WHAT IS GOOD FOR ARTS IS GOOD FOR BUSINESS
Tom Manson, a Kansas City, Mo., contractor, reflects for a moment on what motivated him to put $40,000 worth of new roofing on the eccentric, Palladian-style Folly Theater.Skip to next paragraph
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''I'm the type of person,'' he says, ''that feels if he's been rewarded by a city he should put something back into a city.''
In 1974, Mr. Manson read a newpaper article about a local group that was trying to renovate the old Folly Theater in downtown Kansas City. Some years back, when the Folly was a legitimate burlesque palace, he had visited it. Over the years he had grown fond of the building.
Knowing the roof was in terrible shape, Manson volunteered to build a new one. Renovation complete, in 1981 the Folly reopened as home to 20 nonprofit performing-arts groups and sundry jazz and dance troupes.
Manson has promised to keep the Folly's roof in good repair for the rest of his life. He is now on the theater's board of directors.
''I feel that it is the responsibility of all business people - but especially of contractors - to show the public that we can contribute, too,'' he says. ''It is not just the Fortune 500 companies that should give to the arts.''
As with Tom Manson, philanthropy often stems from the individual motives of business people. Those motives can include everything from sentimental attachment to a particular art form and genuine public-spiritedness to calculated self-interest.
Regardless of motives, however, business donations to the arts - currently $ 500 million a year - yield both better community standing for the business and a better community in general.
But the relationship between business America and artistic America is not simply one of patron and patronized. It is a reciprocal arrangement. True, giving to the arts promotes a business' image, but it also helps it to keep good employees. It improves the community that houses its assets, and it ensures a continual source of new, creative ideas to be used in the commercial sector.
Many companies support the arts because executives or their spouses also serve on the boards of museums, symphonies, operas, and theaters. Then there is the marketplace consideration: Many companies support the arts because their customers support the arts.
Beyond that, there is a growing acknowledgment of the link between the arts - museums, theaters, symphonies, dance troupes - and the quality of cultural life in the city, state, and nation in which the corporation resides. As Time Inc. chairman Ralph Davidson explains: ''Part of the strength of the symphony, the ballet, is that it feeds directly back into creativity, which the corporations can draw upon.''
In a city like New York, where congestion, pollution, and crime can be serious drawbacks to employees, the vitality of the arts helps balance out those negative factors. A good cultural life is a way of attracting and keeping talented people.
Creative employees, Lincoln Center chairman Martin E. Segal contends, are not content with a sterile civic atmosphere: ''The people they meet and deal with are inspiring and interesting. They have to have the arts. They take a walk in a museum, and the beauty has a positive effect.''
Look at it this way, says Mr. Segal: ''Can you imagine people in the scientific or high-tech fields separate from music? Einstein loved music and played it. It was a sense of inspiration to him. Others depend on other arts - movies, for instance, which combine dance, writing, architecture, fashion design. There is an energizing concept that is caught from the arts.''
Mr. Segal notes that ''a less obvious reason for corporations to support the arts is that corporations understand that a society in which positive things occur is good for the corporation.''
Judith Jedlicka, president of the Business Committee for the Arts, notes the ''multiplier effect'' of a strong arts program in a city: It brings in tourist dollars, employs people, and improves the tax base. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey estimates that the arts bring $5.6 billion a year into that metropolitan area. Growing corporate involvement