Art$upport Fund:  supporting small Wisconsin arts

The Art$upport Fund, an initiative of Arts Wisconsin, strengthens financial resources for small arts organizations and emerging arts initiatives in the Milwaukee area (Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Washington, and Waukesha counties).  

The Art$upport Fund is a legacy of and memorial to Patricia Wyzbinski of Management Cornerstones and the Nonprofit Management Fund (NMF) and her commitment to small arts organizations and emerging arts initiatives in the greater Milwaukee area.   Learn more about Pat here.  In 2012, she authored The Importance of Being Small, which defined challenges and offered an array of resource-building and stabilizing recommendations (click here for the list of recommendations, below). In 2013, dozens of local arts groups created pop-up performances throughout the community to test an idea for arts fundraising (Art$upport Milwaukee).   In this same time period, she co-organized an effort that installed 29 Little Free Libraries in Milwaukee, all of which were created by artists.  These are but three milestones of her work to promote community and small arts.

Building on the principles and strategies defined in the NMF report and the pilot project, the Art$upport Fund seeks to strengthen fundraising resources for small arts organizations and emerging arts initiatives in the Milwaukee area.  The Art$upport Fund pursues this mission to strengthen the ongoing process in which the arts stimulate the imagination, enrich the economy, educate our children, bring people together, encourage new talent and define community.

Arts Wisconsin, Wisconsin’s community cultural development organization, administers the Fund.  Director Anne Katz and and Pat’s husband Scott Gelzer are guided by a steering committee advisory team of arts, community, and social service leaders who worked with Pat as advocates for the arts and nonprofits:

  • Eloiza Altoro, Fund Advisor, Nonprofit Management Fund, Milwaukee
  • Lynn Lucius, consultant and advocate, Milwaukee 
  • Jim Marks, Former Vice President and Director of Grant Programs, Greater Milwaukee Foundation, Milwaukee
  • Denise Patton, Principal, BDP & Associates, Houston, TX

2021 project:   

  • Journey through the Pandemic, supporting a trip of small Wisconsin arts organizations documenting how they are adapting to the pandemic and how they plan to thrive when they are able to offer in person programming again.  The data and stories gathered will be shared statewide and beyond, to help Arts Wisconsin and the field learn from this community-based work.  Each of the three organizations will receive a planning grant and assistance from a graduate student working under the auspices of Arts Wisconsin.  A public dissemination of the lessons learned will be planned and announced later this year. 

Art$upport projects 2017-2020 (note: like many efforts in the creative sector, ideas and projects were delayed and/or altered by the 2020-2021 pandemic):
Request for ideas– 2017-2018; over 25 organizations responded. Ideas were vetted by an expanded proposal review team, including the Fund’s advisers.
Support for 2 fundraising and evaluation projects – 2018-2019, with Ex Fabula and True Skool; True Skool was in collaboration with the Nonprofit Management Fund and its JumpStart project; both groups responded to the Request for Ideas.
Support for Imagine MKE and UPAF Artist Relief Funds, and Imagine MKE and Arts WI advocacy – 2020
— Technical assistance and planning with small arts orgs in Milwaukee and Wisconsin, which happened on a selected basis.

Due to existing financial and program commitments, Art$upport is not seeking new ideas for funding at this time.   

The Art$upport Fund is supported by generous donations from Patricia Wyzbinski’s family,  memorial contributions from Pat’s friends and colleagues, and assistance and oversight by Arts Wisconsin.  100% of all contributions to the Fund are used to support the goals of the Fund.  Contributions from Pat’s family will support administration and management of the Fund.

We welcome donations to the Art$upport Fund:

  • Check payable to Arts Wisconsin, Box 1054, Madison, WI 53701-1054
  • Credit card (via Mightycause) – VISA/MC
  • PayPal

Please include a note indicating that your donation is for the Art$upport Fund. Many thanks!

