Museums on Us and the Art Conservation project advance Bank of America’s priorities?

Through our Museums on Us program, we offer free admission to over 200+ museums across the domestic U.S. on the first weekend of every month by showing your Bank of America, U.S. Trust, or Merrill Lynch credit or debit cards. Here in the Puget Sound, through Museums on Us, you can visit Seattle Art Museum, Northwest African American Art Museum, Wing Luke Museum, Bellevue Art Museum, and Tacoma Art Museum. Our Arts Conservation Program provides grants to nonprofit museums to conserve historically or culturally significant works of art that are in danger of degeneration, including works that have been designated as national treasure. And our Arts in Our Community program makes art accessible by providing museums and nonprofit galleries the ability to borrow complete exhibitions at no cost from the Bank of America Art Collection offering the public the opportunity to see important works of art while at the same time generating vital revenue for these institutions. To learn more about our arts programs, please visit www.bankofamerica.com/arts.

You recently served on the Advisory Committee for ArtsFund’s Social Impact of the Arts Study, and Bank of America was a funding partner in ArtsFund’s 2014 Economic Impact Study. What outcomes do you hope to see from these initiatives?

In today’s world, you need both anecdotal stories and you need data in order to better understand the landscape of any industry, community or issue. Each informs the other and one without the other tells an incomplete and unbalanced story. As a funder and supporter of studies like the Social Impact of Arts and the Economic Impact Study, we see the value that this creates to hold all of us accountable to ensuring what we’re doing together in the community is actually creating the impact and outcomes we set out to accomplish. And if it doesn’t, it requires us to reflect and recalibrate so we can collectively build communities that are accessible and inclusive of everyone.

Header image: Bank of America Museums on Us program participants. L-r: Bellevue Art Museum, photo by Kyle Geib Photo; Seattle Art Museum, Amy Sherald Saint Woman, photo courtesy of Seattle Art Museum; Tacoma Art Museum, family exploring the museum’s exhibition Animals: Wild and Captures in Bronze; Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience, Selena Velasco, My Mother’s Movement, 2017, Mixed Media, Photography by Velasco’s sister Analisa Velasco San Nicholas, Photo Courtesy Auriza Ugalino.