Civic Connections and Engagement Through the Arts

Ideas for governments, agencies, elected officials and civic leaders to support and invest in arts and creativity into the lives of community members and enhance and invest in economic/educational/civic vitality.

Or, how to answer the question, “what can our community actually do to grow the creative economy, enhance quality of life, keep our communities vibrant?” These are specific ideas:

  • Arts re-granting fund, either allocated directly by the city or subcontracted with a nonprofit organization
  • Public art/percent for art program
  • Creative Economy Business Development grants established by a municipality, county, or nonprofit (with public-private endorsement, partnership, and support)
  • Ongoing local government support for civic festivals and parades.
  • Establish a Mayor’s (or other local elected official) Coffee Group/Think Tank/Committee on the Arts; Mayor  gathers creative/entrepreneurial people together to meet informally on a regular basis – monthly, quarterly – at a downtown or neighborhood coffee house to brainstorm ideas about creative development/arts programs/streetscape design/any number of things.  Bring artistic and creative vision/perspective to municipal dealings on all sorts of issues, not just arts-related.
  • Establish a Poet Laureate position.  Applicable for communities big and small.  The city of Amery, WI – population 3000 – has an official Poet Laureate position; that person reads a poem before each Council meeting and big community events.
  • Establish a permanent art collection, with government agency purchasing works of art from a local artist on a regular basis and builds an art collection.
  • Exhibit art in municipal facilities
  • Establish artist in residence program for a city or for another civic institution, like a park or city pool – the kinds of places where an artist could be “in residence” are endless!  The Pfister Hotel in Milwaukee has an artist-in-residence and a “Narrator” program – very popular.
  • Mayor’s Awards in the Arts for local arts folks and business people/politicians who support the arts
  • Allow for the placement of temporary “yard” signs in the public right-of-way to promote arts events
  • Assign a “go-to” person at the highest level of city/county government, college/university campus, to liaison with arts sector.
  • Allow for free meeting space in municipal buildings for arts organizations and artists to convene
  • Encourage public employees to attend and promote arts events
  • Provide grants for free use of appropriate municipal performance space (if applicable)
  • Encourage the incorporation of the arts and artists throughout all levels of city government
  • Allowing grantees to participate in government discounted supply purchases from supply and other stores
  • Advertising on municipal and county website and TV station
  • Wiring existing and new facilities with high speed fiber optics
  • Joint disaster preparedness planning
  • Participation in government united giving campaign
  • Free advertising on municipal and regional transit system
  • Use of government facilities when not in use for government purposes.  For example:  use of county council meeting auditorium for arts events, artists work in temporary county vacant space
  • Schools not being used/surplused could be leased by arts organizations on a temporary basis
  • Use of municipal or county’s web team to design arts organization and creative business websites and mapping
  • Marketing of venues and attractions in county economic development and tourism publications
  • Creation of cultural districts
  • Partnering with economic development office to offer free business planning for artists and arts organizations
  • Joint grant opportunities-CDBG is a good possibility for funding.
  • Ongoing events sponsored by local government, such as farmers markets, to include space and promotion for arts fairs/sales
  • Green tape process-speed up permitting for events and facilities, etc.
  • Seattle has local artists’ music on their city’s telephone system, so when people are on hold they hear the work of local artists.
  • Free or reduced cost build out for interior of new government-owned buildings
  • Payment forbearance on water bills and perhaps even other utilities
  • Complimentary advertising
  • Complimentary programs on local government/cable access TV channel
  • Complimentary use of auditoriums, professional TV production studios, etc.
  • Complimentary parking on government lots and public parking garages
  • Road signage to direct tourists and cars to cultural institutions
  • Marketing and signage for arts and cultural districts
  • Insurance coverage to allow artists to use vacant store fronts of private buildings when vacant.

Want to discuss more ways to enliven your community through the arts?  Contact Arts Wisconsin | 608 255 8316 | |

updated March 2021