Brian Stokes Mitchell hosts Arts + Business Partnership Awards

Americans for the Arts today announced the recipients of this year’s national Arts + Business Partnership Awards, recognizing six U.S. companies, an arts and business partnership, and a business leader for their exceptional commitment to the arts. The awards will be presented by Americans for the Arts on October 15, 2021 as part of a virtual gala hosted by Tony Award-winning actor Brian Stokes Mitchell, which will include a performance by Tony Award-winning actress LaChanze, as well as a VIP armchair discussion between Kickstarter CEO Aziz Hasan and the renowned artist Hank Willis Thomas. The gala is public and tickets can be purchased here.

This year’s winners include Audible (Newark, NJ); NMG Network (Honolulu, HI); University of Michigan Credit Union (Ann Arbor, MI); Underrated People of Purpose (UPOP) (Denver, CO); Universal Orlando Resort (Orlando, FL); and Vestar (Phoenix, AZ). These companies have demonstrated exceptional commitment to the arts through grants, local partnerships, volunteer programs, matching gifts, sponsorship, and board memberships.

PNC and Arts and Education Council in St. Louis, MO, will receive the David Rockefeller partnership award. This award recognizes a company and an art organization or artist for an extraordinary project, program or initiative that represents a real alliance, collaboration or exchange between the two.

Additionally, Hasan is honored with the BCA Leadership Award, which honors an individual for their extraordinary vision, leadership, and commitment to supporting the arts and for encouraging other businesses to follow their example.

“We are excited to honor these companies and individuals for their dedication to helping the arts flourish in their communities,” said Nolen V. Bivens, President and CEO of Americans for the Arts. “You understand and use the power of the arts to fuel creative thinking, build healthy businesses, and develop vibrant communities. By partnering with the arts, these companies and executives have enriched many lives and thus set a true example for others. “

The gala is generously supported by presenting sponsor Atlantic Salt Inc. and premium product sponsor Omaha Steaks, as well as the Martha Rivers Ingram Advised Fund of the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee, The George Barrett and Deborah Neimeth Fund, PNC and Universal Orlando Resort.

“Omaha Steaks is proud to support this year’s Arts + Business Partnership Awards Gala. As a BCA member company and a former award winner, we see this partnership as an extension of our long-term commitment to promoting art and artistic education. The vision and values ​​that shape these awards and the broader work of Americans for the Arts on behalf of the arts and business resonate with us community, “said Todd Simon, chairman and CEO of Omaha Steaks.

For more information on the Arts + Business Partnership Awards, please contact Amy Webb at (202) 371-2830 or email [email protected]

About the winners:


As one of the larger producers and providers of premium audio storytelling, Audible has focused on providing artists with a platform to share their work with the world. Audible’s passion for the arts is deeply ingrained in its culture, and powers everything the company does – from the content it creates, the principles that guide its work, as well as the company’s community initiatives that aim to do so, worldwide to have a positive influence. Within its own community in Newark, NJ, Audible continues to launch various initiatives to improve the work of local artists and encourage local investment in the Newark creative community.

NMG network

From its humble beginnings as the editor of a city paper for downtown Honolulu, NMG Network has grown into a premier video, digital, social, and print network that reaches millions of people. NMG’s work highlights the arts, culture, social justice and travel with heavy journalism and custom content. The company’s focus on Hawaii has helped preserve island traditions and support innovation, including the growth of the Hawaiian arts district.

Underestimated People of Purpose (UPOP)

At the intersection of art, data analytics, healthcare, and the future of work, Underestimated People of Purpose (UPOP) provides powerful intelligence for business leaders to align culture change management programs with corporate innovation strategies. UPOP’s Withstella Initiative, an inclusive innovation pilot led by UPOP in collaboration with BOMA Global and various organizations in five major US cities, aims to expand opportunities for artists who wish to work with industries and leverage data analytics to operationalize economic viability and cultural value for investing in this emerging model for creative workforce.

Universal Orlando Resort

As an award-winning hospitality and entertainment destination, Universal Orlando Resort understands the vital role art plays in making the local community a better place for all, which is reflected in our support for the arts at all levels. The company has a long history of supporting public art and programs outside of traditional art venues, including projects like See Art Orlando, the Orlando Fringe Festival, and its Art of Tomorrow program, developed and launched in partnership with Orange County Public Schools. Universal Orlando has a workforce that is very active in the local community through service activities and volunteering with the common goal of inspiring and nurturing the next generation of creative talent.

University of Michigan Credit Union (UMCU)

Since 1954, the University of Michigan Credit Union (UMCU) has been a leader in the arts by providing support not only through its own financial products, but also through various strategic partnerships, grants, donations, and corporate projects to strengthen the local ecosystem. UMCU has a broad marketing strategy that includes an outside presence in local art spaces and events, as well as inviting the art into their spaces to share with their own employees.


As one of the leading privately held real estate companies in the western United States, Vestar acquires, develops, and manages retail and entertainment venues of various sizes that serve as cultural and community spots. With a community-centered approach, Vestar understands that art creates connections and expresses the unique spirit of the people within that community. Vestar is transforming existing areas and creating space for the effective exchange of art, as demonstrated by The Gateway project in downtown Salt Lake City, which has strengthened the work of many Utah artists and created an active space for local art and culture.

BCA Leadership Award: Aziz Hasan, CEO, Kickstarter

Aziz Hasan is a Brooklyn-based illustrator, graphic designer, dancer, and creative executive who is currently the CEO of Kickstarter, a funding platform for creative projects of all kinds. Hasan understands the vital role art plays in his life and runs Kickstarter on the principle that art and creative expression are essential to a healthy and vibrant society and deserve a protected space, no matter how big or small the idea. Under Hasan’s leadership, Kickstarter made history: breaking a historic record of $ 777 million, committed to nearly 19,000 creative projects in just one year, and the very first Design Visionary Award from Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum for the profound Receive economic and cultural impact from Kickstarter.

David Rockefeller partnership Award: PNC + Arts and Education Council

PNC has long understood the unique and vital role arts organizations play in facilitating discussion on the most complex issues of our time and in promoting diversity in thought. The arts are critical to social change, and PNC’s unwavering commitment to the arts recognizes this inherent strength. In the greater St. Louis area, PNC’s longstanding relationship with the Arts and Education Council provides organizations with vital funding for arts and education programs that address community needs. With the support of the PNC Foundation, the Council for Art and Education manages the stARTup creative competition, which provides financial and incubatorial support for new local art organizations that offer creative approaches to accessing art and programming.

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