Arts Wisconsin

A reader settles in with a book at Woodland Pattern Book Center, 720 E. Locust St., Milwaukee.

Some want to grow Wisconsin’s economy by attracting companies that manufacture LCD panels or mine for frac sand, but a new report emphasizes the economic boost that comes from growing the “creative sector.”

Arts Wisconsin — in partnership with the League of Wisconsin Municipalities — released the report “21st Century Wisconsin,” which documents the importance of the state’s creative sector. The 23-page report contains these numbers:

  • $5.3 billion — that’s the annual compensation for people working in the creative sector.
  • $9.1 billion — that’s the value added to the state’s economy by the arts.
  • 91,789 — that’s the number of people employed in the arts sector in the state.
  • 3 percent — that’s the arts-sector share of the state’s economy.

The creative sector, according to the report, provides more value than the transportation sector at $9 billion, agriculture and forestry at $5.5 billion, utilities at $5.2 billion, education services at $2.8 billion and mining at $1.3 billion.

In Milwaukee County, according to the report, there are 1,572 arts-related businesses that employ 12,725 people.

The creative sector account for 4.3 percent of the total number of businesses in the county and about 2.4 percent of the people they employ.

Dane County, meanwhile, is home to 1,363 arts-related businesses that employ 6,542 people.

Arts Wisconsin executive director Anne Katz says the report “provides a snapshot and shines a spotlight on our state’s abundant creative resources” and “combines this information with a call to action: the critical need for investment in the arts, culture and creativity as an investment in Wisconsin’s future.”


Call to action

The report’s recommendations include:

  • Inventory and map local creative assets to plan economic growth.
  • Collect and categorize data and research as an investment in creative economy development policy and programming.
  • Prioritize access to the arts for all. There must be a diversity of arts opportunities in the community so everyone can participate in some way, not just those who can afford the price of a ticket.
  • Integrate arts into education for all students in the public schools. Wisconsin’s 21st-century education must be not just STEM, but STEAM — Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math.
  • Integrate the arts and creativity into every project, program, organization and effort happening locally and beyond. The arts are not separate from everything else going on in a community.
  • Develop opportunities for creative and cultural entrepreneurs in venture capital, business administration, social networking and marketing activities.
  • Recognize the vital connections between the informal and formal sectors of the creative economy.
  • Support investment in civic infrastructure, such as arts centers, museums and libraries.
  • Focus on building and sustaining a creative place through a quality of life for all that includes a vibrant street life, arts, food, libraries, parks and other public spaces, local radio stations, museums and bikeways.


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