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Art After School arts integration for improving early learning

About the book
Chapter 14 - Partnerships with Businesses

No matter where your program is located, small businesses or multinational corporations can become involved with after-school art programming. Business people know that an educated population provides a good source of employees. When an after-school program joins forces with local businesses, young people benefit and area businesses have an opportunity to develop good public relations.

Why should businesses get involved?
Most businesses support education. Educated young people become good employees, good neighbors and good consumers. A company involved in programs such as after-school art programs becomes a significant player in helping to improve the standards of the community by reaching our most precious resource--children. Youngsters involved in positive after-school activities are less likely to get in trouble. They are less likely to become involved with underage drinking, drug use, gang affiliation, shoplifting and other petty or major crime.

How do you start a partnership?
  1. Know what you expect from a partnership. How will helping your program benefit the firm and the community? When approaching the business community, focus on how partnering with your after-school art program will benefit them.
  2. Determine which business to approach based on its proximity to your site, the products or services it offers and perhaps whether it employs the parents of children who would attend your program.
  3. Arrange to meet with a company decision-maker: President, Marketing Director, Human Resource representative or Branch Manager. Be willing to cooperate with any offer of support and then build on positive interactions.
  4. If you are not successful with a business, analyze why they chose not to help, adjust your approach and then move on to another. If appropriate, ask why they were unable to help you at this time.

How can businesses help your program?
The most obvious way for a business to support art after school programs is through a cash contribution. Some firms have foundations through which they funnel charitable contributions. Find out about the application process and funding parameters before you submit an application for consideration. The foundation board will review your application to see if you meet their criteria. You may get what you asked for, a smaller amount, or nothing. The thin envelope usually is bad news. The thicker reply envelope often means there are additional forms to fill out before you receive a dollar award.

Cash is great, but businesses also can help by donating employee time or materials as in-kind donations, such as:

    Flex-time for employees to mentor, teach, do minor repairs and offer clerical or computer skills.

    Metal or plastic pieces from the manufacturing process to use in collages, jewelry or sculpture pieces.

    Paper for drawing.

    Chairs, tables, desks, computers, copiers and other office equipment left over after upgrading equipment or remodeling offices.

    Old wallpaper books from a paint or wallpaper store to make collages, greeting cards or clothing for paper dolls.

    Paint to decorate and brighten studio space.

    Food for children's snacks.

    Fabric for quilts, costumes or drop cloths.

    Topsoil for a garden.

    Wood chips for a play lot.

In-kind donations are materials or goods that a business donates instead of cash. Count these goods or services as "in-kind" income on your financial statements. Use in-kind donations to supplement a cash match. A donor may promise to give you $2,000 if you raise $2,000 in cash or obtain goods or services equivalent to $2,000. You may raise $500 in cash and then $1,500 of in-kind (donated) goods and services. Place a reasonable value on items or time donated when accounting for them.

Useful in-kind donations we have received or that we suggest:

Rolls of telephone wire from a telephone company. Use the inner brightly colored wires to make jewelry, cover picture frames or build sculpture pieces.

Energy efficient ceiling lights from the electric company for the gallery and classroom areas.

A copy machine and a computer such as those donated by Miller Brewing Company when they upgraded their office equipment.

Use of their photography lab for a photography project, a helpful gift to us from a local college.

Used folding chairs such as those we received from a manufacturing company. Artists and children painted the chairs in a variety of motifs from fine art representations to pop art. The chairs were painted so cleverly that they were auctioned at a fundraising event.

There are no limits. Research what area companies manufacture or process. How can you turn their leftovers or discards into a resource for your program? How can you return their generosity?

Always personally and publicly acknowledge support you receive from area businesses. Business people know the power of advertising and the importance of a positive public image. When you recognize a business contribution through a news release or newsletter article, the public sees that the business is community minded and that your program must be worthwhile to receive such support.

Mr. P's Tire Store
Mr. P. has a chain of used-tire stores that would not win beautification awards. The director knew a sculptor willing to work with ten eleven-year-olds on a project. She contacted Larry, the manager of the tire store down the street, to see if he had tires we could use for the sculpture project. He said sure, about 150 tires.

