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A Wells Fargo bank branch in Evanston, Ill., on Tuesday, July 10, 2018. MUST CREDIT: Bloomberg photo by Christopher Dilts

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The business and arts sectors can make promising bedfellows.

More than 350 people came together Friday to celebrate that pairing at the 11th annual Business and Arts Lunch at The Antlers, A Wyndham Hotel. It coincided with Arts Month, an initiative started in 1993 by Americans for the Arts, a nonprofit organization that works to advance the arts across the country.

This year’s event featured a paradigm shift. Instead of the usual ceremony that bestowed three awards for creative workspace, philanthropy and business leader, five organizations were celebrated for their collaborations and partnerships with the arts community: Progressive Insurance, Women in Reel Estate, Local Relic, Wells Fargo and Kaiser Permanente.

The change came as event sponsors Cultural Office of the Pikes Peak Region and the Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce and EDC noticed a shift in the landscape. The event committee received 18 nominations after a call was put out in July.

“Over the past few years our nominations have become much more diverse than the three award categories,” said Angela Seals, COPPeR’s deputy director. “People are collaborating on projects that are mutually beneficial. We were interested in shifting from the emphasis on how business supports art, but looking at how they support each other, and they do so in many interesting ways.”

In keeping with its theme, lunch attendees were entertained by live music by The Sarah Groh Quartet, Out Loud Colorado Springs Men’s Chorus, Urban Action Figure Ivan Manriquez and others in-between short videos by Pikes Peak Library District about each honoree.

Progressive Insurance was recognized for its nationally known art collection.

“We collect art to spark thought, to spark even sometimes controversy,” said Cristi Daugherty, a Progressive data analyst, “to make sure we are looking a little deeper inside of ourselves than maybe just insurance.”

Women in Reel Estate, a group of women in the real estate profession, offered to sponsor Rocky Mountain Women’s Film Institute.

“By pooling resources, we could provide more support to the institute,” said Michelle Blessing of the real estate group, “and get more benefit for us for our business, too. Being creative is something we should all be better at until our city grows.”

When Claire Swinford, urban engagement manager for Downtown Partnership of Colorado Springs, approached Jeff Zearfoss, owner of Local Relic brewery, about doing a special beer for the 20th anniversary of Art on the Streets, he suggested doing 10 beers instead. Each one bears a label with a photo of a sculpture from an Art on the Streets exhibit.

“It’s a way to bring a higher level of consciousness to the general beer consumer and the general public,” Zearfoss said.

Wells Fargo senior financial adviser Herman Tiemens extolled the benefits of aligning his business with the arts. Every financial adviser on the team is on a nonprofit board that supports the arts.

Artist Mike Fudge and folks at Kaiser Permanente worked together on the organization’s “Finding Your Words” campaign to help alleviate the stigma of talking about mental health. The company now has three murals in Colorado, including Fudge’s giant “We Are in This Together” piece that adorns one side of the Cottonwood Center for the Arts.

“‘I would tell businesses and leaders in the community to really seek out opportunities to partner with our arts and creativity community,” said Holly Kortum, executive director of operations for Kaiser.

“It was a fantastic partnership that created fabulous results for us.”

Contact the writer: 636-0270

Contact the writer: 636-0270

A&E and features reporter

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