Janice Speaks – Arts for All Interviews Pober

As Sony Pictures Entertainment’s Sr. VP of Global Corporate Social Responsibility, Janice Pober oversees the company’s engagement in arts education. A leader in corporate philanthropy, Sony Pictures is committed to supporting the arts as a way to help foster a creative workforce in Culver City, where the studio is based, and throughout Los Angeles County.

In a post from Los Angeles County’s Arts for All site (lacountyartsforall.org) Pober talks about how Sony Pictures has helped establish and fund programs such as a dedicated visual and performing arts curriculum at Culver City High School, in addition to the Sony Pictures Media Arts Program with CalArts and the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs.

Pober is founder and co-chair of the Arts for All Pooled Fund, a roundtable of grantmakers directly supporting the implementation of Arts for All. Each funder has brought different perspectives, skill sets and expertise to the discussion. The opportunity to regularly meet to share knowledge has been an asset to both the initiative itself and each individual funder at the table. This year, Sony and 21 other Pooled Fund members are providing over $1 M of support for in-school programs and district capacity building.

Arts for All Development Manager, Tom McKenzie, recently talked to Pober about Sony’s commitment to arts education.

TM: This month Sony Chairman Michael Lynton received Harvard’s Hasty Pudding Institute’s first-ever “Order of the Golden Sphinx” award for his work supporting arts education over the course of his career. The Institute praised Sony for supplementing “the arts curriculum in California public schools,” and cited Arts for All as a notable example of this work. What works best when pursuing system-wide change?

JP: We feel that Sony Pictures makes its most effective contributions by being at the table with community stakeholders, rolling up our sleeves, listening and learning, and then investing. It’s a model that’s been extremely successful for us through the years.

TM: Sony Pictures began supporting arts education with a focus on Culver City Unified School District, where it continues to play a big role. What did you learn from starting out there?

JP: Through the establishment of the Culver City High School Academy of Visual and Performing Arts, we discovered that there were greater needs within the District than what we were providing for that one project. We brought in Music Center’s Education Division to develop an arts education program at Culver City’s Farragut Elementary School. This project engaged a wide range of stakeholders beyond the walls of Sony Pictures, including the Culver City Unified School District, Farragut PTA, School Site Council, community-based organizations, artists, administrators, faculty and parents. It was through this effort that we came to fully appreciate the importance of our role as a community organizer and supporter, and we’ve been growing this model ever since.

TM: What led you to partner with Arts for All and form the Pooled Fund?

JP: Before getting involved in Arts for All, Sony Pictures had participated in Los Angeles Urban Funders, a pioneering example of collective impact, focused on rehabilitating communities affected by the 1992 Los Angeles riots. Those of us around the table benefitted tremendously from working collaboratively to undertake comprehensive community-building goals.

When I was invited to join the Arts for All Executive Committee, I was convinced I could apply what we’d learned working with Los Angeles Urban Funders to Arts for All, and I started the Pooled Fund in 2004 with a $500,000 lead gift from the Entertainment Industry Foundation. The Arts for All Pooled Fund made it possible to broaden Sony’s reach to support all districts in the County. It would have been impossible for us to do this on our own.

TM: What kind of model does Arts for All provide for the field?

JP: Arts for All started with a foundation deeply grounded in in-depth planning, community engagement, shared vision, trust in leadership, and a thorough evaluation process. We have found that this kind of model not only strengthens the individual efforts of Sony Pictures, but it heightens the impact and broadens the capacity of initiatives seeking large-scale social change.

The studio behind such fan favorites as Lawrence of Arabia, Funny Girl, Taxi Driver, Easy Rider, Tootsie and hundreds of other classic and future-classic films knows a thing or two about supporting a creative economy. We are certainly grateful to the leadership of Sony for their vision and to Pober for her unwavering leadership.

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