He agreed to have the artist and children paint tires and create a sculpture in his store lot. For two weeks the artist and the ten children painted tires in the store's side lot on a busy street. They constructed a 12-foot man made of tires they painted with bright colors and designs. Mr. P's employees cheered the young artists along. The employees became friends with the kids as they worked and took pride in their tire man sculpture that adds to the ambiance of the neighborhood.

The artists, children and employees all had fun with this project. They felt comfortable working together, showing off and bantering with neighbors as they passed by. The children felt welcome at Mr. P's to chat with the employees and Larry. Both sides became friendly neighbors. Children who worked on the project are still proud of what they did when they see "their" tire man.

Mr. P received an incredible amount o positive feedback from area residents who saw the kids working on the sculpture and the whimsical finished product.

About this time we began training a team of teenagers to do murals on area buildings. Mr. P. agreed to have the teenagers paint his storefront with a bright mural design. The storefront had unusual siding of wood and lathe that was worn and tagged with graffiti. We arranged for two artists to work with a group of kids to design and paint a mural on the storefront.

Passersby frequently called to the children and artists to tell them what a great job they were doing. People driving by would honk their car horns and give the thumbs up sign. Mr. P. paid for the paint and a stipend for the artists and the children. In return, he received a freshly painted storefront that is distinctive and attractive. The finished product is delightful.

One major plus to having area kids work on neighborhood projects is that pieces are rarely tagged with graffiti or damaged. The kids who work on the art would not damage their own work, nor would their friends or relatives. A code of respect develops over murals.

The Pepto Bismol Car
Every community has its share of abandoned used cars. We partnered with an agency that trains low-income youth to be auto mechanics and learn to do body work on old cars. The agency donated two car bodies-an old Volkswagen and a subcompact car to use as sculpture pieces for a business district block party. The goal of the project was to make the kids aware of the advertising that surrounds us and how firms attract attention to their businesses.

The city arts board provided a grant to cover this project. Artist Mark Lawson spent several weeks during the summer working with kids to transform the two beat-up, rusting car bodies into attention-getting, marketing tools for area businesses. The kids looked at the cars and made several sketches of ideas.

They agreed to paint the Volkswagen a nice bright pink, putting a pig snout on the front and a little piggy tail on the back. They created a slot on the top and poised a large wooden coin half way through the slot to transform it into a large pink piggy bank! Adults who saw the car thought it to be the exact replica of Pepto Bismol pink.

The other car had a longer rounded body. The kids decided to paint it battleship gray. They painted porthole windows around the sides and converted it into a submarine, complete with a periscope on the roof.

"Wow, when I looked out my window and saw real cars being dropped off in the back lot I could not believe it---real cars! I thought we would be making little models. I just could not believe we would be working on real cars. It was great!"

Hands On, Art After School student

Because the cars were just shells, it was easy to transport them for display at a merchant block party three miles away. The boys had a delightful time helping move the cars in the artist's pickup truck. They were fun of excitement from the moment they realized they would be working on "real" cars and using real power tools. They were amazed to see their cars on display for the public. The cars were a delightful attraction at the festival. After the block party, two businesses used the submarine and pink piggy bank cars as signage.

Local newspapers ran photos of the cars at the block party. Press coverage reinforced the benefits of an after-school art program by showcasing successful projects. Include copies of these types of newspaper photos and articles with final reports to funding agencies to document the project and use of funds.

Collaboration with businesses produces friendly interaction among people who might otherwise not get to know one another. Through our collaborations, local business people became familiar with the kids and they greeted each other on the street. This rapport is what keeps a community strong and builds future ties. When these kids are old enough for part-time or full-time employment, the business people who met them through art after school programming are more likely to hire them because of this networking opportunity.

"We enjoy seeing the children come out of the art center taking their projects home. They are always smiling. Others times we see them, they don't look very happy."

Employee, car shop across the street