Grow Wisconsin Creatively Resilience Fund

Invest in Wisconsin’s creative sector to power a resilient recovery statewide
By Anne Katz, Director, Arts Wisconsin | 608 255 8316 | akatz@artswisconsin.org 

Please share this op-ed far and wide!

Wisconsin’s creative sector – people, organizations, businesses and communities – is a 21st century industry economic engine, despite the hardships for people, businesses and communities caused by the pandemic.   

As the pandemic eases and we emerge into a new world, it’s the right time to make a smart investment for the future by investing in Wisconsin’s creative economy.  Arts Wisconsin calls on the State of Wisconsin to invest $20 million in American Rescue Plan (ARP) funds over the next four years in the Grow Wisconsin Creatively Resilience Fund, to use the power of creativity, innovation, imagination, and entrepreneurship for a resilient statewide recovery and renewal.  

The Resilience Fund is strongly supported by a diverse, growing, statewide coalition of people, businesses, organizations and communities Click here to join the coalition and click here to send a message to Gov. Evers to invest ARP funds in the state’s creative sector.

The Resilience Fund will support the relief, recovery, and resilience of Wisconsin’s creative people, organizations, businesses and communities and activate the full, statewide power of creativity by investing in:

  • local and regional creative economic development to recover and grow jobs, businesses and income, through downtown and community revitalization, civic engagement initiatives, and cultural tourism programs.
  • strengthening resilience, capacity and entrepreneurship for creative economy businesses and entrepreneurs, including support for relief, recovery, and start-up programs; increased access to arts and cultural opportunities; core operating and programming grants to re-engage and grow audiences and community involvement; and investment in venue-centered community development projects and facility adaption to accommodate post-pandemic public health guidelines. 
  • developing creative workforce development and strength, including cultivating an equitable, career development pipeline and support system for creative industries; expanding apprenticeship systems in creative businesses; establishing a “Creative Workforce”/ArtsCorps program to put artists to work on community-based projects and programs; and supporting and empowering creative workers to apply their skills in other sectors, such as health care, environmental, and advanced manufacturing.

Why is investment in Wisconsin’s creative workers and businesses so important?

  • The creative sector is a jobs generator: It contributes $10.9 billion to Wisconsin’s economy annually and employs nearly 100,000 workers, more workers than in the state’s beer, biotech,and papermaking industries. [US BEA/NEA
  • Creative workers and businesses have been hit particularly hard by COVID:  Wisconsin needs a competitive creative workforce. Arts venues were the first to close and many are still grappling with re-opening restrictions, making this sector the likely last to fully reopen.  A Brookings Institution report estimates losses of more than 2.3 million jobs and $74 billion in average monthly earnings for the creative occupations. [Brookings Institution
  • The proposed funding prioritizes equity: the 2020 unemployment rate among BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) artists in Wisconsin was higher than the rate among white artists. [Americans for the Arts
  • In-demand fields need creative workers: The healthcare, marketing, and IT fields need digital video editors, graphic designers, writers, and communications specialists, to name a few. Over 70% of companies rate creativity as a primary concern when hiring. [CB/AASA
  • When the arts thrive, everybody wins: In addition to being an economic powerhouse, the arts bring people together, bolster neighborhood vitality, address long-standing inequities, and help heal and rebuild our spirit in this time of crisis. 

Other states are investing pro-actively in creative economy development.   Illinois is campaigning for a $500 million funding package; New York just passed a one-year budget that gives their arts sector over $200 million in dedicated funds, plus access to $800 million in recovery grants; California legislators are championing a $1 billion package for the arts.   The Resilience Fund will help level the playing field, and highlight creative assets, for Wisconsin. 

According to a recent article in Governing Magazine, the Western States Arts Federation has provided case studies by the Western States Arts Federation to show how the arts revitalize communities of many kinds, including places that have lost key industries. In addition, the arts add a special spark in rural regions, according to the National Governors Association, by mobilizing homegrown creative assets to spur economic growth.  

By investing in the arts and creativity as economic, workforce and community development, Wisconsin can recover from today’s economic shocks and better equip us to withstand the crises we could face tomorrow.   The Grow Wisconsin Creatively Resilience Fund is the right initiative for this historic moment in time.

Go to www.artswisconsin.org or contact Anne Katz, Arts Wisconsin, akatz@artswisconsin.org, 608 255 8316.