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Building Power with Art Advocates

by David Lee on Nov 13, 2020
Building Power with Art Advocates

Over the quarter, the work of Public Policy Work Group has really kicked into high gear. We’ve had some great advocacy wins and in the upcoming year, we will be working to build on the progress we’ve made and to ensure that our city’s arts and culture sector is more fully integrated into the civic fabric of our city.  

What I love about Milwaukee arts and culture is the incredible abundance of excellent artists, arts groups, creatives, creators, culture makers, and institutions we have in our region. From that awesome band that you still may not have heard of all the way up to the Milwaukee Museum of Art, our city is a menu full of opportunities to engage, connect, and celebrate our shared humanity.

One of the key goals of the Public Policy Work Group is to increase public funding for the arts through public advocacy campaigns. We were excited to launch our state public funding campaign in the Summer with a sector-wide letter signed by the CEOs of 45 Arts and Culture organizations and a companion letter signed by nearly 30 board chairs that outlined the vital importance of our sector’s work.  

In the fall, after coordinating campaign efforts across the sector, which generated nearly 4,000 email correspondences to our state and federal elected officials about the importance of the arts and culture sector, Gov. Evers issued $15M in CARES funding for non-profit arts and culture groups in Wisconsin. 

We’ve shifted our advocacy focus to the City and County to make sure they follow the lead of the state – and other municipalities – to ensure that unallocated CARES Act funds are directed to the arts and culture sector.  

The rich creative tapestry and infrastructure we have in our city must be protected and supported by our public leaders because its continued existence is not a foregone conclusion, especially given the challenges we face in the time of COVID-19. This richness of creativity in our region does not simply benefit the arts community and its patrons, but rather the benefits accrue to the region as a whole. Not only do the arts and culture organizations and institutions generate hundreds of millions in economic impact, the many hundreds of thousands of creative citizens we have in our city also work as teachers, caregivers, and in other settings where they take care of us and where their creativity helps to solve problems for the city.

What do you love about Milwaukee's art and culture? Tell your public leaders why it should be supported and protected by visiting

Over the next year, the Public Policy Work Group will be focusing its work in two main areas: 

Public Funding: We have played an important role in increasing the overall pot of money for the arts in Wisconsin by at least $15M through the reallocation of CARES Act funding. As the state budget process starts in January, it will be important for our sector to raise its voice to ensure that the state legislature recognizing the role our region’s arts and culture industry plays in economic impact, tourism, and talent attraction and retention. As a state, we invest 14 cents per capita in general fund revenue into the arts. Can our sector come together and make a goal to 50 cents per capita?  

Improving Regulations and Laws: The ways in which our city and county regulate the arts and culture organizations and individual artists can stimulate the growth of the industry or hold it back. The public policy work group will be focusing on the development a public policy framework to improve the ways in which state and local regulations can help to grow our industry and recommend and advocate for changes to existing laws and regulations that limit the arts and culture sector to work, show and thrive.  

The work of the Public Policy Work Group is so important because if we are able to get good public policies passed that help amplify the work of our city’s artists, creatives, and arts organizations, the effects are broadly shared with the sector like rainfall. This is why we need a broad cross-section of artists and leaders participating in this group.

Learn more about the Public Policy Work Group here! If you are interested in joining, please reach out to David Lee at


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