Creative Policy and Development Agenda

Now, more than ever, Wisconsin needs to invest in creativity and in its creative resources for a brighter future.
  Strengthening Wisconsin’s creative economy is a critical strategy for the state, its people, and its communities to help emerge from the pandemic, and to compete in the global economy, educate our children, engage residents, and to develop, attract and retain entrepreneurs and a high skilled work force through healthy, vibrant communities where people want to live, work, learn, and play.

The creative industries are some of the hardest-hit as the pandemic continues. Much of the state’s creative economy – people, organizations, businesses and communities – was the first to close and will be the last to reopen fully.  Nationally, financial losses to the nonprofit component of the sector are currently an estimated $56 million statewide and $14 billion nationally.  Over 95% of organizations have cancelled events since the onset of the pandemic, with no clear picture of reopening possibilities.  This means that people, organizations, businesses and communities are hurting from the loss of jobs, income, and purpose.

Overall, creating and sustaining places where people want to live, work and start a family are essential components to move Wisconsin forward competitively in the 21st century. Arts and culture, arts education and the creative industries play an important role in developing vibrant communities, educating and training the 21st century workforce, and building a foundation for growth and lifelong learning, making them critical to the future of our state.

Wisconsin has all the assets it needs to lead creatively and globally.  Arts, culture and creativity are integral to the Wisconsin Idea and are deeply rooted in our state’s history. Creativity is inherent in almost every aspect of the daily lives of every resident of Wisconsin, and is a resource that every business and every community needs to succeed in the 21st century.

The creative industries has been a vital contributor to our state’s financial strength through job creation, tax revenue, business development and tourism dollars, and to our renowned quality of life in all parts of the state.

Arts Wisconsin’s Creative Policy and Development Agenda offers a framework for policy actions to raise awareness, and build credibility, support and investment for Wisconsin’s creative economy through six focus areas:

  • Creative Economy– Positioning growth of creative entrepreneurship, downtown development, quality of life initiatives, and cultural tourism, as well as Wisconsin’s creative industries as strategic state economic development assets and priorities.
  • Creative Education– A quality arts education curriculum combined with other core subject areas, increases graduation rates and will best prepare our children for the future. As we continue to take steps at every level to revitalize Wisconsin’s economy, it is crucial that we are able to prepare our youth with a broad knowledge base by equipping them with the creative thinking, imaginative, and problem-solving skills that will help fuel innovation in an ever-competitive and evolving workforce.
  • Creative Placemaking and Placekeeping – Shaping vibrant communities and addressing issues of place through the arts, culture and creativity and furthering efforts to attract talent, spur economic development, revitalize neighborhoods, bring people together, offer opportunities to all residents, increase civic engagement, strengthen community connectedness and reframe community narratives.
  • Talent incubator, Attraction and Retention – Cultivating a culture of creativity in Wisconsin’s communities that nurtures, attracts and retains talent, especially creative and design talent, entrepreneurs, start-ups and businesses, who spur the housing market, increase tax revenues, attract new business and entrepreneurial ventures and encourage investment.
  • Trade Missions and Export Opportunities– Engaging the creative industries in trade missions to cultivate economic investment in Wisconsin communities, and positioning Wisconsin’s creative and design industries with the skills, resources and networks to maximize growth in creative export opportunities.
  • Investment in Wisconsin’s Arts, Cultural and Creative Assets– Rebuilding the state’s investment in Wisconsin’s arts, cultural and creative assets and identifying avenues for growth and inclusion.



Our COVID-19 priority policy asks, state and federal:

  • Expand the duration of unemployment benefits, and improve guidelines for implementation so that gig economy workers with mixed income sources (such as W-2 and 1099) receive full support rather than unfairly being limited to partial benefits.
  • Continue to provide streamlined, low-interest forgivable loans to assist micro-businesses (self-employed, sole proprietors, partnerships, freelancers, and LLCs) with zero or few employees/low net business income that have documented fixed business expenses.
  • Support to cover arts business programmatic and facility costs resulting from ongoing pandemic shutdowns.

Overall, we call for:

  • Investment in Wisconsin Arts Board budget to at least ~$4M (pre-2011 levels), and ultimately to at least $1 per capita, and the restoration of the Percent for Art program, to integrate works of art to be incorporated into new or renovated state buildings
  • Establishment of creative economy investment program to boost Wisconsin’s creative economy, businesses and workers, connecting to the State of Wisconsin’s Wisconsin Arts Board, Department of Tourism, Department of Workforce Development (DWD), Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC), Department of Public Instruction (DPI), Department of Administration (DOA), and Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority (WHEDA).
  • Establishment of cultural district program as a collaborative partnership with State’s Main Street and Connect Communities program, Historic Preservation Tax Credit Program, Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) program and Opportunity Zones
  • Establish creative sector apprenticeship and mentorship opportunities with the Dept. of Public Instruction and other state agencies.

ADVOCACY TIMELINE 2021 (continually updated as needed)

Tuesday, February 16 Gov. Evers introduces FY2021-2023 state budget
February 16 – June 30 Legislature reviews budget; will be signed into law by the Governor by June 30
April 1-30 Creative Wisconsin Month, including legislative meetings, panel discussions, performances, and other interactions – details to follow!
April 5-9 National Arts Action Summit, a multi-day digital event bringing together arts advocates from across the country
April 12-16 Arts Advocacy Week – advocates will meet with their congressional and legislative representatives bringing their passion, knowledge, and stories to advance policy.
More dates/events will be added!

Facts and figures about the arts, arts education and creative economy in Wisconsin, including pandemic-era research:

  • Before the pandemic hit, the arts contributed more than $877 billion to the U.S. economy, and $10.1 billion to Wisconsin’s economy.  Data released in March 2020 by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) and the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) offers an insightful picture of the impact the arts have on the nation’s economy. The Arts and Cultural Production Satellite Account (ACSPA) tracks the annual economic impact of arts and cultural production from 35 industries, both commercial and nonprofit.  The ACPSA is the first federal effort to provide in-depth analysis of the arts and cultural sector’s contributions to the U.S. economy.  This research also shows that the creative sector includes over 96,000 jobs for Wisconsin, more jobs than in the  state’s beer industry (63,000), biotech industry (35,000), and papermaking industry (31,000). Click here for the details.
  • The Wisconsin Policy Forum recently released a report entitled, “Arts and Culture in a Pandemic: An Existential Threat,” which paints a stark picture of the scenario ahead for the state’s creative sector.
  • Lost Art: Measuring COVID-19’s devastating impact on America’s creative economy, a recent report from the Brookings Institution, which estimates “losses of 2.7 million jobs and more than $150 billion in sales of goods and services for creative industries nationwide, representing nearly a third of all jobs in those industries.”


Updated 1-29-21
Arts Wisconsin