CultureBank: A new investment paradigm for art & culture - MuseumNext

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CultureBank: A new investment paradigm for art & culture

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Deborah Cullinan, CEO, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts

YBCA is a pioneering institution that is transforming the role cultural centers can play as citizen institutions – places that gather creative people together to make change in their communities. While social impact artists are doing some of the most important work in our sector, it’s been hard to scale their work and to evolve arts funding strategies to meet 21st Century needs and demands.

While traditional philanthropy continues to increase investment in creative placemaking and community engagement efforts, we have not evolved our capital streams to support a new paradigm that puts artists at the center of social change. At the same time, most private art investors are looking for a guaranteed “return” on their investments; usually in the form of financial gain. YBCA believes that the flow of capital should not solely depend on the promise of financial returns and should emphasize impact investment strategies for arts and culture. If we can reinvent the investment model, we can bring more social impact art projects to scale, and help more communities create lasting social and economic change.

This is why YBCA is creating a radically different funding model for social practice art and artists. We call it CultureBank ™.

Drawing on the best attributes of community banks, social financiers, community development finance institutions, and placemaking organizations, CultureBank makes investments in social impact artists and their enterprises. In exchange for these investments, we make art and community impact a key form of ROI (return on investment).

The creation of Culture Bank has required YBCA to bring together a diverse group of stakeholders from the arts, civic impact, and financial sectors. Together, they are designing a financial model that leverages art and community assets along with financial investments and that will be sustainable, adaptable and replicable by others.

CultureBank is seed funded by key foundations and led through unlikely partnership between YBCA, RSF Social Finance, and the San Francisco Federal Reserve, among others.