In 2024, Business / Arts is celebrating a significant milestone – 50 years of championing partnerships between business, the arts and government in Canada. 

Business / Arts has a storied past. Join us for a journey through time as we honour some of the trailblazers and key programs that have shaped our history and positioned Business / Arts as a convener, thought leader and changemaker. 



In 1971, Edmund C. Bovey O.C. was asked by the Canada Council for the Arts whether he might be interested in starting an organization that was similar to the American-based Business Committee for the Arts (BCA), which was founded by David Rockefeller in 1967.

I’m no David Rockefeller
but the idea appeals to me
Edmund C. Bovey, Inaugural Chair


In June 1974, a meeting was held in Ottawa with 50+ business minds, including the chief executive officers of Canada’s top companies and others known for supporting cultural organizations, to consider the feasibility and objectives of the organization.


The group confirmed the need for an organization that encourages business investment in the arts and partnerships across both sectors. In the fall of 1974, the Council for Business and the Arts in Canada (CBAC) was formed to act as a bridge of understanding between business and the arts.

The idea of working with the business community to support the cultural quality of life is a very healthy one. Both business and creative can learn lessons from each other. Arnold Edinborough, Founding President


The Financial Post Awards for Business in the Arts began in 1978 to celebrate corporate involvement in the visual and performing arts. Annual prizes of sculptures were offered in several categories.

The award (pictured) was commissioned from Canadian sculptor William McElcheran, renowned for his bronze sculptures depicting businessmen. In this instance, McElcheran envisioned the muse resting on the businessman’s shoulder.


With over 125 corporate members, the organization experiences significant growth. The August 1982 edition of the Financial Post features a series of articles emphasizing the connection between business and the arts:


To honour the legacy of Edmund C. Bovey, an award was established in his name to recognize other members of the business community for their vision in contributing leadership, time, financial investments, and expertise to the arts.

This award was established as a tribute to Edmund C. Bovey in 1990 and contributions were made to create an endowment to fund the award in perpetuity. Kathleen M. Richardson C.C., O.M. (pictured) was the first philanthropist to receive the award in 1991. 


The Federal Department of Communications funded the creation of “Befriending Museums: A Handbook”, authored by Sarah J. Iley, (President & CEO of Business / Arts from 1995 -2005). This bilingual booklet aimed to demonstrate the benefits of being a Friend of Museums, both for the museum and the individual.

Other resources created for training around this time include:

  • Approaching Corporations for Support
  • Developing Effective Arts Boards 
  • Business Sponsorship of the Arts the first to focus on sponsorship rather than donations


In 1998, the Council for Business and the Arts in Canada and the Banff Centre for Arts & Creativity invited the chairs, executive directors and artistic directors of 20 of Canada’s largest arts organizations to a “Summit”.

The first Summit was predicated upon the belief that these influential leaders – volunteers, artists and managers – could, by working together, better support Canadian artistic aspirations. The inaugural Summit chair was Dr. James D. Fleck, C.C., Chair Emeritus of Business / Arts.


BoardLink was introduced as a national matching program, linking young business professionals with rewarding volunteer roles within the arts sector.

Networking events are held in various provinces to pair arts organizations with potential directors or committee members.


artsvest, Business / Arts’ now signature program, launched in Ontario in 2005. This program offers training and matching funds with the goal of fostering new, mutually beneficial partnerships between businesses and arts organizations.

With local public sector partners providing support for matching funds, small and medium arts, culture and heritage organizations receive sponsorship training and support.


artsScene was launched to connect young professionals to the arts in their community. Through artful behind-the-scene events, artsScene introduced business professionals to unique experiences that engage them with the arts as patrons, volunteers, and donors.

artsScene was led by volunteer committees in cities across Canada, including Edmonton, Calgary, Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, Halifax, Winnipeg and Vancouver.




In 2011, with support from the Department of Canadian Heritage, artsvest began to expand in regions across Canada, eventually reaching Alberta, British Columbia, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Toronto and Montréal. 

The program offers training, mentorship and matching funds with the goal of fostering new, mutually beneficial partnerships between businesses and arts organizations. With local public sector partners providing support for matching funds, small and medium arts, culture and heritage organizations receive sponsorship training and support.


Culture Track: Canada, the landmark study of Canadian cultural consumers’ attitudes and behaviours, was released in 2018. Spearheaded by Business / Arts and conducted by LaPlaca Cohen and Nanos Research, it surveyed 6,400 culture-goers.

Supported by 40+ partners including corporate leaders and Canadian Arts Summit delegates, this study established a vital baseline for understanding Canada’s cultural audiences, informing future research efforts.


As audiences and organizations moved online, digital resources and programs were launched to support arts organizations.

The Arts Response Tracking Survey (ARTS) was launched in partnership with the National Arts Centre and Nanos Research, conducting quarterly surveys of over 1000 Canadian culture-goers. Since May 2020, ARTS has offered valuable insights into audience behaviours and helped inform operations and programming models.

The Speaker Series began inviting industry leaders from the business, arts and public sectors to share advice and insights on trending topics. This national webinar series facilitates peer-to-peer learning, empowering arts leaders to be responsive to the dynamic nature of the sector.


In 2023, artsvest began its first truly national iteration. Now available to organizations from anywhere across the country, artsvest is focused on building the capacity of small to mid-sized arts, culture, and heritage organizations, particularly those serving rural and equity-seeking communities. It offers group webinars, mentorship and peer-to-peer networking.

In addition to the national program, select regions with local funding partners can access matching funds through artsvest Regional. In 2024, this program operates in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario and the city of Toronto.


The Canadian Arts Summit marked 25 years of bringing together senior executives from large Canadian arts, culture, and heritage organizations. Leaders continue to convene to network, exchange ideas, and consider the future of the arts in Canada.

The Summit has evolved into a network of arts leaders collaborating year-round. In 2023, this network includes 150+ arts organizations and 450+ delegates, playing a pivotal role in shaping a vibrant and resilient future for the arts.


Now, more than ever, there is a need for strong partnerships across business, the arts and government in Canada. As we commemorate 50 years, Business / Arts reaffirms its commitment to supporting impactful partnerships that build up our communities.