Supporting the "Art-beat" of a Community

TSYS lends its time and talent to arts and cultural programs, bringing communities together

There are plenty of left-brained team members at TSYS® — it is a global financial technology company after all. However, it's also a business that thrives on creativity and innovation, and recognizes the important role cultural and arts programs play in shaping the communities where its team members live, work and play.

Funding the arts

Just last year in TSYS' headquarters location of Columbus, Ga., the company supported the Columbus Symphony Orchestra, The RiverCenter for the Performing Arts, the historic Liberty Theater, the Columbus Museum, the Columbus Ballet, Historic Columbus Foundation, Columbus Artists' Guild, The Springer Opera House, the state theatre of Georgia, and a variety of individual events, festivals and programs.

Paul R. Pierce, producing artistic director at The Springer Opera House, describes the role of arts programs in communities as a way to bring people together. "[We] are the heartbeat of the community and provide a way for the enduring stories of people to be passed down from generation to generation," he explains. "And the Springer could not exist without the support and involvement of the TSYS family."

Using art to make a difference

Going beyond corporate sponsorship, TSYS supports local, national and international artists through the Campus Art Collection featured throughout the company's headquarters. Team members and leaders also volunteer with arts organizations in the various communities TSYS calls home. And it begins at the top with Troy Woods, TSYS chairman, president and chief executive officer, who supports the arts in part by serving on the RiverCenter Board.

Another example is found in Tempe where Susan Sheen, TSYS group executive, is a member of the Board of Directors for Free Arts for Abused Children of Arizona, a nonprofit organization that uses art as a tool to help heal children who have suffered trauma. With a mission of healing abused and homeless children through artistic expression, the organization's executive director, Alicia Sutton Campbell, describes Free Arts as the extra step available for the 17,000 Arizona children in out-of-home care.

"We're making sure there is someone there who cares about them, is listening to them and is invested in their lives. And we're giving them some tools to help them process what they're going through, get some of their anxieties out and reduce their stress levels," Campbell said.

For many of the children, working with volunteers from Free Arts is the first positive interaction they've had with adults. Sheen says this is what drew her to the program. "I've always had a strong desire to give back," Sheen said. "As a community member and an executive at TSYS, getting involved in my community is so very important. I have an opportunity to serve, to be a role model and to be a positive influence in the lives of children."

Free Arts volunteers and Board members come from all businesses and backgrounds, and many of them would say that they have no real artistic ability. What they do have is a desire to make a difference in the lives of children in their community. They can do this by simply showing up and assisting the children with art projects — but the point is to build a connection with children to establish trust using art as the healing mechanism, not to create perfection.

"As a community member and an executive at TSYS, getting involved in my community is so very important. I have an opportunity to serve, to be a role model and to be a positive influence in the lives of children." Susan Sheen

"Every piece of art is beautiful," Sheen explains. "So for the first time, children may see themselves as being successful by just painting a picture, making something or expressing themselves through dance. This is important because for many of these children who have spent their entire lives feeling wrong or worthless, art can be what makes them feel right."

Team members take art to the people

Cal Holman, NetSpend® IT senior vice president and avid photographer, is comfortable with most types of photography, from capturing the Congress Avenue Bridge Bats and the iconic South by Southwest® music festival to photographing portraits of NetSpend team members reaching career milestones. He's so passionate about sharing his art form that he began a Photography Club that networks through the company's online social site and meets occasionally during lunch. "It's been really fun to see their photos get passed around in our group and get good feedback. That's how you learn," said Holman.

By day, Karen Olson is a Bank Secrecy Act expert in the Compliance department at NetSpend. She's a process improver who uses the foundations and principles of her degree in Dance from Texas Woman's University to delve into anti-money laundering activity and risk issues. "Just as you want to exhibit correct technique in the dance studio to prevent injury or enhance performance, we really strive to identify money-laundering areas and patterns that we need to control or change to limit our exposure. It's really the same type of process," she said.

Olson, both a dancer and choreographer, has participated in more than eight shows with Austin's Zilker Theatre Productions, which produces the longest running, free, outdoor musical in the country. The theatre provides quality performing arts experiences to many who otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford to see big shows like Hairspray, Oklahoma, Beauty and the Beast and more. "We are truly giving theatre to the people," she said.

It might be another famed chicken-and-egg situation: Does TSYS simply attract artistic, creative and talented people, or does working for TSYS also contribute to these traits in their team members? Or maybe it's actually a combination of both. Regardless, it's a no-lose situation for TSYS and our communities.