The east-side incubator illustrates the importance of supporting arts organizations.
Earlier this month, T.L. Luke broke down all the misconceptions about arts funding and the impact they have on Wisconsin’s economy. Instead of being a waste of money, funding the arts actually spurs consumer spending and tourism, resulting in tens of thousands of jobs (meanwhile Foxconn created… how many?) and millions in revenue. And that’s just the direct impacts we can measure, not the wider rippling effects. People are also drawn to live in areas with thriving arts scenes, and aren’t we experiencing a worker shortage in this rapidly aging state?
Still, Wisconsin is dead last in state arts funding, endangering critical arts organizations like east-side venue/gallery/shop/educational hub Communication (which also happens to be Tone Madison’s main partner organization). Communication supports artists and musicians from marginalized communities and works to build a thriving arts community. In this comic, Luke lays out all the ways Communication is a vital component of Madison’s arts community—and a case study of the broader importance of the arts—and how you can help support all the work that they do.
Oh also, this is a not-so-subtle reminder to come to the Vintage and Record Sale on Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Communication, 2645 Milwaukee St., which will go to support the work Communication and Tone Madison do.
Script and descriptions
Cover of “Auntie Luke’s Guide to Wisconsin’s Art Economy Part 2,” a photo of Communication’s Madison storefront with an illustrated push pin at the top of it and a green pencil overtop. To the left of the photo are word bubbles that say, “Using Communication as a case study, we’ll discuss: How art orgs help communities! And! How communities can help art orgs!” Beneath this is an illustrated map of Madison, Wisconsin, the isthmus surrounded by two green lakes labeled “Lake Mendota” and “Lake Monona,” and gray-scale neighborhoods divided by Average Income indicators. Communication and Artworking are in the $ (lower income) section, Madison Youth Arts and Art Lit Lab are in the $$ (middle income) section, and MMoCA, Overture Center, and Monroe St Arts Center are in the $$$ (higher income) section. In the bottom right corner is “© 2023, @ tl.luke, Page 1/10” and T.L. Luke’s black and white logo of her signature.
First header says “What is Communication?”, black bubble white text says, “A sober, all-ages arts and music nonprofit in Madison.” Next to it says, “AKA, a “Safe(r)” Space.” Below and to the right is a grayscale version of Communication’s House Rules poster. It reads, “House Rules: No drinking on the property, this is a sober space. No predatory behavior, harassment, racism, classism, sexism, homophobia, Transphobia, or ableism. Do Not touch people without their consent. Please speak with someone working in the space if you have any concerns. Second header says, “Who do they help?” Arrow points to an illustrated ripped piece of paper that has checked boxes in a list, “Artists, musicians, marginalized creatives, and those who haven’t yet found their place in more “traditional” art spaces.” Third header says, “Their Mission Statement:” followed by an illustration of two hands (one light gray with a floral hand tattoo, one dark gray with green nails) going into a pinky promise in the upper right corner of the section, and an illustration of a Black woman with her black hair in a long ponytail, wearing hooped earrings and a green blouse. This section reads, “Dedicated to cultivating stronger bonds throughout the creative community in and beyond Madison. Committed to engaging in antiracist work, mutual aid, and equitable compensation for artists + musicians. Believes in breaking down all possible access barriers to creative expression. Bottom right reads, “Page 2/10.”
