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Letter From the Members of the Wisconsin Arts Board

As your citizen representatives to Wisconsinís 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 current budget proposal includes plans to dissolve the Arts Board and cut the stateís investment in its arts and culture sector by 73% - 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 drawing 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 has become as essential as roads and bridges to development, recruitment and retention of a competitive workforce and the businesses that follow.

The Arts Board is the only state agency providing leadership and support to develop the state's creative economy. This dynamic sector enjoys a 14% annual growth rate in the world economy; in Wisconsin, it 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 economic development organizations develop their creative industries.

We lead education innovation to develop all our state's children's creative capacities. We've been developing rural and urban models for partnerships that ensure vibrant, creative communities become the breeding ground for entrepreneurs and new jobs. We sponsored research that demonstrates our partners' out-sized direct economic impact on local 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 the Arts Board has not seen an increase in state funding since 1992, we will willingly take a 10% cut to do our part 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 Wisconsinís communities attract new jobs.

We encourage everyone to let your legislators know that elimination of this citizen-led 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, Algoma, Chair
Bruce Bernberg, Racine, Vice Chair
Paul Meinke, Green Bay, Secretary
Storm G. Elser, Chenequa, Board Member
Susan Friebert, Milwaukee, Board Member
James H. Hall, Milwaukee, Board Member
Jerry Hembd, Superior, Board Member
John Hendricks, Sparta, Board Member
Deborah Janz, Spencer, Board Member
Helen R. Klebesadel, Madison, Board Member
Nick Meyer, Eau Claire, Board Member
Barbara E. Munson, Mosinee, Board Member
Glenda P. Noel-Ney, Madison, Board Member
Sharon Stewart, Washburn, Board Member
Robert A. Wagner, Milwaukee, Board Member