As brochures go, Art Works' is big and arresting: 15 inches wide by 22 high by 20 pages deep. It opens to reveal a series of 10 poster-size images, including the UW-Madison Engineering Center's striking terrazzo floor, works by the likes of glass master Dale Chihuly, Ko-Thi dancers, a farmer, happy campers, a pillow fight and a Harley-Davidson employee. Each is accompanied by concise blocks of text addressing the nature of art, creativity and culture, and their roles in Wisconsin.
What's the big idea?
Art Works, explains George Tzougros, is intended as a conversation piece. The executive director for the Wisconsin Arts Board says the campaign frames the creative class as an engine for community and economic vitality, while broadening our sense of its membership to include scientists, teachers, executives and others seeking innovative solutions to emerging problems.
"Creativity is a very fundamental piece going forward," says Tzougros. The message is aimed at business leaders and policymakers "who need to understand that the arts are not simply something that sit at the kiddie table of economic development." A PowerPoint version of the brochure is in the works, for school and civic-group presentations.
The initiative was conceived about two years ago, says Tzougros, citing Lt. Gov. Barbara Lawton (chair of the Wisconsin Arts Board) and board member Paul Meinke (founder of the Green Bay design firm Arketype) as its principal drivers. A $7,000 National Endowment for the Arts grant paid for 25,000 copies of the brochure, which can also be viewed on the Arts Board's website.
"The Creativity Crisis," Newsweek's July 10 feature on recent declines in U.S. creativity scores, has brought this simmering topic to full boil. The story notes that the downturn comes as more CEOs are forecasting greater need for creativity among employees, and as other countries are shifting greater educational emphasis toward creativity.
The Art Works brochure is being distributed this summer to Wisconsin legislators, arts groups and economic-development groups like the Madison area's Thrive, northeast Wisconsin's New North and southeastern Wisconsin's Milwaukee 7.
This fall the audience will broaden to parents, teachers, school administrators and the general public during a series of nine town-hall meetings across the state.
Tzougros is under no illusions that everyone will embrace the initiative. But if it succeeds, the campaign will move the creative class up from the kiddie table to an integral place in the state's economic-development discussion.