In a black bubble at the top of the page it reads, “Every community would be lucky to have an art organization that serves vulnerable artists. And yet…when WI underfunds art, orgs can’t afford to stay true to their mission. The pressure to compromise values for money hurts the artists they help.” To the left of that is an illustration of a magnifying glass looking at a penny, a frustrated comic-styled black cloud is coming out of it, signifying frustration for such a low amount of money found. Below is the first header, “For Example:” followed by an illustration of Communication’s Director, Jennie Bastian (she’s a white woman, dirty blond hair, green circular glasses, and a green bandana with stars tied around her neck; a ripped piece of paper says, “Jennie Bastian, Communication’s Director.” From her mouth are word bubbles that read, “The mission guides everything we do. It guides our principles. So, what does “Safe(r) Space” mean today? Covid-19 still kills thousands a month nationally. When we know immunocompromised individuals have few options for experiencing art safely, the definition of safe(r) space MUST include public health concerns.” The second header, slightly to the left, reads, “#1: Masks,” followed by “Communication still requires masking in their art shop and at their events, in keeping with said mission.” Illustration of a “cut here” line. “BUT…some see that as a BARRIER,” is written, followed by an illustration of an angry older white woman (white hair, black turtleneck) saying “arg.” She’s looking at an illustration of a painting covered by an oversized black mask that says, “BARRIER,” followed by more text that says, “Instead of seeing it as the act of CARE that it is.” surrounded by two large parentheses. To the right of that is a graph showing an income and attendance crash post 2020, an angelic dollar bill flying away. In a black bubble next to that it says, “So attendance has suffered, & less customers = less sales.” Bottom right reads, “Page 3/10.”
Word bubble on the left says, “But, can’t communication just apply for grants?” Word bubble responds on the right, “Sure, but when orgs can’t depend on state grants, they have to reply on other sources…” Header says, “#2 Grant Confusion,” followed by an illustration of a “DENIED” stamp on a piece of paper. “…But those grants aren’t always reliable.” Read from right to left in columns, it says, “Communication once applied for a grant, wasn’t chosen, and received this feedback* (on a piece of paper underneath with checked boxes): “Not necessarily innovative” and “Innovative org within the community.” “* for the SAME grant!” Central column has a word bubble, “Smaller art orgs, that serve lower income communities, get inconsistent feedback or uninformed criticism on grants ~all the time~,” followed by, “And have to defend themselves harder than art orgs in high income neighborhoods,” pointing to “Overture Center” & “MMoCA” (In Madison, WI.) Last column has a photo of Communication’s Art Shop with text overlaid, “In 2022: $18,000+ paid out to 80+ artists, Communication Art Shop.” Under that it says, “Despite having great stats that rival larger art orgs with better funding!” Word bubble says, “Since opening in 2018, Communication has organized:” followed by starred bullet points that read, “Over 120 art workshops (led by local, paid artists), 10 featured artist events, 6 record sales, 13 makers markets, 5 thrifty markets, 12 art exhibitions, and 244 live music events.” } “& these events put $$ in artist pockets!” Word bubble says, “And it doesn’t stop there!” In black in the bottom right it reads, “Acknowledgment from the Director: Thank you to both community members willing to do what it takes to keep us safe (masking) + our supporters across the city + state – we feel your support!! <3 Jennie B.” Bottom right, “Page 4/10.”
First header says, “Communication is Community,” followed by an illustration of an old-timey megaphone with a green heart coming out of it. Next to it reads, “Like so many art orgs, communication is one of Madison’s loudest community advocates.” Header two says, “Mutual Aid Examples:” and in parentheses, “A practice based on direct action, cooperation, + solidarity, where ppl give what they can + get what they need, outside of unjust systems of power. – UGA School of Social Work.” Underneath are six green leaves with a date and mutual aid description on each one. They read: “2020, co-organized art auctions to benefit criminalized survivors. 2021, assisted the Rape Crisis Center with printing zines for their Gamechanger Program. 2021, published a zine by & for incarcerated individuals in Wisconsin, & provided to them for free. 2022, assisted with holding MMoCA accountable for their mistreatment of the 2022 Triennial Artists. 2022, put significant admin labor into local reproductive freedom efforts. 2021-2022, mutual aid work sold thru their art shop raised nearly $3,000!” Bottom right, “Page 5/10.”
