Grow Wisconsin Creatively Resilience Fund

Vibrant Creative Sector Vital to Thriving State, Local Economies
Grow Wisconsin Creatively Resilience Fund 

The COVID pandemic has had a devastating impact on Wisconsin’s arts and culture sector. Even as arts organizations begin to  reopen, research from Americans for the Arts reveals that artists and creative workers remain among the most severely  affected segment of the nation’s workforce. In Wisconsin, many creative businesses continue to grapple with re-opening  restrictions and many creative workers are still jobless or are not able to work at full capacity due to lack of creative  sector opportunities.  

Arts Wisconsin, the state’s community cultural development organization, along with a diverse, growing, statewide coalition of people, businesses, organizations and communities, is asking Governor Tony Evers to invest American  Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds in the Grow Wisconsin Creatively Resilience Fund to aid with the recovery and growth of  Wisconsin’s vital creative economy sector. The availability of ARPA funds offers a unique opportunity to invest in creative  people, organizations, businesses, and communities to attract and retain talent, strengthen state and local economies,  and assert Wisconsin’s leadership in the national creative economy.  

Attract and retain talent. As the economy continues its recovery, many employers in Wisconsin and nationally cite  challenges with finding the workers they need. While factors attributed to the pandemic impact labor availability, there  have been shifts in the number of working-age residents that started well before 2020. Consider that while the national  labor force grew by about 7% between 2010 and early 2020, the labor force in Wisconsin was roughly unchanged,  according to a UW-Madison researcher. To ensure young and new people want to make rural Wisconsin their home, the  Governor’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Rural Prosperity 2020 report, Rural Voices for Prosperity, recommended  implementing a strategy that includes support for the arts and creative opportunities. Arts and culture sustain and  attract people and businesses that underpin local economies. Businesses and workers want to be in communities that  have vibrant creative businesses harnessing culture, arts, and places.  

Strengthen state and local economies and assert Wisconsin’s leadership in the national creative economy. Pre pandemic, the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis reports that arts and cultural production accounted for $10.9 billion and  3.1% of the Wisconsin economy, contributing 96,450 jobs (more jobs than the state’s beer, biotech and papermaking  industries). The arts and cultural contribution to gross state product ranked 3rd among the comparison sectors; after  retail and construction, and before transportation, utilities, agriculture and forestry, education services, and mining.  

Despite the significant economic impact of the creative sector, the state of Wisconsin currently is close to last in the  nation and well behind our Midwest neighbors in funding for arts and cultural development at just 14 cents per capita,  according to research from the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies (NASAA). Rural Wisconsin is even further  behind due to the lack of private philanthropic investment seen in Wisconsin’s larger communities. A historic investment  in the creative economy will provide creative people, organizations, businesses, and communities with the resources they  need to revitalize their main streets, enhance their tourism and cultural efforts, and help level the playing field with our  neighboring states. The arts revitalize communities of many kinds, including places that have lost key industries,  according to findings from NASAA

Growing Wisconsin Creatively Resilience Fund  

The Grow Wisconsin Creatively Resilience Fund would be developed and administered by the Wisconsin Economic  Development Corporation (WEDC), in collaboration with the Wisconsin Arts Board. Eligible groups would include: 

  • Local and Tribal Governments  
  • Chambers of Commerce, Main Street Programs, and BID districts 
  • Economic Development and Regional Planning Organizations and Agencies 
  • Arts Councils and  Public Art Committees 
  • Universities/Technical Colleges  
  • Creative Businesses and startups.

The Fund will seek to:

  1. build momentum in bright spots and close gaps and disparities
  2. highlight rich cultural and  creative activity
  3. quantify creative sector economic impact
  4. 4) connect creative economy stakeholders, including  regional policy makers, creative workers, employers, creative advocacy organizations, and consumers of creative works. 

Incentives, information, and resources will encourage collaboration between local government, businesses, educational  institutions, non-profit organizations, and the creative industries (including artists/small business owners) to develop a  creative sector that builds capability, connects stakeholders, and supports inclusive, sustainable economic growth.   

Goals of the Fund:

Support the Growth of Talent and Creative Enterprises. 

  • Create new pathways for business, entrepreneurial, employment and career development in the creative  industries. 
  • Encourage the retention and growth of talent in the creative economy. 
  • Expand markets. 
  • Unify promotion. 
  • Produce celebratory events. 
  • Provide technical support and access to capital for culturally based businesses and creative entrepreneurs. ○ Ensure access to business seminars and learning practices from successful creatives resulting in better  creative business management. 
  • Expand apprenticeship system in creative businesses.
  • Develop “Creative Workforce”/ArtsCorps program to put artists to work on community-based projects and  programs, such as the WEDC-supported We’re All In Creative Workforce Program.
  • Establish creative worker development programs throughout Wisconsin’s tech college system and two-year  UW campuses that supports and empowers creative workers to apply their skills in other sectors, such as  health care, environmental, and advanced manufacturing.  Provide for facility and programming accommodations, including air filtration system installation, mask/distancing  education and promotion, and virtual streaming services.  

Promote, Document the Roles that Creativity, Culture, and Innovation Play in Wisconsin’s Economic Future.

  •  rack and report on this economic sector. 
  • Reinforce arts and heritage education. 
  • Promote civic engagement leading to cultural growth, including cultural tourism events and initiatives.  ● Institute a statewide public information campaign. 

Invest in Communities so They May Build on their Past while Adapting for a Vibrant Future.

  • Make culture and heritage priority community investments. 
  • Support historic towns and village centers. 
  • Expand cultural facilities funding. 
  • Support arts and craft businesses with long-term, deep roots in the community.  Example:  Eckels Pottery, Bayfield
  • Encourage creative entrepreneurial development in vacant industrial and retail spaces.   Examples: 

Develop Wisconsin’s Creative Economy through Community-Based Planning, Improved Collaboration.

  • Facilitate locally designed creative economy development projects.  Example: Create Portage County
  • Build a collaborative umbrella between statewide cultural organizations  
  • Establish a nonpartisan Governor’s Commission to provide leadership for the  growth of Wisconsin’s creative economy.

Go to or contact Anne Katz, Arts Wisconsin,, 608 255 8316.