2017 Arts Legislative Agenda

The general message:

The arts matter to Wisconsin.  Wisconsin needs to invest in creative economy development and the arts, culture, creativity and innovation to leverage local and regional private support and give the state the competitive edge in economic development, downtown revitalization, educational advancement, civic engagement and tourism opportunities.   The state must seize the opportunity to grow creatively and invest in creative economy jobs and businesses, educate our children for the 21st century world and workforce, and support vibrant, livable, and successful communities.   Other states are making this kind of investment in their creative people, businesses and communities; Wisconsin will fall behind in jobs, businesses, education and quality of life without a plan of action for 21st century development.

The details:

  • ENCOURAGE SYSTEMIC STATE INVESTMENT IN 21st CENTURY ARTS AND CREATIVE GROWTH AND DEVELOPMENTArts Wisconsin supports strategic investment in the Wisconsin Arts Board and other state agencies to give Wisconsin the competitive advantage it needs in the 21st century economy. Wisconsin Creates, a new program to grow Wisconsin’s creative economy, provides a vision and a plan for Wisconsin to:
  • invest in local and regional projects that create jobs and income
    revitalize downtowns and communities overall
    draw cultural tourists by leveraging the assets of the creative sector – artists, cultural organizations, and arts-related businesses – inherent in Wisconsin’s communities to generate real income.
    — expand partnerships and initiatives to provide programs and services that Wisconsin citizens value
    — meet local, state and regional development’s demand for expertise in growing and strengthening the state’s creative jobs and businesses
    foster and promote arts and creativity in education as a deliberate strategy for workforce development, stimulating creativity, innovation and inspiration, and enabling entrepreneurship.

Wisconsin must invest in 21st century infrastructure that leads us forward, prepares our workforce for the jobs that will stay and drives traditional sectors onto new ground, and keeps our communities livable, as the Council on Competitiveness recognized in 2005: “from an economic development perspective, many communities are still pursuing the old, incentive-based strategies. These don’t work in a world in which firm success depends ever more on the quality of ideas and talent, and ever less on traditional infrastructure.”

In 1992, the state invested 59¢ per person in the Wisconsin Arts Board, ranking Wisconsin 30th in the nation for state arts agency funding. In 2011, cuts to the Arts Board have resulted in the state’s investment of about 15 cents per person; our standing is now at the very bottom of the 50 states.

Other states are moving forward with investment in creative infrastructure and endeavors.  Wisconsin is woefully behind when it comes to this kind of 21st century economic sector investment.  Here’s where Wisconsin stands with Midwestern neighbors in per-capita funding of the arts:



















This has meant reduced creative opportunities for Wisconsin residents and less opportunity to compete in the global economy.  A strong creative sector can lead the way for new kinds of companies and businesses to start up and succeed right here, with creative opportunities and an appealing quality of life that flourishes in all of our communities.

We call for increased and expanded investment in the arts as a critical way forward for Wisconsin.



  • ENCOURAGE CONTINUAL EXPANSION OF CULTURAL TOURISM AS AN INTEGRAL COMPONENT OF THIS IMPORTANT ECONOMIC SECTOR:Wisconsin offers myriad outstanding arts, cultural and heritage experiences for visitors to all corners of the state. Research shows that cultural tourists spend more money, make longer visits, and return to favorite places more than once. Wisconsin should ensure support and expand promotion of cultural tourism initiatives through the Department of Tourism to grow opportunities, businesses and jobs.
  • REINVIGORATE WISCONSIN’S FILM INDUSTRY TAX INCENTIVES: Wisconsin’s pioneering film tax incentives were effective 2008-2009, resulting in several high-profile films shot in Wisconsin and the establishment of locally-based film development programs and facilities around the state. The growth of the film industry in Wisconsin expanded and diversified employment opportunities and increased involvement in the arts overall. Unfortunately, the program in its current, reduced format is not realizing its potential and benefits for Wisconsin. To ensure that Wisconsin advances economic and community development and civic strategies for the 21st century, the state’s film industry tax incentives must be re-invigorated and expanded.
  • SUPPORT THE INTEGRATION OF THE ARTS AND CREATIVITY IN EDUCATION FOR ALL WISCONSIN STUDENTSThe same qualities that characterize successful arts education programs are also essential to making Wisconsin a leader in the global creative economy.   Arts education rewards children by helping them to reach practical goals of academic achievement and career success.  The Wisconsin Task Force on Arts and Creativity in Education reported in 2008 that active participation in and understanding of the arts and creativity are essential to young people’s success in school and in life. The arts are much more than just fun “extra” activities for kids. The profound impact of arts education on children and youth follows them throughout their lives, and participation in the arts opens up children’s worlds and minds, and offers them the skills they need for a bright future. To provide opportunities for creative expression and engagement, and prepare our young people for the 21st century world and workforce, we call for systemic, integrated arts and creative integrated education opportunities for all Wisconsin students.

updated 1-2-2016