Now is the time to speak up for the arts, arts education and creative economy

  Take Action!


On March 1, Gov. Scott Walker presented his 2011 – 2013 Biennial Budget Address to a jointsession of the Wisconsin State Legislature.  The budget contains many obvious and not-so-obvious ways that the budget will affect the arts, arts education and creative economy in Wisconsin and the artistic and creative opportunities that Wisconsin residents deserve. 

Please note that the Governor’s proposal is the biennial budget’s starting point, and the numbers included in the final budget can go up or down from here in the state Legislature.  It should not be taken for granted that the Governor’s proposal will stand in the Legislature.  Some legislators may think the Governor’s budget went too far, others may think he hasn’t gone far enough.  

If you believe that the arts are “part of the solution” for Wisconsin, you must speak up!  Committed citizens – not just people who are directly involved in the arts, but everyone who cares about Wisconsin’s future – will need to advocate and educate in this environment.  If we want the decision-makers to recognize the public value of the arts for Wisconsin, we must take action. Our motto must be, “Don’t mourn, organize.”

Making change will take more than just sending emails to legislators.  We need to “surround” and educate legislators with information, data and stories about the value of state funding for their constituents. 

The focus of our advocacy right now will be the members of the State Legislature, since they will be engaged in the process of reviewing the budget for the next few months. 

Arts Day on March 3 (you can still register!) is the first step in this campaign, but the budget will unfold over the next few months and it’s up to all of us to get involved.  (Click here for Nine Reasons why you must be an advocate for the arts). 

Part #1 of this message is information on the proposed cuts to the Wisconsin Arts Board, with additional information about other budget proposals that will affect the arts in the state.  Part #2 is a brief overview of the budget process.  Part #3 is information on what YOU can and must do to advocate and educate, if you want to see change.

Please know that this is just the beginning of information from Arts Wisconsin and partners about the state budget and advocacy efforts.  We will continue to analyze the budget and its impact and facilitate the campaign for action.  We will keep you up to date and equipped with the information and tools you need to make your voice heard. 

Please make sure you – and others who care about Wisconsin’s future – are signed up for Arts Wisconsin’s Legislative Action Center and as a FaceBook “fan” to get the latest info, and up-to-the-minute information will be available on our website and using our Arts Activist Center.

Thanks for your good work.  Keep in touch with questions, comments, thoughts, and ideas.  Remember:  don’t mourn, organize!

Part #1:  Here’s how the proposed budget would affect the arts, arts education and creative economy in Wisconsin: 

Wisconsin Arts Board
The big news is that the Wisconsin Arts Board’s budget will be reduced by 58%, severely reducing its ability to serve the people of Wisconsin.  Here are the numbers:

Governor’s Budget Action – Arts Board

            FY 11 FY 12 Change % Notes
General Purpose Revenue (GPR) 2,417,700 759,100 -1,658,600 -68.6% General state funding
Program Revenue – Federal                   759,100 759,100     Funds from the National Endowment for the Arts
Program Revenue – State 525,600             24,900                      -500,700 -95.3% Percent for Art Program eliminated
Program Revenue – Other 20,000 20,000     Other Gifts or Grants Received
Total 3,722,400  1,563,100  -2,159,300     

The details are:  

  • Match GPR Funds to Federal Funds
    “The Governor recommends reducing expenditure authority to match GPR appropriations to PRF appropriations in the amounts shown to balance the budget.”  A state must have a state arts agency in order to receive funding from the National Endowment for the Arts and it must be able to match the funds it receives.  Until now, the State of Wisconsin has invested more than its federal award in the publicly valued programs and services of the Arts Board.
  • Consolidate the Arts Board into the Department of Tourism
    The Arts Board would cease to be an agency attached to tourism for administrative purposes.  Governor Walker’s budget would consolidate the Arts Board and make it a program of the Department of Tourism.  The result of this action will be the elimination of six employees, the transfer of four employees to Tourism, and the Arts Board and its now executive director reporting to the Secretary of Tourism.  The details of this reporting structure are unclear and will need further explanation from the Governor and/or the Department.
  • Elimination of the Percent for Art Program
    “The Governor recommends eliminating the Percent for Art program and associated expenditure and position authority to balance the budget.”  The Percent for Art program would cease to exist.  While no new public art projects would be begun, it is unclear if the Governor intends to void existing contracts.

