« Previous | Culture Monster Home | Next »

Americans for the Arts names top 10 companies that support the arts

October 20, 2010 |  2:54 pm


Corporate philanthropy has long been a means of soul-cleansing for American businesses. For arts institutions, corporate donations are a lifeblood without which many would cease to exist. The awkward symbiosis is for the most part unique to the U.S. cultural scene -- the result of shriveled government funding for the arts and spiraling costs.

Americans for the Arts has released its annual top-10 list of companies that support the arts. Among the honorees this year are two big energy companies, a few utility companies and a healthcare insurance organization.

One of this year's honorees is Conoco Phillips, the oil giant based in Houston. The company donated an impressive $3 million for cultural causes in 2009, according to Americans for the Arts. (To put it in perspective, the amount represents less than one-half of 1% of the company's profits for the year.) Conoco Phillips provides major support to the Houston Grand Opera, the Oklahoma Art Institute, the Houston Symphony and other organizations.

The recognition could balance out less-flattering attention: According to reports, Conoco Phillips was one of two companies to recently agree to pay approximately $4.5 million and spend an additional $10 million to clean a polluted Louisiana bayou, settling federal and state environmental claims.

Another firm making the list this year is Blue Cross Blue Shield of South Carolina. The health insurance company has donated more than $4.7 million to South Carolina arts organizations since 2004, said Americans for the Arts.

According to reports, Blue Cross Blue Shield of South Carolina was one of a number of health insurance companies to halt sales of new individual policies for children in the wake of the healthcare reform legislation passed earlier this year by Congress. The company in October resumed selling individual family policies that include children under 19 years old.

No California companies made the list this year, but a number of Golden State companies have been included in years past: Adobe Systems and Applied Materials, in 2009; Qualcomm, in 2007; First American Corp. and Wells Fargo & Co., in 2005.

Here's the 2010 Americans for the Arts top-10 list of companies that support the arts.

•       Blue Cross Blue Shield of South Carolina, Columbia, S.C.
•       Capital Bank, Raleigh, N.C.
•       Con Edison, New York
•       Conoco Phillips, Houston
•       Devon Energy Corp., Oklahoma City
•       Halifax EMC, Enfield, N.C.
•       M.C. Ginsberg Jewelers and Objects of Art, Iowa City, Iowa
•       Northeast Utilities, Hartford, Conn.
•       Portland General Electric, Portland, Ore.
•       Strata-G Communications, Cincinnati

-- David Ng

Photo: The Conoco Phillips Alliance refinery in Belle Chasse, La. Credit: Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times


BP oil spill poses PR dilemma for nonprofits

BP Grand Entrance at LACMA looking not-quite-so-grand


Comments () | Archives (1)

"For arts institutions, corporate donations are a lifeblood without which many would cease to exist. The awkward symbiosis is for the most part unique to the U.S. cultural scene -- the result of shriveled government funding for the arts and spiraling costs."

Actually, according to both Americans For The Arts and Giving USA, corporate grants have for decades been a small fraction of the revenues of U.S. arts organizations. Depending on the specific types of arts organization corporate funding is anywhere from 1% to at most (in only a very few cases) 10% of arts org budgets.

Meanwhile since earned income is around half of arts org revenues, and contributions from individuals is 2/3 of the other half, and since individual giving the arts in this country tripled per capita after inflation during the past few decades, and corporate+foundation grantmaking supplies more than half of the final sixth...that leaves government funding (of which the NEA represents only one-twentieth) at around 5% of the funding which American arts organizations have to spend. So even if public funding had "shriveled" (it hasn't), even if it suddenly vanished altogether along with the corporate grantmaking, that would cause only the most spectacularly-mismanaged arts organizations to "cease to exist." (Revenue figures are from Americans For The Arts, Giving USA and the NEA.)

Also, costs are not spiraling for arts organizations any more than for any other part of our economy nowadays. Indeed quite the opposite: wage rates paid to artists have long lagged behind other sectors and behind inflation (per the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics), while many kinds of marketing costs are much lower now than was true in the era when big newspaper ads were the only way to market theater/music/dance, and so forth.


Recommended on Facebook

In Case You Missed It...


Explore the arts: See our interactive venue graphics


Tweets and retweets from L.A. Times staff writers.