Lt. Governor Barbara Lawton wants people to know that, after 35 years, the Wisconsin Arts Board is central to the economic outlook of our state. The Chair of the Board says the group is important in attracting and retaining the kind of workforce we need.
"The role of the Arts and Culture industry, not only is an industry that generates revenue and one that employs thousands of people in Wisconsin, but is one that lifts us into view as a great place to live could not be more important."
Lawton says the arts are not merely for enrichment; it's vital to a good education.
"Every child has creative capacity that needs to be developed. So the arts in conjunction with science and math and reading is absolutely critical more now than ever because we need to cultivate a workforce of innovative thinkers and entrepreneurs."
Like anything else, funding is important. The Board is asking for another 56 cents per person, for a total of a dollar a head. Lawton justifies it by saying it's been 15 years since the Arts Board received an increase in its budget, and its role is more important, as seen recently with the return of the film industry to our state. She says art goes beyond the beauty of our natural resources.
"Cultural tourism has become critical to our tourism industry because it doesn't depend on snow or sun; it's available year 'round and it helps identify Wisconsin as a forward-thinking state."
Lawton understands that any request for money will be a tough sell at a time when we expect a $400-million budget shortfall. She defends the request, saying that's small compared to the multi-billion dollar budget as a whole. Wisconsin ranks between 45-and-50th in the nation for state spending on the arts at only 44 cents per person, while our neighboring Minnesota ranks number 9 in spending at $1.67 per person, and it's working for that state's economy and families. Lawton is meeting with Wisconsin Counties Association and other significant groups across the state, saying they can help each other.