Top left is an illustration of a trans-nonbinary person, short green hair and a trans flag on their white tank top (but in a green and gray variation, in keeping with the color scheme), holding their right hand over their chest and their left hand is up. A word bubble out of their mouth says, “Wow. I love the arts, and I had no idea art orgs helped not just artists, but our community as well! How can I help?” Header says, “#1: Educate + Advocate.” Below are 3 columns with checked boxes listed below each subheader. First one says, “Share socials” with the list, “Upcoming events, take photos of said events, and like, comment, share, + bookmark art org posts.” Below this column is a word bubble that says, “Doing this helps the algorithm boost posts!” Underneath that in the bottom left of the page is an illustration of a hand (green ring on the thumb, black nail polish with a white pentagram on the thumbnail) holding a phone in a black case, Instagram is pulled up on the screen. There are two photos showing, both actual photos from Communication’s East Side Winter Market. This is a guide for where to find the link, comment, share, and bookmark buttons on Instagram. In the second column it has the subheader, “Outreach,” with the list, “Invite friends to events/shop, tell coworkers to buy gifts from local art shops, collaborate on outreach projects.” Below that is another word bubble that says, “In charge of your newsletter? Add local art events!” The third and last column says, “Show up,” with the list, “Advocate for the arts at city common council meetings and call state reps, demand arts funding.” Another word bubble says, “Be a loud voice!” Beneath this is an illustration of a green phone (cracked screen), that shows a screenshot of the Madison Common Council website. It reads, “The mission of the Common Council is to represent the residents of madison by promoting the safety, health, and general well-being of the community by incorporating the City’s core values into their work with currently available resources. The Council Office staff supports the alders in these efforts.” Over that is a label that reads, “Mtgs are on Zoom, can attend from bed!” Bottom right, “Page 6/10.”
On the right is an illustration of the artist, (white person, black braided pigtails, black rimmed glasses, gray t-shirt with a pencil and paintbrush design on the pocket, and little peaks of tattoos by the collar and on their fingers) a word bubble coming out of her mouth says, “If you have more time and want to help support art orgs, you can,” followed by header, “#2: Volunteer.” “Art orgs (like Communication) rely on volunteers to help with their events / community outreach.” Word bubble, “Why?” Blank bubble reads, “When states don’t fund the arts, vital community orgs cannot afford paid staff. Volunteerism meets this unmet need and ensures orgs can continue their mission!” Word bubble from the artist again, “Volunteering directly supports Revenue!” Word bubble, “How?” Black bubble reads, “Let’s use Communication’s hugely successful East Side Winter Market as an example:” Beneath to the left is is a photo from Communication’s East Side Winter Market with labels over it that say, “is held in December around winter holidays!” and “* Please Note: Renting venues is expensive! More reason to help fund art orgs!” To the right it reads, “Vendor testimonials (anonymous):” followed by three testimonials separated by illustrated ‘cut here’ lines. Top to bottom, the quotes read, “Routinely & easily my most financially successful [market] each year. I attribute that success to all the hard work & thought put in by Communication’s team.”, “Booth fees were fair & accessible, event staff provided support for vendor breaks, & the location could not have been better. I saw a 900% increase in sales.”, and “It is refreshing to work with an org that prioritizes an artist’s needs & agency.” Bottom right, “Page 7/10.”
On the left is an illustration of a Black person (large fro, white t-shirt, holding a green dollar bill) with a word bubble coming out of their mouth, “If you have the time and the means, and you want your favorite local art orgs to survive (again, in a state with almost no arts funding, Part 1).” Header says, “#3: Have Ownership,” followed by 3 subheadings and more checked box lists. The first one says, “Donate Directly” and listed “No strings attached funding, tax deductible, great for one-time donations.” To the right is a screenshot from Communication’s donor box app on their website, with a black bubble that reads, “Communicate has a donate link on their website, like most local art orgs!” The second one says, “Become a Sustaining Donor,” and lists, “Monthly donations, directly assists paying the unglamorous monthly expenses, literally sustains orgs, tax deductible.” To the left is a piece of paper that reads, “Communication’s Monthly Expenses. Rent: $1,440, Utilities: $345, Insurance: $30, Marketing: $120, Total/Month: $1,936, Total/Year: $23,232.” The third and last one says, “Become a Core Collective Member*,” has a description screenshot from Communication’s website that reads, “Our Core Collective is a group of dedicated volunteers who take responsibility for particular areas of Communication’s overall programming model,” a black bubble next to it says, “* other orgs may call it something different, but the concept is the same,” and lists, “Volunteer ~8-25 hours/month, help develop long-term programming strategies, examples include:” At the bottom is an illustration of a piece of paper that reads, “Arts Programming Manager, Shop/Market Support, Music Outreach and Promo Manager, and Development and Fundraising Manager.” Bottom right, Page 8/10.”
