Bill Would Launch Creative Economy Grant Program

Tom Giffey, photos by Taylor Smith

A bipartisan bill pending in the state Legislature would set aside half a million dollars for grants to encourage Wisconsin’s creative economy. The bill would create a program – to be administered by the Wisconsin Arts Board – that would award grants up to $40,000 to businesses, nonprofits, local government agencies, or business development organizations. According to the Legislative Reference Bureau, the competitive grants would be used to promote “individuals or organizations whose products or services have an origin in artistic, cultural, creative, or aesthetic content” as well as to support job creation, economic development, arts education, and workforce training and development. Under the bill, $500,000 would be set aside in the state’s 2019-20 fiscal year for the program, which would be evaluated for its effectiveness in 2021. Among the groups lined up to support the bill is Arts Wisconsin, a nonprofit statewide arts advocacy organization. “The 20th century model of economic development, to make a generalization, was ‘Let’s give a big business tax breaks and they will come and plant themselves here,’ ” Anne Katz, the group’s executive director, told radio station WXPR in Rhinelander. “It’s much more evolving now towards ‘Let’s make a good quality of life for everyone so people will want to come here, want to stay here, they will want their friends to come here.’ ” Versions of the bill with Republican and Democratic sponsors have been introduced in both the state Senate and the Assembly, and the Assembly version of the bill was approved by the Committee on Community Development in late April.

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