The Governor’s Budget in Brief has this to say about the consolidation:  “Transfer the Arts Board to the Department of Tourism to help focus support for the arts and grow the economy.”

The Arts Board’s section of the budget says this:  “The Governor recommends eliminating the board as a separate agency and consolidating its responsibilities, functions, positions and assets into the Department of Tourism to increase operational efficiency, improve effectiveness and promote tourism development. The Governor also recommends transferring funding and position authority to the Department of Tourism for the support of the arts functions, which include arts community and economic development services, grant administration, initiatives in arts education and in underserved communities, and the Folk and Traditional Arts program.”  

In addition to the severe Arts Board cuts, the state budget reduces funding for education, local governments, the the UW System, and technical colleges.  The specific effects are currently unknown, but we are pretty sure that they will mean reduced access to the arts and arts education for Wisconsin’s students, since too often the arts are the first thing to go when budgets are tight.  David Brooks, in yesterday’s New York Times’ op-ed “The New Normal,” said, “…legislators and administrators are simply cutting on the basis of what’s politically easy and what vaguely seems expendable. In education, many administrators are quick to cut athletics, band, cheerleading, art and music because they have the vague impression that those are luxuries. In fact, they are exactly the programs that keep kids in school and build character.” (Read the full op-ed here).

Additional information about the budget’s impact on the arts will be coming to you soon.

Part #2:  The process:

Now the Governor has released the budget, the bill goes to the Joint Finance Committee (click here for the list of JFT members) for review.  (If your legislator is a Joint Finance Committee member, it will be especially important to connect with them in this process.)  After that, the Senate and Assembly each will have an opportunity to edit and revise, after which the budget bill will go to a “conference committee” made up of senators and assemblypeople for final review.  The Governor has a last chance for review (with the power to make significant changes) before signing the bill into law.  The budget must be signed by June 30 since the fiscal year starts on July 1.  Click here for more on “How a Bill Becomes Law.”

Part #3:  You have the power to make change.  But where to start?

1)       You can send an email message urging support for the Wisconsin Arts Board using Arts Wisconsin’s Legislative Action Center

2)       Think about contacts and connections, for yourself and your colleagues and friends, and how those people might be connected to your legislators.  Those are the people who should help advocate for this cause.  Start getting in touch with them to talk about educating your elected officials.

3)       Plan to make an appointment for you and colleagues to meet with your state Senator and Representative as soon as possible.    Legislative contact information is below. Arts Wisconsin will be happy to help you achieve these meetings.  Get in touch with Anne Katz, Executive Director, to discuss the details. 

4)       Start gathering your stories, information and data about the impact of the arts as part of the solution, and the need for creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship in our local and state economies, jobs in the creative sector, infusing the arts into education for all Wisconsin students, and keeping our communities healthy and vibrant by ensuring access to the arts for everyone, everywhere in the state.  You will educate legislators using: 

  • Stories (with pictures, if possible) about the ways in which the arts have had an effect on economic vitality, educational advancement, civic engagement, and healthy communities, in your community   
  • Information about programs and services supported and enjoyed by the community
  • Data about the number and scope of the people involved in the arts in your community

Administration/Legislature contact info:

Making the case – issue briefs to share:


Click here for a recent Wausau Daily Herald op-ed about the critical need for Wisconsin to invest in 21st century development strategies and opportunities.

Go to Arts Wisconsin’s Arts Activist Center for more information and ways to speak up for the arts.

Arts Action Alerts are a service of Arts Wisconsin and its Legislative Action Center.  Arts Wisconsin provides timely and critical information and actions on local and global arts, community and government issues throughout the year.   Please forward this email on to colleagues and peers who should have this information, so they can also stay in touch and involved.

If you are not already a member, please support Arts Wisconsin’s statewide advocacy, service and development work so that we can continue to do our work on your behalf, and so that everyone, everywhere in Wisconsin can continue to participate in and benefit from the arts, culture, creativity and innovation.  Many thanks!

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