My Notes: Americans for the Arts’ Private Sector Council Winter Meeting

by Lisa Scails, February 22, 2019

Last month, I met with colleagues across the country who work their magic everyday to advance the arts in the areas they serve. We meet several times a year through the Americans for the Arts (AFTA) Private Sector Council.  

What is the Private Sector Council? The Private Sector Council was created in 2009 to bring arts leaders to the table to discuss best practices for Americans for the Arts to activate the Private Sector Network, as well as how best to engage the local and national business communities.

The Private Sector Council is an elected working advisory body comprised of leaders from Private Sector Network organizations and local arts agencies engaging with the business community around the country. These leaders assist in developing programs and resources to promote arts and business partnerships, professional development, and networking opportunities for local arts organizations and the creative economy nationwide.  Members of the Private Sector Council, are working on the following focus areas 2019: GROWTH, COMMUNICATIONS; OPERATIONS, and  CURRICULUM.  I am on two teams assisting with the Communications and Operations.

This year marks the beginning of my 3rd year on the council.  According to AFTA, all of the Americans for the Arts’ Advisory Councils advise staff on programs and services, which build a deeper connection to the field and the network.

We share information and offer Americans for the Arts our individual and collective perspectives related to arts and business.  Our winter meeting was in Louisville, Kentucky. It was my first visit there, so I was happy to take it all in. Besides the surprising cold, to me anyway, the trip was as energizing and intense as always. So, I want to share with you what I learned, a few lasting impressions and lighthearted observations.


21C Museum Hotel is where we stayed.  Just about every space in the hotel had original artwork, including the restrooms. It was inspiring. Founded by Laura Lee Brown and Steve Wilson, art collectors and preservationists, who believe in the power of contemporary art. They created a new model by combining a multi-venue contemporary art museum, boutique hotels, and “chef-driven” restaurants to create a new kind of travel experience. How cool is that? There are eight hotels in the country with the Louisiana property being the first.  Takeaway – Every city needs a 21C Museum Hotel. Good for art and for the economy! ?.


For more than a decade, 21c Louisville has been engaging visitors and locals alike with some of the world’s best contemporary art. Five 19th-century warehouses live on as more than 9,000 square feet of exhibition space where curated exhibitions and site-specific installations reflect the global nature of contemporary culture. There galleries are free and open every day and exhibitions rotate, so make plans to visit often. While there and to my great pleasure there are works of art by Titus Kaphar, internationally known and Connecticut native. It’s really no surprise because he’s amazing. 


The Churchill Downs institution is everything imagined and a beloved treasure by Kentuckians, for sure. Our first meeting was hosted by the Kentucky Derby Museum, a 501 C-3 nonprofit located on the property but operates separately from Churchill Downs. I learned a lot about their marquee events; Kentucky Derby and the Kentucky Oats during an extensive tour. Did you know that 13 of the 15 Jockeys were African American in the first Derby and then fell off dramatically since?  I was more surprised by there being so many in the beginning and less surprised by the change. 

Takeaway – Churchill Downs partners with the Fund for the Arts for Derby week.

Fund for the Arts is a regional nonprofit committed to building a vibrant community through the power of the arts. With the help of nearly 20,000 donors, the Fund for the Arts supports a range of arts organizations and drives accessibility across neighborhoods, schools, community centers and public spaces.  Christen tells us they receive 9+ million each year from private donors. They receive no public funding. I’m a fan and plan to learn more.

Fund for the Arts presents “Opening Night”, an awards program and “the finest Spectacle of artists, performers, makers, and more to showcase the creative economy in the Louisville region.”  “Opening Night” also historically kicks off the campaign season for Fund for the Arts, according to President and CEO, Christen McDonough Boone, who also chairs the Private Sector Council.  Tonya Abeln, Community Relations Director for Churchill Downs, presented to our group, she explained their partnership with Fund for the Arts is strong and a model to use to help grow their property assets.  Attendance for the Derby increased by 30% over the last three years. She considers it a “unique experience for race goers and an important investment. ”  


I actively seek recommendations and encourage nominations of business leaders to submit for the following national awards:

The BCA 10 Award – The deadline for this award is past for 2019, however it’s never too early to seek nominations for the next year.

A little about this award – BCA 10 is Best Businesses Partnering with the Arts in America – An annual award presented by Americans for the Arts to 10 deserving businesses for their exceptional involvement with the arts that enrich the workplace, education, and the community. MORE INFORMATION

Michael Newton Award – The Michael Newton Award recognizes an individual for his or her innovation in developing arts and business partnerships for the arts and/or long-term achievement in effective and creative techniques to engage the private sector.  MORE INFORMATION


March 5, 2019, arts leaders in Connecticut and across the country will attend Arts Advocacy Day in Washington, DC. During that time, advocating for the CREATE ACT is a priority.

The CREATE Act aims to support the people who comprise the creative economy, namely artists and creative entrepreneurs, by:

  • Expanding programs at the Small Business Administration (SBA) to increase microloans, business loans, and technical assistance for artists;
  • Allowing artists to take an income tax deduction of the fair market value of their work when making a charitable contribution; and
  • Ensuring access to FEMA’s disaster relief assistance for artists impacted by natural disasters.

The CREATE Act supports creative community development, improving the places each of us calls home through provisions including: 

  • Requiring the Economic Development Administration (EDA) and U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development Administration ensures traditional economic development tools, such as incubators and grant programs, support the creative economy throughout the country;
  • Developing a model to promote the creative arts in local economic initiatives, such as cultural district planning; and
  • Creating an Artist Corps to increase national service through the arts, as called for in the Serve America Act.

The CREATE Act seeks to amend and enhance federal regulations surrounding the creative economy by:

  • Modifying the rules to encourage charitable contributions of fractional gifts;
  • Improving the visa processing time for foreign guest artists and U.S. nonprofit arts organizations; and
  • Lowering the capital gains tax pertaining to art to make it uniform.

Additional Information: Charitable Giving Issue  |  Create Act Issue 


Here is a worthwhile tool to know about and use for anyone looking to advance community by utilizing the arts. The Arts + Social Impact Explorer is an online tool provided by AFTA.  It is interactive and an effective way to gather information and to educate stakeholders about the impact the arts have in community. “…Because the truth is, the arts make more things possible, from better education to greater health outcomes to a more civically-engaged citizenry—it’s just that people don’t always see the connection to the arts when change happens.”