On Wednesday, October 11, 2017, Americans for the Arts presented a Business Roundtable, Leveraging the Arts to Build a More Diverse, Inclusive, and Equitable Company and Culture, hosted at Wells Fargo Private Bank in New York City. Edgar Smith and Melanie Childress Carucci, board chairs (respectively) of the Americans for the Arts groups Business Committee for the Arts and the Arts & Business Council of NY, gathered with 50 leaders from many sectors including healthcare, finance, hotel, and city government. This event, complementary to the 2017 BCA 10 Awards Gala, included executive leadership from 2017 BCA 10 Honorees Cardinal Health, Halekulani Corporation, Kaiser Permanente Colorado, Houston Methodist, Magic Hat Brewing Company, and The Betsy-South Beach as well as local executives from Aetna, Uniqlo, JP Morgan Chase, UBS, NYC Department of Cultural Affairs, Thomson Reuters, and Turner & Townsend.

The Business Roundtable is part of a series of convenings Americans for the Arts hosts to gather insight and best practices from leaders in all sectors, and is designed to address the needs of businesses across industries looking to engage and retain a diverse workforce by incorporating the arts into their portfolios, and to strengthen and diversify their talent and their brand.

Ramona Roopnarine, Global Diversity and Inclusion Marketing Head at Bloomberg LP, was a featured exemplar at the event and noted, “The arts help us start the conversation around diversity, equity, and inclusion.” Bloomberg is well known for its arts philanthropy, but the company also employs the arts throughout their business because art connects, creates experiences, and provides access to talk about what is important for both clients and employees. For Black History Month, the company commissioned an artist to represent Bloomberg’s company values from a Black perspective through the lens of celebration and representation. For Asian Pacific Heritage Month, they created a campaign centered around innovations made by the people of Asia.

Alice Gray Stites, Chief Curator and Museum Director at 21c Museum Hotels (21c), was another featured exemplar and shared 21c’s history of being established with an arts-driven mission because the founders were invested in increasing free public access to the arts. 21c’s exhibitions often address pressing issues and events, including History + Future of Labor, The Future is Female, and the Bathroom Bill in North Carolina. They often seek to include global artists representing myriad cultures, points of view, religions, and more. 21c Museum Hotels also is a 2017 BCA 10 Award winner.

The group moved into a facilitated discussion exploring how the arts can address DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) needs relating to corporate culture, recruiting and retention, and corporate social responsibility, while exploring some of the barriers in this work. Eric M. Ellis, President and CEO of Integrity Development Corporation, facilitated the discussion that allowed business executives to share best practices, solutions, and challenges with each other. Eric was a wealth of knowledge while artfully facilitating the discussion, and offered that “our first study about diversity is within ourselves.”

The roundtable was bookended with an arts-based experience lead by Yazmany Arboleda, co-founder and chief creative officer of LimeSHIFT, and coordinated by the Arts & Business Council of NY. The workshop invited participants to work as teams and use portraiture, collage, and other visual elements to explore unconscious bias. The experience was a great example of, and introduction to, arts-based workshops that the Arts & Business Council of NY encourages the corporate community to employ in its approach to addressing DEI goals in thoughtful and innovative ways.