A look at arts funding in Madison’s 2018 city budget, part II

A boost for the Bubbler, another big subsidy for Overture, and other arts-related highlights in the upcoming city budget.

A boost for the Bubbler, another big subsidy for Overture, and other arts-related highlights in the upcoming city budget.


The Madison Public Library's Bubbler program organized last December's

The Madison Public Library’s Bubbler program organized last December’s “Municipal” art show at the vacant Madison Municipal Building.

As Madison officials work toward passing the city’s 2018 budget, we’ve been looking at how the budget proposals will impact publicly supported arts and music programs. In the first of our two-part series, we delved into the music initiatives the city has been funding and what 2018 might hold for them. In this piece, we’ll look at some of the other cultural funding items scattered throughout the budget. If you want to help us keep this conversation going, join us in our Tone Madison‘s Surly Notebook Facebook group.

Ongoing city-funded art programs

Fun fact: The Madison Arts Commission is technically part of the city’s Planning Division. Over in that division’s proposed operating budget, there’s $80,500 for the Municipal Arts Grant program and $10,000 for the BLINK program, which funds temporary art installations around the city, then there’s $1,500 for the city’s Poet Laureate program. As in the last couple of budgets, the Room Tax Fund will kick in an additional $79,000 to support arts grants. As we’ve noted in previous coverage of city arts funding issues, city arts administrator Karin Wolf has had some disagreements with the city commission that controls room tax funds.

Additionally, the Overture Center for the Arts stands to get another $1.9 million this year. Unless you want to count the city’s overall investment in the Madison Public Library and Monona Terrace, the annual subsidy to Overture is the biggest single arts item the city funds from year to year. Overture was operated by the city in 2010, when officials decided to convert it into a private nonprofit receiving public subsidies, amid massive budget problems. Its finances have improved since then. Ted DeDee, who has been Overture’s CEO since 2012, recently announced that he will retire as of next May, so it’ll be interesting to see what his successor brings to Overture’s programming and its relationship with the city.

The Bubbler

Moving over to the Madison Public Library section of the proposed operating budget, there’s a boost in funding for MPL’s Bubbler program. In its five-year lifespan, the Bubbler has been one of the more effective city arts programs in recent memory, hosting everything from media workshops for teens to artist residencies to its after-hours Night Light parties for adults. The Bubbler also hosted last year’s Municipal event, in which dozens of art installations filled up the city’s Municipal Building before renovations began there.

In 2018, the city wants to allocate $125,000 to the Bubbler. This funding will replace some of the private and federal grant funding the program received previously, city finance director David Schmiedicke said in a recent interview with WORT-FM. The Bubbler got a boost early on with some funding from the National Endowment for the Arts and the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services, so this might reflect some anxiety over the future of federal arts funding.

Madison Public Market

The planned Madison Public Market at the intersection of East Washington Avenue and First Street would include spaces that can be used for performances, and the city has discussed art and music as important components of the market’s programming. The proposed 2018 budget will put $11.8 million toward the market’s construction (as detailed here), though $3 million of that comes from federal funding and $2.5 million from private donations. For more on this, I’d recommend reading a recent Capital Times story that looks at funding sources for the market and concerns over how much money the city is putting into it.

Do you have further questions or thoughts about how we can better cover public arts funding? Email us or come talk with us in our Facebook group.

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