Applause for industry support of arts and culture

Principal Consultant , David Allison Inc.
  • Nov. 11, 2015

David AllisonApplause (and, as far as I’m concerned, some hooting and hollering) is due to every real estate developer out there who contributes to arts and culture.

There are so many great examples, and it’s such an important part of making our cities vibrant and alive. But every now and then one example comes along that just makes you shake your head and wonder at how amazing our industry can be.

Now, to be fair, most real estate developers contribute to arts and culture in ways they may not even realize. Buying art for showhomes counts, and if you use the term “art” in the broadest possible sense, even framed prints from IKEA count. Someone somewhere was paid to make that image.

Moving quickly past the lowest common denominator and denying myself any more sarcasm for the rest of this post, many developers buy the work of great local artists for display homes, supporting artistic careers in the process.

Commissioning art

Art is commissioned for lobbies and common areas in multi-family buildings, and in hotel rooms by developers working in the hospitality or resort sector.

Public art is often mandated by civic authorities as part of the permitting and approval process for new developments, and many developers are becoming increasingly involved in how that public art allocation is spent — frequently with a great outcome.

Our industry buys advertising in arts programs and publications. Our executives sit on boards of directors, and our employees volunteer with arts organizations of all stripes from coast to coast.

Polygon Developments, here in Vancouver, even wrote a cheque big enough that the public art museum formerly known as Presentation House Gallery is now called Polygon Gallery.

When’s the last time you heard of a real estate developer putting up a significant amount of money to support arts and culture for no reason other than it needed to be done?

 Intracorp works with Douglas Coupland

Intracorp, a Canadian real estate developer, recently sent president and chief executive officer Don Forsgren to Rotterdam in the Netherlands to attend the opening of “Bit Rot,” Douglas Coupland’s first solo show in Europe at the prestigious Witte de With Museum.

The museum was thrilled to have Forsgren there because Intracorp had underwritten the enormous shipping costs associated with the show, ensuring that all the art would arrive in Rotterdam from Vancouver safely and on time.

If you have a chance to do an online search for “douglas coupland bit rot” and see the enormous number of large-scale works and paintings included, you can get some idea of the size of the cheque that would have been required to make this happen.

Why did Intracorp do this? Is it planning a European expansion? Is it launching a project in Rotterdam? Have company representatives ever even met anyone from Rotterdam before? The answer is no to all of those questions.

Intracorp simply saw that it needed to be done. Its executives are fans of Coupland’s work. They’ve worked with Coupland on public art for a project in Vancouver and decided to help out some more. That’s it. There was no promotional gain, just giving.

Channelling money into arts and culture

As an industry, exceptions aside, we make a fair bit of money. It’s so refreshing to see some of it channelled back into arts and culture in ways that have nothing to do with creating any immediate sales advantage.

We should do things, sometimes, because we can and should.

Here’s a video of Forsgren, Witte de With Museum director Defne Ayas and Coupland talking about this very unique relationship.

I’m intensely interested in other examples of our industry supporting arts and culture in unique ways. Care to share? I may write about you.

David Allison works with executive teams in real estate development and other industries to craft the early-stage vision and brand for projects of all kinds. He crystallizes the most interesting version of any story for early stakeholder engagement, internal audiences, regulatory approvals, consultant briefings and investor recruitment. His award-winning work in the real estate sector alone spans decades and continents. His most recent book, The Stackable Boomer, examines the movement of baby boomers to multi-family homes, and includes research results from a 1,000-boomer survey. He can be reached at david@davidallisoninc.com.


David Allison works with executive teams in real estate development and other industries to craft the early-stage vision and brand for projects of all kinds. He crystallizes the most interesting…

Read more

David Allison works with executive teams in real estate development and other industries to craft the early-stage vision and brand for projects of all kinds. He crystallizes the most interesting…

Read more





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