Creating the Future

initiative will set goals for growth of Valley’s creative economy

Tom Giffey, photos by Andrea Paulseth

A muralist creates a new work of art during the Uptown Art Jam on Oct. 21 at Artisan Forge Studios in Eau Claire.
A muralist creates a new work of art during the Uptown Art Jam on Oct. 21 at Artisan Forge Studios in Eau Claire.

The rise in prominence of music and other creative arts in the Chippewa Valley is yesterday’s news. So what does the future hold for the creative economy in the Eau Claire area? That critical question will be the focus of an upcoming initiative that will be aimed at creating a pathway the creative economy can follow towards continued growth.

The effort is a collaboration among the leaders of the cities of Eau Claire and Altoona and Eau Claire County. “The area has become known for its vibrant music and arts scene,” Eau Claire County Administrator Kathryn Schauf said. “We as local governments would like to cooperatively work to nurture and support these efforts to provide continued community growth.”

“It’s my hope that we will come out of this initiative with very specific strategies and approaches for implementing those strategies that can continue to move our creative economy forward.” – Dale Peters, Eau Claire city manager

Earlier this year, the three local units of government applied for and won a Future Regions Initiative grant from the Local Government Institute of Wisconsin. According to the institute, the Future Regions Initiative “promotes intergovernmental collaboration, broad community engagement, accountability, and strategic foresight as a means to conquer communities’ thorniest long-term challenges.”

While the increased prominence of the Valley’s arts-based economy may seem anything but thorny, maintaining its momentum might prove challenging over the long term. As part of the initiative, 80 to 100 locals with a stake in the creative economy in its broadest sense – everyone from musicians to software engineers – will meet three times over the coming three months. (The first gathering is Nov. 1.) During these meetings, invited participants will work with a consultant, Rebecca Ryan of Next Generation Consulting in Madison, to brainstorm ways to nurture economic improvement.

“It’s my hope that we will come out of this initiative with very specific strategies and approaches for implementing those strategies that can continue to move our creative economy forward,” Eau Claire City Manager Dale Peters said.

In addition to the invitation-only strategy sessions, Peters said the initiative will have a public component, which will engage local residents in the process via social media. (Keep on the lookout for details in the near future.)

The Chippewa Valley was only one of two regions of the state to receive funding from the Local Government Institute. (Racine County is the other.) The three Chippewa Valley municipalities that applied for the grant have a long history of collaboration, which is something the Local Government Institute was looking for, Peters said. Tackling the creative economy was a natural fit for the application, because there’s a strong local consensus about the issue’s importance, he added. The $17,500 grant will be matched by the municipalities.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity for our community and our region, and I’m excited about the ideas that will be brought forward,” Peters said.

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