Brian Stokes Mitchell To Host Arts + Business Partnership Awards

The awards will include a performance by Tony Award-winning actress LaChanze.

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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, at a virtual gala, hosted by Tony Award-winning actor Brian Stokes Mitchell and will include a performance by Tony Award-winning actress LaChanze, as well as a VIP Armchair Discussion between Kickstarter CEO Aziz Hasan and renowned artist Hank Willis Thomas. The gala is open to the public and tickets can be purchased here.

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

PNC and Arts and Education Council, of St. Louis, MO, will receive the David Rockefeller pARTnership Award. This award recognizes a company and an arts organization or artist for an exceptional project, program, or initiative that represents a true alliance, collaboration, or exchange between the two.

In addition, Hasan will be honored with the BCA Leadership Award, which recognizes an individual for their extraordinary vision, leadership, and commitment to supporting the arts and for encouraging other businesses to follow their lead.

"We are excited to honor these businesses and individuals for their commitment to ensuring that the arts thrive in their communities," said Nolen V. Bivens, President and CEO of Americans for the Arts. "They understand and leverage the power of the arts to encourage creative thinking, build healthy businesses and develop vibrant communities. Through partnering with the arts, these companies and leaders have enriched many lives and for that, set a true example for others to follow."

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

"Omaha Steaks is delighted to support this year's Arts + Business Partnership Awards gala. As a BCA member company and a past award recipient, we see this partnership as an extension of our long-term commitment to advancing the arts and arts education. The vision and values that inform these awards and Americans for the Arts' larger work on behalf of arts and business resonate with us. We are pleased to play a part in helping to recognize other companies around the country who share the same values and commitment to the creative community," said Todd Simon, Chairman and CEO of Omaha Steaks.

For more information about the Arts + Business Partnership Awards, please contact Amy Webb at (202) 371-2830 or via e-mail at

About the Honorees:


As one of the larger producers and providers of premium audio storytelling, Audible has been focused on providing a platform for artists to share their work with the world. Audible's passion for the arts is deeply embedded in its culture and drives everything the company does - from the content it creates, the principles that guide its work, as well as the company's community initiatives that strive to make a positive impact across the globe. Within its own community in Newark, NJ, Audible continues to launch various initiatives to elevate the work of local artists and encourage local investment in Newark's creative community.

NMG Network

From its humble beginnings as a publisher of an urban rag for Honolulu's downtown district, NMG Network has grown to become a leading video, digital, social, and print network that reaches an audience of millions of people. NMG's work highlights arts, culture, social justice issues, and travel with strong journalism and custom content. The company's focus on Hawaii has helped sustain island traditions and support innovations including the growth of Hawaii's Arts District.

Underestimated People of Purpose (UPOP)

At the intersection of arts, data analytics, healthcare, and future of work, Underestimated People of Purpose (UPOP) delivers powerful information to business leaders to assist in aligning culture change management programs with enterprise innovation strategies. UPOP's withstella initiative, an inclusive innovation pilot being led by UPOP in collaboration with BOMA Global and diverse organizations across five major U.S. cities, seeks to expand opportunities for artists who want to collaborate with industries and use data analytics to operationalize the economic viability and cultural value for investing in this emergent creative workforce model.

Universal Orlando Resort

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

University of Michigan Credit Union (UMCU)

Since 1954, University of Michigan Credit Union (UMCU) has been a community leader in the arts by not only providing support through its own financial products but also through various strategic partnerships, grants, donations, and company projects aimed at strengthening the local ecosystem. UMCU has a broad-based marketing strategy that includes an external presence in local arts spaces and events as well as inviting the arts 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 destinations of varying size that serve as cultural locations and community focal points. With a community-centered approach, Vestar understands that art brings connection and expresses the unique spirit of people within that community. Vestar repurposes existing areas and creates space for art to be shared in an impactful way as exhibited by The Gateway development in downtown Salt Lake City which has amplified the work of many Utah artists and created an active location for local arts 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. Understanding the vital role arts played in his life, Hasan leads Kickstarter under 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 is. Under Hasan's leadership, Kickstarter has made history: setting a historic record of $777 million pledged to nearly 19,000 creative projects in just one year and receiving the very first Design Visionary Award by the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum for Kickstarter's profound economic and cultural impact.

David Rockefeller pARTnership Award: PNC + Arts and Education Council

PNC has long understood the unique and crucial role that arts organizations play in fostering discussions on the most complex matters of our time and helping advance diversity in thought. The arts have been pivotal to affecting social change, and PNC's unwavering commitment to the arts acknowledges this inherent strength. Within Greater St. Louis, PNC's long-standing collaboration with the Arts and Education Council provides organizations with crucial funding for arts and education programs that address community needs. With support from the PNC Foundation, the Arts and Education Council administers the stARTup Creative Competition, which infuses financial and incubation support into new local arts organizations that offer creative approaches to arts access and programming.


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