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16 Mar. 2016 | Comments (0)
Earlier this month, Giving Thoughts published a Wells Fargo case study from the recent report Better Together: Why a United Front Can Propel Diversity and Inclusion and Corporate Philanthropy. The piece looked at how diversity and inclusion forms part of the company’s strategic framework. As a follow up, today's post is a Q&A with Wells Fargo’s Vice President and African American Segment Strategy Leader, Lisa Frison, who explains the role arts play in helping Wells Fargo connect with diverse audiences.
Q: How and why does Wells Fargo incorporate the arts in its diversity initiatives?
A: Support of the arts aligns with Wells Fargo’s ongoing strategy to cultivate a deeper appreciation of the African American experience. Through The Untold Stories Collection platform — which includes a national celebratory tour featuring The Kinsey Collection: Shared Treasures of Bernard and Shirley Kinsey – Where Art and History Intersect and #MyUntold— Wells Fargo is working to promote meaningful dialogue around the contributions of African Americans to American history and culture.
In 2013, Well Fargo sponsored a national tour featuring The Kinsey Collection-Shared Treasures of Bernard and Shirley Kinsey. The traveling exhibition (featuring art and artifacts chronicling African American history and culture from the 1600s to present day) created an opportunity for individuals in five major cities to develop a deeper understanding of the role of African Americans in the making of America. Even more, four of the five museum hosts were African American museums. In each case, we were able to increase visitation, membership, volunteer support, and funding for the museums. In some cities, we developed special programing and offered free admission for local students. We also offered free weekends to Wells Fargo customers, and hosted special lectures open to the community featuring the Kinsey family, historians, and community leaders.
While the #MyUntold campaign initially focused on stories shared on social media —and expressed through video, photos, and writing— we thought it would be exciting to take some of those stories and bring them to life through art in a “surprise and delight” effort where we presented the original pieces to the individual storytellers. We commissioned Atlanta-based artist Keith Rosemond II to create multiple illustrations reflecting experiences from several inspiring stories. Additionally, he designed three illustrations highlighting certain key aspects of African American culture (faith, family, and music) for Wells Fargo’s Card Design Studio® (for debit/credit card holders).
Q: How are programs like Untold Stories administered?
A: Campaigns like #MyUntold are led by Diverse Segment Marketing, and supported as part of a cross-functional integrated marketing strategy. This includes engagement with key enterprise partners responsible for delivering messaging to internal and external audiences, like: Corporate Communications, Enterprise Social Media, Virtual/Digital Channels, CSR, and Team Member Resource Groups. Equally important, a large number of the team members who develop and drive our multicultural campaigns are ethnically diverse.
Q: Wells Fargo previously featured art on your cards supporting your diversity commitment, and now you’ve commissioned new art in connection with Untold Stories. Tell us a little about the history of Wells Fargo’s card-art.
A: In working with our planning team and creative agencies, we are always challenging ourselves to be as innovative and relevant as possible. Art is such an integral part of African American history and culture. Visual art in particular has always been a means for the community to express pride in its culture. With both the Kinsey campaign and #MyUntold, we wanted to extend the opportunity to the masses to “own a piece of art” – which we accomplished through Wells Fargo’s Card Design Studio®.
For #MyUntold, we worked with an agency to identify a local artist. We identified Keith as part of in-depth research into local area artists that might be a good fit for the program. We looked at things including artist style, storytelling ability through the artwork, connection to the African American community, and previous experience as part of our research. We did broad research looking through local art shows/exhibits, news stories/coverage and personal connections in the community. Keith was one of many identified as possible partners, but his profile rose to the top given that his art style and storytelling ability fit MyUntold so well already. Rosemond has formal training as an illustrator and graphic designer from the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) and has an appreciation for both traditional and contemporary art.
We initially worked with Rosemond on the “surprise and delight” art pieces so it was a great opportunity to continue the collaboration and bring broader visibility to his work as an artist. For the Card Design Studio®, we worked closely with Rosemond to provide overall direction on the sentiment we wanted to convey, as well as our brand story. It was important that we worked with someone who understood the campaign and could connect with our vision to bring awareness to the diversity within African American culture. We did not dictate what he could create. Rosemond presented multiple concepts to us based on stories and themes that resonated with him, and as a team we selected the concepts with most cultural and emotional resonance.
Q: Are your senior leaders and other employees involved in your arts programs?
A: We are intentional about engaging leaders and team members in our programs. Our leaders often participate in programs by acting as executive sponsors, spokespeople, and attending events that allow them to connect directly with the community. We always work with our team member resource groups to engage them in our programming by building awareness and developing unique programs to expound on diverse campaigns.
Often times our team members are on the ground volunteering to increase customer and community engagement around our events. During our Kinsey Collection tour, team members across the country partnered with the local host museums to execute programs, including some being trained as docents. Wells Fargo also hosted special events where team members could tour the exhibition at no cost. Many leaders also used the exhibition to conduct team building and diversity activities, taking groups of team members to tour the collection and have discussions around the content.
For #MyUntold, we identified multiple senior leaders to share their personal stories of success and triumph. These videos were later published to the #MyUntold platform; shared with team members across the company via internal channels; and on Wells Fargo’s #MyUntold YouTube channel.
For the Card Design Studio® opportunity, we leveraged multiple internal communications channels to ensure team members were aware of the effort. We immediately received positive feedback from team members who expressed interest in ordering the art. It was exciting to see team members of all cultures show enthusiasm and support.
Q: Do you have any plans for the future of your arts-related diversity programming that you can share?
A: Wells Fargo is proud to be a founding donor of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. When the museum opens in September, artifacts from our own Wells Fargo history museum collection will be featured as part of an exhibition on Grafton Tyler Brown. Brown was an American painter, lithographer and cartographer who owned and operated his lithography company in San Francisco from 1867 to 1879. He was the first African American artist to create works depicting the Pacific Northwest and California. During this time, he created lithographs for stock certificates and letterheads for numerous companies in the area –of which Wells Fargo held several in its archives.
Wells Fargo has also provided programmatic and financial support to numerous African American museums across the country, including, the Museum of the African Diaspora; Harvey B. Gantt Center; Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History & Culture and Houston Museum of African American History and Culture. Beyond this, we will continue to look for opportunities to integrate art in our diverse programming because it has been a successful tool in celebrating history and culture.
Q: Do you have any advice for arts organizations seeking to approach businesses with partnership ideas?
A: Take time to learn about the company and their priorities. Lead with questions to determine mutual interests and benefits, and be willing to co-create to deliver unique experiences. It’s also important to demonstrate how you will measure impact. As much as organizations want to contribute to communities, more and more they are being required to show metrics that also demonstrate how the relationship is valuable to both the organization and the community.
Q: What do you love about using the arts to celebrate diversity?
A: Wells Fargo embraces the arts as a voice for history and culture. Programs like #MyUntold and The Kinsey Collection allowed us to share important stories involving the rich history of African Americans – a history of identity and struggle for equality that is both unique and shared by other diverse segments of our society. Art also creates an opportunity for individuals to engage in meaningful conversations about culture. Through our programs we have been able to help dispel myths and promote dialogue around the role of African-Americans in the making of America. Art is universal. It provides an opportunity to teach others about diversity and inclusion through creative expression, which for some can be more “palatable” or relatable than other vehicles that aim to educate on diversity.