Instead of writing an arts column this week, I have chosen to publish a public letter from the Wisconsin Arts Board to the governor and the Wisconsin Legislature.
Walker proposes to cut state funding for the arts by over two-thirds, eliminate the Wisconsin Arts Board, transfer its four remaining staff members to a program within the Department of Tourism, and count the remaining funds associated with the arts under the column of "Marketing." (Note: a bit of funding has been restored to the proposal reducing the cut from 73% to 68%).
This proposal and action on it is far more important to the arts, education and commerce in Wisconsin -- and thus in our area -- than anything that might be said about arts here at home. Arts in River Falls continue to flourish. Let's try to keep it that way.
Letter from the members of the Wisconsin Arts Board: (Quoted and slightly cut from the Wisconsin Arts Board website.)
As your citizen representatives to Wisconsin's state arts agency, and as business owners, employers, and employees in the non-profit and public sectors, the 15 members of the Wisconsin Arts Board understand that big cuts to state spending are necessary to balance the upcoming biennial budget. We also know that communities continue to reel from the economic crisis, and that job creation must be a top priority.
The....proposed plans to dissolve the Arts Board and cut the state's investment in its arts and culture sector by 73% (is) a mistake if we are serious about economic recovery and new job creation.
Funding to the Arts Board currently represents no more than .013% of the budget (13-thousandths of 1 percent), but that small investment pays huge dividends in the resiliency of regional economies in every part of the state. Grants and more than 10,000 hours per year of expert consulting to non-profit organizations and artists protect and maintain the cultural infrastructure of the state. A vibrant cultural scene contributed to...the promise of 200 new high-paying jobs to Eau Claire in 2009, the lowest ebb of the crisis. That cultural infrastructure convinces companies looking to locate in Wisconsin that they can grow in a dynamic setting in every corner of the state. That infrastructure...(is) as essential as roads and bridges to development, recruitment and retention of a competitive workforce and the businesses that follow.
The Arts Board...(provides) leadership...to develop the state's creative economy. This dynamic sector...in Wisconsin,...boasts 3.6% of total employment. The Arts Board put our state at the helm of the National Creativity Network, and helps local and regional...(communities) develop their creative industries.
We...(help) to develop all our state's children's creative capacities. We've been developing rural and urban models...to ensure that vibrant, creative communities become the breeding ground for entrepreneurs and new jobs. We sponsored research that demonstrates our partners'...(positive influence on economies).
The Wisconsin Arts Board is recognized nationally as a leader in supporting community development and creativity in education; it leverages impressive private philanthropy with the influential imprimatur of state grants, and provides a point of investment for national interests.
Even though (state) Arts Board...funding...(has not increased since) 1992, we will willingly take a 10% cut...to help address the deficit. This cut, proportionate to cuts other state agencies have been asked to take, will still allow us to provide high-quality services, smart development of our cultural infrastructure and workforce, and to help Wisconsin's communities attract new jobs.
We encourage everyone to let your legislators know that elimination of this...agency would cripple the jobs agenda and be a false economy by many measures. Knowledge and expertise would be lost, organizations and businesses rendered more vulnerable, and jobs lost instead of created. Insist our state maintain a bright jobs future with the ongoing leadership of the Wisconsin Arts Board.
Wisconsin Arts Board
Barbara Lawton (former Wisconsin Lieutenant Governor), Chair
See Wisconsin Arts Board website for other members.
Meanwhile, local artists and art supporters see that our area arts scene continues to thrive:
Some possibilities in the next couple of week follow:
Portals: June artists at Gallery 120: Opening, June 10, from 4-8 p.m., behind Global M.A.D.E., featuring works in acrylic, assemblage, ceramics, pastels, stained glass and more by Nancy Viebrock, Judy Hostvet/Paulson, Sheila Bergman, Sandy Cormican and others.
Dakota Dave Hull and Duck Baker (American finger style guitarist): Rural House Concert; June 4, 8-10 p.m.; reservations mandatory; call Sue West at 715-688-9750; $15 donation at the door; all proceeds go to the musicians to fund their ongoing collaborative music production efforts).
"Luminous Color and Shape - The Beauty of Glass:" Through June 23; Red Wing Arts Association, 418 Levee St., Red Wing, Minn.; featuring area glass artists including Bonnie Rubenstein, Pauly Cudd and others from River Falls, Peter Walderman, a glass artist from Brooklyn, N.Y., Stephan Cox, whose pieces are included in The Corning Museum of Glass, and many more; for more information go to: email@example.com.