For more information on the Art$upport Fund and to suggest an idea for consideration, or to contribute to the Art$upport Fund, contact Anne Katz, Executive Director, Arts Wisconsin, 608 255 8316 |  

Thanks to Art$upport donors:

Sara Aster Milwaukee
Susan and Robert Barnett South Milwaukee
Daniel Brophey Brookfield
Jean Butzen Evanston, IL
Susan Dunlap Cincinnati, OH
Irene Frye  Chicago, IL
John and Vickie Geier Oconomowoc
Kelly and Andrew Gelzer Hillsdale, MI
Kyle Kerbawy Bloomfield Hills, MI
Lynn Lucius Milwaukee
Carolyn Macklem Englewood, TN
Mary Beth Malm Milwaukee
Jim and Judy Marks Waukesha
Margaret Jane Moore Whitefish Bay
Robert and Anita Petrykowski Milwaukee
Helen Ramon Brookfield
Helen Ramon Brookfield
Noma Richardson Chicago, IL
Carolyn and Jay Scott Milwaukee
Naomi Stanhaus Chicago, IL
Audrey Strnad Milwaukee
Katherine Wales La Quinta, CA
Tom Hlavacek and Monica Murphy Brookfield
Leo Ries and Marie Kingsburg Milwaukee
Paula Litt and Irving Faber Chicago, IL
Management Cornerstones Lake Geneva
Mildred Rossi and Julia Dagostino Wallingford, CT
Marshall Land Bluff LLC Lake Geneva
Retirement Research Fndn Chicago

Recommendations:  The Importance of Being Small, April 2012

  • Identify a vocal champion for small arts organizations. The spokesperson must be recognized and respected by civic leaders, and be the voice to aggregate the needs of smaller arts organizations with funders, policymakers, and community leadership. The champion must be a collaborative partner with all of the other local players. At this time, no individual or organization has stepped forward to be an advocate for the smaller arts organizations and artists. The United Performing Arts Fund focuses on mid-sized to large performing arts groups. Creative Alliance Milwaukee is not currently active in this role. The Nonprofit Center is not seen or used as a resource for the arts.  Neither the city nor the county currently provides support beyond very limited funding for arts organizations.
  • Create an ongoing revenue stream of basic financial support for small arts organizations. This should not draw funds away from direct funding to individual arts organizations, nor compete with UPAF. Of course, UPAF could assume a more inclusive stance and offer funding to all “performing” arts, or better yet, to all arts organizations, regardless of discipline. One example of this model to consider is ArtsWave in Cincinnati, Ohio.
  • Establish a joint endowment for arts groups with budgets of $100,000 to $3 million. An example is High Point’s endowment for African-American arts groups, established at the Greater Milwaukee Foundation. Originally, the goal of this group was to raise $250,000 as an endowment, with the annual return shared among five-six small groups. Expand it, or establish another vehicle for a similar purpose.
  • Conduct an annual community-wide event to generate a sustainable cash flow for small arts organizations. The event should target the entire community and have the goal of raising at least $1 million annually. Modeled after the “Miller Lite Ride for the Arts”, such an event could raise enough funding to provide a baseline of annual support for the small arts groups that are virtually excluded from all regular sources of funding. Explore other revenue streams ranging from an affinity credit card to an online campaign.  Whereas $50,000 does not make a big dent in a multi-million dollar budget, it could alleviate many sleepless nights for a small group.
  • Continue to build the capacity of small and mid-sized arts groups through grants from the Nonprofit Management Fund. In addition to technical assistance grants that address management and governance challenges of the individual organizations, consider investing in a larger initiative to support the recommendations in this report. Also, some of the funding partners could entertain a major investment for a signature project supporting small arts.
  • Find space that is large enough for multiple small arts groups to co-locate. Ensure that creativity, as well as administration, could be nurtured. The building needs to include: offices, performance, rehearsal, and storage space. Creative Alliance Milwaukee’s research into creative collaborative spaces could reinforce options.
  • Build a volunteer pool of several hundred people that can be tapped by any small arts organization. While many of the larger, more established arts groups have their “friends”, League, or appropriately-named group of dedicated volunteers, the smaller groups could share such a talent pool.
  • Explore joint promotion and marketing efforts that reach a wider audience through a collaborative approach. Sharing advertising exposure and its costs, as well as cross promoting events could be organized.  Consider a wide variety of options, such as a joint subscription campaign with a flex-pass for all of the groups.
  • Investigate opportunities for fiscal sponsorship for artists and arts groups that may not want or need to be nonprofits to conduct their activities.  For example, Milwaukee Artist Resource Network could act as a fiscal sponsor for a variety of projects for artists, such as filmmakers, musicians, performers, and visual artists.  Other kinds of affiliation, which would negate the need for attaining nonprofit status, could also be explored.
  • Use existing networks, as well as create new ones, to unite arts leaders, individual artists, and organizations through technology. Research what other communities have implemented to make it easy to connect and collaborate. Move beyond websites and portals, to smart phone apps and interactive audio/visual techniques to share information, coordinate activities, deliver services, promote opportunities, organize events, and link Milwaukee’s arts community to the rest of the world.