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Bringing Smiles Through the Arts

Delta Dental of Washington is known for “bringing smiles to communities throughout Washington,” and this commitment extends to their support of the arts as well.  We recently spoke with James D. Dwyer, President and CEO of Delta Dental of Washington, about their investment in community health, and how the arts (and ArtsFund) fit in.

WHY DID YOU FIRST BECOME INVOLVED WITH ARTSFUND?

I have been actively involved in Seattle’s business and civic life since the 70s (I know I am dating myself) and since that time, ArtsFund has played the critical role of central support system for the region’s arts sector.  Over my career I have watched the region migrate from a small community with a distinctly Northwest sensibility, through tough economic times, to what we see today–58 cranes building for the future, a diverse and cosmopolitan population, a (mostly) thriving economy, and a shared belief that all people have a place here and deserve to enjoy a fulfilling life.

The arts have played a distinct role in this evolution. The arts both inspire innovation and progress, while ensuring our region retains its pioneering spirit and soul.  The arts are a connection to our past, present, and future.  ArtsFund has for decades kept the spotlight on this important role the arts play, and has provided invaluable support to arts organizations throughout the region.

HOW DOES SUPPORTING THE ARTS ALIGN WITH DELTA DENTAL’S COMMUNITY GIVING PRIORITIES AND FOCUS ON COMMUNITY HEALTH?

Delta is committed to revolutionizing oral health as part of the bigger goal of improving the overall health of the community and everyone in it.

A healthy community is measured by social determinants such as an excellent education system, strong healthcare institutions, employment opportunities, housing, and yes, a vibrant arts and cultural sector.  A healthy community ALSO requires equitable access to these community assets, and we share ArtsFund’s belief that the arts should be right, not a privilege.  It is both an economic and moral imperative that no one is left behind.

Giving back to our community is simply paying the rent for the right to exist.

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WHAT ARE A FEW OF THE REASONS YOU THINK THE ARTS ARE IMPORTANT?

The arts are core to any community that hopes to remain relevant, possesses vision, and values inclusiveness.  The arts connect people and communities by transcending differences in culture, generations, and language.  As our region continues to attract people from all over the world and otherwise diversify, the arts will play an increasingly important role both in celebrating that diversity as well as creating common ground.

As an employer, support for the arts is a no-brainer because they create a vibrancy and energy that employees love.  The arts make this a place that people want to move to or stay in because of the quality of life and the spirit of creativity and innovation.

WHY HAVE YOU CONTINUED TO SUPPORT ARTSFUND? 

We invest in ArtsFund because it is the only nonprofit that supports the region’s arts sector in a holistic way, and with subject matter expertise and great integrity.  We appreciate that ArtsFund supports so many arts organizations and in the case of some of the smaller groups, provides resources and connections not otherwise available.  We share ArtsFund’s commitment to building healthy and equitable communities. We are proud to partner with ArtsFund (both with Board representation by our Chief Financial and Operating Officer, Brad Berg, as well as financial support) in advancing its important work.

This is an exciting time for ArtsFund.  Under Mari’s leadership, the organization has expanded the range of groups it supports and increased understanding of the importance of arts to our community.  ArtsFund is approaching its 50th anniversary.  Building upon ArtsFund’s impact over the past decades and looking to the future, I would ask all business leaders to support ArtsFund as being integral to the environmental scan of a successful community.

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Photo (L-R): Brad Berg, Diane Oakes, Anne Farrell, Kristin Merlo, Karen Aliabadi, James Dwyer, and Mari Horita. Photo by Alabastro Photography.