Charts: Percent change in arts-related businesses and employees from 2007 to 2008. Click gallery.
We're good. The state's lousy.
Wisconsin's overall arts employment is up 4.19% from January 2007 to January 2008. In south-central Wisconsin, arts employment is even more robust, with a 10.62% increase. We lead the state in arts-employment growth.
That's the good news.
The bad news is that statewide gains would have been greater but for double-digit drops in some disciplines. For example, the number of dancers employed in the state is down 23.68% from 2007. Almost a quarter of Wisconsin professional dance - gone.
Similarly, the number of theater professionals employed in Wisconsin is down 3.59%. The number of state theater troupes is down 6.9%. The number of nonprofit arts councils in the state is down 7.69%. The number of employees at Wisconsin publishing firms is down 10.84%. And there are many more declines.
As part of its annual Arts Day lobbying effort at the Capitol, the nonprofit advocacy group Arts Wisconsin released state employment numbers earlier this year. The figures were drawn from a report by a similar national group, Americans for the Arts, based in Washington, D.C. Context has only recently been provided by a new Americans for the Arts study that looks at all 50 states.
The numbers are both positive and disturbing, and in some instances just plain inexplicable. "People may be seeking jobs outside the nonprofit sector that provide higher pay and benefits like health insurance," says George Tzougros, executive director of the Wisconsin Arts Board. "They may also be gravitating to places like Madison [which have healthy arts communities] - in and outside of Wisconsin."
Anne Katz, executive director of Arts Wisconsin, says that the statistics point to the volatility of arts employment, particularly in a slowing economy. She also suggests that we may be slowing the Wisconsin creative economy ourselves.
"In 1992, the state invested 59 cents per person in the Wisconsin Arts Board, ranking Wisconsin 30th in the nation for state arts agency funding," she says. "But in 2008 Wisconsin ranks 43rd, at an allocation of only 44 cents per person. In comparison, Minnesota provides $1.97 per person, and Illinois provides 83 cents."
As part of the next state budget, the Legislature will consider a "New Economy Funding Initiative," which would raise Wisconsin per capita arts funding to $1. In the meantime, we have to deal with some problematic numbers.
The statistics break down in two ways: the number of arts-related businesses a state or congressional district has, and the number of people those businesses employ. Some of the results:
Wisconsin ranks 20th in the nation for its number of arts businesses, but only 44th for its number of paid arts workers. (Neither dollar amounts nor numbers of volunteers are reported.) This is a wide spread that is seldom mirrored by other northern Midwestern states. By comparison, Minnesota nationally ranks 17th for its number of arts businesses and 23rd for its number of arts employees.
Wisconsin ranks 33rd among the 50 states for the rate at which its number of arts businesses has grown in the last year. In arts-business growth, we are tied with Arkansas, and trail Oregon and Washington. We're just ahead of Minnesota, which is usually seen as an arts powerhouse.
The odds are that, if you're a paid arts professional, you work in our area. One in 5.45 Wisconsin arts professionals is employed in south-central Wisconsin's 2nd Congressional District.
"Madison is definitely one of the state's cultural hotbeds. It is home to countless arts and cultural opportunities," says Karin Wolf, program administrator at the City of Madison Arts Commission.
Tzougros agrees. "Madison is a 'creative class' magnet because of the university, a thick labor market, and the number of creative people already here and working in the arts, sciences, business and technology," he says.
As of 2008, our district has a total of 1,617 arts-related businesses, an increase over 2007 of 12.84%. These businesses have 8,326 employees. Performing-arts employment here is up 6.63%. Design employment, including architecture, is up 20.36%. Arts-related educational and service employment has increased 12.5%. But museum employment is down 7.41%. Publishing employment is down 8.75%.
Statewide, the big hit to dance was mostly taken in Wisconsin's 4th Congressional District, which includes part of Milwaukee County. The 6th Congressional District, which includes Adams, Dodge, Fond du Lac, Sheboygan and Winnebago counties, leads the state in overall arts employment loss, down 5.53% from 2007.
Determining larger trends is difficult: Some figures are contradictory depending on geography. For example, museum employment in the southeastern corner of the state, in the 1st Congressional District, is up 72.04%. In the southwest and central-west portion of Wisconsin, in the 3rd Congressional District, it's down 51.42%.
Americans for the Arts observes a rather loose definition of "arts," and it's probably more accurate to say that it looks at the arts, culture, broadcasting and some recreational destinations.
Accordingly, its reports note that the number of employees at various Wisconsin historical societies is down 42.94%. The number of employees at Wisconsin zoos and botanical gardens is down 17.82%. Here in south-central Wisconsin's 2nd Congressional District, employment at zoos and botanical gardens is down 59.78%.
How can the 2nd Congressional District maintain its lead, and even improve? "Publicly and enthusiastically acknowledge and demonstrate value of the arts, invest creatively and substantially, patronize and enjoy!" says Karen Crossley, coordinator for the Dane County Cultural Affairs Commission.
Tzougros suggests better planning. He also thinks that support should be increased for the Madison Arts Commission and the Dane County Cultural Affairs Commission. "Not only to give grants to the traditional arts sector, but to find ways to work with the other facets of the creative industries."
Statewide, Katz feels that the level of creativity is amazing. "But it's not getting any easier to keep a nonprofit going or make a life in the arts as an independent entrepreneur," she says. "The number of staff and organizations ebbs and flows - and we want it to keep flowing. The fact is that the sector will be healthier, and will grow, as the state invests in these creative resources."