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Proposed budget includes ‘significant’ funding boost for arts and culture

The Creative Economy Tour stops by Makers North downtown Rhinelander.
Katie Thoresen
The Creative Economy Tour stops by Makers North downtown Rhinelander.

The National Endowment for the Arts says about 2.8 percent or $9.6 billion dollars was added to Wisconsin’s economy from arts and cultural production.

Yet according to Create Wisconsin, an organization focused on supporting the state’s creative economy, the state spending for arts and culture is among the lowest in the nation at 14 cents per capita.

Create Wisconsin Director Anne Katz was thrilled to hear Evers include the arts in his budget.

She says her organization, the Wisconsin Arts Board, and the artist community has been advocating the need for investment.

“People are doing amazing things with not enough resources. Wisconsin now has a great opportunity to capitalize on those resources, on those assets that we have,” said Katz.

Evers’ budget calls for putting $100 million in the Artistic Endowment Fund where interest earnings generated from the funds would be used to support arts across the state.

His budget would also increase funding for the Wisconsin Arts Board by $552,500 over the biennium.

In general, that money is funneled to artists and art organizations through grants.

“It’s a significant increase from where we are now. That’s going to mean deeper work by the arts organizations and potentially more work as well. It remains to be seen, but again at this moment we’re celebrating,” George Tzougros is the Executive Director of the Wisconsin Arts Board.

Celebrating because both Tzougros and Katz know there’s still a battle to get this funding.

“The arts are always looking for resources and never more than after COVID. Things haven’t yet responded to our return to normal, whatever it will look like. There are fiscal challenges for the field. There has not been an increase to the Arts Board’s budget on the state side, a significant one since prior to 2011,” said Tzougros.

While Evers has proposed this funding, it still needs to go through the Republican control legislature.

In response to Evers’ budget address Wednesday night, Republican leaders say they believe there are some items they could find bi-partisan support for, but some, including local Representative Rob Swearingen, are calling the overall budget a “liberal wish list”.

Still, Katz will work to share the importance of funding the arts.

“In a place like the Northwoods, we’re going to help people tell their stories. We’re going to help them tell those stories to their legislators to the Governor to the world so that people who are making those decisions understand that this really is a good investment for Wisconsin,” said Katz.

Republicans will work over the next four months to rewrite and pass the two-year state budget.

It will then go to Evers, who has the power to make changes with his line-item veto.

The new budget takes effect in July and runs through June 30, 2025.

Katie Thoresen is WXPR's News Director/Vice President.
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