Kentucky voices

L. Tracee Whitley: Investing in the arts attracts business

March 8, 2014 

L. Tracee Whitley, COO of Bingham McCutchen LLP, is chair of the 2014 Fund for the Arts Campaign.

As chief operating officer of a law firm with 15 offices in the U.S., Europe and Asia, I can attest that Lexington's arts community and creative environment was an important factor in Bingham McCutchen LLP's decision to locate our global services center here last year.

During the final stages of that search process, which included 350 cities, it became apparent that Lexington had a remarkably vibrant and impressive array of arts and cultural institutions for a city of its size.

Many studies have shown that exposure to the arts and facilitating artistic expression help our children achieve more in school and develop skills like cooperation, decision-making and perseverance — all of which are so critical in a knowledge-based economy. Kids exposed to arts inevitably grow up to become more valuable, thoughtful and often more highly educated workers and more engaged citizens.

On a macro level, a healthy arts community helps Lexington cultivate its local work force while attracting and retaining a strong, professional work force and new businesses from outside the region. This influences and enables our own children to work, live and raise their families here.

Reflect for a moment about a few of the arts and cultural institutions which LexArts, now in its 40th year, supports:

■ A downtown that celebrates visual art five times a year by turning dozens of locations into galleries for Gallery Hops.

■ The nationally recognized Lexington Philharmonic pushes boundaries and regularly commissions original new works.

■ A plethora of inspiring public art projects, from last year's Bourbon Barrel display throughout downtown to Lexington Art League's recently unveiled "Luminosity" in Triangle Park.

■ A chamber music festival that draws some of the nation's top performers and several theater groups, like Balagula Theatre, that are delivering intelligent, innovative and inspiring theater.

■ The award-winning Lexington Children's Theatre, which has delighted more than one million children in 75 years.

■ Central Kentucky Youth Orchestras with many accomplished musicians among its alumni/ae, like Nathan Cole, currently first chair violin for the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

■ North Limestone MusicWorks, a program of CKYO, which brings musical instruction to any child eager to learn, regardless of socio-economic status.

■ The Living Arts and Science Center, which has been nearly a second home to generations of kids and will soon break ground on an innovative 11,000 square-foot, interactive addition.

■ The best of Bluegrass music on Red Barn Radio and talented dancers of the Kentucky Ballet Theatre, Lexington Ballet Company and Bluegrass Youth Ballet.

This is why the Fund for the Arts is so important and why I am so proud to champion this year's fund campaign theme: "Art = Achievement," in recognition of the youth arts programs that LexArts helps sponsor. As Lexington's united arts fund, it is the largest patron of so many of our local arts organizations.

This is also a special year for LexArts, as it is the current CEO Jim Clark's last year at the helm. His progressive, strategic leadership for more than 11 years has helped substantially advance the arts in the region and institutionalize funding for many stellar programs and activities.

Please consider giving in celebration and sustenance of our arts community, in promotion of youth arts programs, and in recognition of Clark's dedicated years of service. Go to www.lexarts.org, call 859-255-2951, or ask your employer if you have a workplace giving program. Let's pay it forward together and help LexArts continue its vital, invigorating work in our wonderful community.

L. Tracee Whitley, COO of Bingham McCutchen LLP, is chair of the 2014 Fund for the Arts Campaign.

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