Top left is an illustration of the artist in a spaghetti-strap top (same black braids and black rimmed glasses, but now with full tattoo sleeves and chest piece visible) sitting at a table. There’s a label that says, “TL Luke” in cursive, pointing to the artist. A word bubble coming out of their mouth reads, “In part one, we learned the economic impacts the arts have on the State:,” below is a numbered list that says, “Catalysts for consumer spending, boosts tourism, provides more revenue to WI than the beer industry, and attracts talent, helps our population.” Three word bubbles follow, they say, “Just to name a few. In Part Two, we learned the impact art organizations have in our local communities & how we can help them (since they can’t depend on the state.) But I’m an artist, Communication helps my practice; maybe I’m a lil biased! So, don’t take my word for it:” The bottom half of the page are 3 testimonials, screencapped from the computer, with black labels for the author of each quote. Each testimonial is separated by more ‘cut here’ lines. The first quote is from Wisconsin State Assembly Representative Francesca Hong, 76th District, “Communication has been a leader and a sanctuary for creatives in the greater Madison area. In a state that ranks dead last for arts funding, Communication has remained steadfast in fighting for artist equity, supporting grassroots organizing & mutual aid work, and uplifting diversity as a strength in the arts. They are more than worthy of our support and deeply needed in our community. Please give what you can today.” The second quote is from Emily Eklof, Jewelry, Art Maker, and Vendor, “The people at Communication work so incredibly hard to ensure that the artists in their community are lifted up and compensated fairly for their work. I can’t begin to explain what it would mean to show that kind of support back to the folks who have worked so hard and given so much to make Communication what it is – an organization I am so proud to be a part of.” Under her quote is a note that says, “Full script will accompany comic.” And last is a quote from Jess Waggoner, Musician, Professor, and Writer, “I am a queer, trans disabled musician who has been unable to perform during the Covid-19 pandemic due to significant immunity concerns. There is a major dearth of opportunities to perform in a space where masking is heavily encouraged, so it was an incredible experience to be able to perform in public again. Communication was able to fairly financially compensate all musicians for their time which is also unique and made this event more financially accessible for all. I was also able to invite disabled and immunocompromised friends and family who cannot typically attend live music events because of illness precautions and the lack of masking in public spaces in Madison. They were grateful to be able to attend and the performance room became an informal disability community gathering.” Bottom right, Page 9/10.”
The top of the page is a photograph of the making-of the mosaic on the outside of Communication’s building. In the tiles, it reads, “Narratives Build Knowledge. All hands on deck.” In a white bubble, it reads, “This mosaic is on the outside of Communication’s building.” Followed by two word bubbles that read, “It reminds us that sharing perspectives, communicating your knowledge and lived experiences, is required for progress. Think about it. How can we help, if we don’t know help is needed?” Header reads, “All hands on deck:” followed by a black bubble that reads, “Let’s not forget that all of these art orgs have their own missions and communities they serve.” Below is the Map of Madison, Wisconsin from the first page/cover. To the left is a word bubble that reads, “And when we help one thrive, we ALL thrive. So!” followed by, “Thank you for sharing & helping the arts!” Bottom right, “Page 10/10.”
Sources: All information and photos come from Communication.
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