If you think arts are bad for the economy, then you aren’t good at economics.
This is a very serious topic for artists in Wisconsin, as we do a lot of heavy lifting for the state economy but don’t get sh!t in return. We need to educate ourselves on the REALITY of the arts and why the misconceptions are so brutal.
This comic was later in the queue, but it was brought to my attention that beloved Madison art org pillar, @communicationmadison, is vulnerable to financial stress in part BECAUSE of this funding desert that is Wisconsin’s arts budget. Part TWO will be investigating Communication’s impact on Madison and the infrastructure they provide for local artists.
The full script is posted under the panels.
Script and descriptions
“Auntie Luke’s Guide to Wisconsin’s Art Economy: Misconceptions and Reality Checks” comic cover that depicts the artist (white woman, black hair in space buns style, black glasses, gray smock) standing to the right of an easel with a canvas that has the silhouette of Wisconsin in black, with 50/50 in white over it. Behind them is falling money. She’s saying, “If you think the arts are bad for the economy…then you aren’t good at economics! Stats, talking points, drawings, and more!”
This image shows the 4 step cycle of the State Budget and an illustration of WI Gov. Tony Evers. The top header says “State Budget 101:” and explains Step 1 “We pay our state taxes,” Step 2 “this funds most* of the state budget,” Step 3 “The budget funds and benefits the state + its citizens,” Step 4 “and strengthens our economy so…” (*State taxes, drivers license fees, state fines, park entrance fees, lottery, aka our money). The bottom half’s header reads, “Why this matters:” followed by, “…when we vote for state representatives, we entrust them with honoring the budget line items WE care about, because it’s OUR money. As such, WI Gov Evers’ 2023-25 Budget was informed by Public Opinion. However…WI’s Joint Finance Committee (GOP Majority) removed popular bipartisan line items, like: Medicaid Expansion, Paid Leave, Marijuana Legalization, and Replacing Lead Pipes.
“Included w/ the 545 items cut from Evers’ budget is a one-time $100 million investment to the arts, which had bipartisan support from Donald Trump’s former Chief of Staff and Wisconsin native, Reince Priebus.” In big letters, “So what? Wisc. Used to value the arts, but misconceptions (and bad economics) led to legislation:” The bottom half of the image is a table with 3 columns. Under “WI Arts Funding” lists “1983 – $809,000, 1993 – $2,874,900, 2011 – $2,417,700 / Act 43: WI GOP gerrymander state, win majority w/ less votes, 2012 – $839,800, 2012 – $784,000, 2023 – $807,100.” Under “Misconceptions” it lists “The arts are nonessential, the National Endowment of the Arts should be Eliminated First during budget crises, starving artists don’t contribute to the state economy.” Under “Policy Results” it lists, “Percept For Art Program (small % of state budget) eliminated under Gov. Scott Walker in March 2011, Wisconsin Arts Board has funding cut + downsized into Dept of Tourism, also March 2011, Wisconsin 50/50 in state art funding. More funding in 1983 than 2023. Sobering stats.”
Header “Reality Check #1: The Arts are catalysts for consumer spending.” “Data confirms states with Large art economies recover faster after recessions.” (This is shown with illustrations of Minnesota, 4/50 in funding, and Wisconsin, 50/50 in funding, followed by a graph that shows Minnesota has higher GDP than Wisconsin after 2020.) “This is essential because we STILL have NOT recovered to our 2019 Numbers.” Header, “Reality Check #2: The Arts Boost Tourism” followed by word bubble that says, “Let’s keep comparing WI to MN~” Beneath is MN and WI compared again with a green lightning bolt separating them. To the left is Minnesota, “Population = 5,714,000, $43,551,000 Arts Budget, $15.7 Billion Visitor Spending, 229,000 Jobs Created, Smaller Population.” To the right is Wisconsin, “Population = 5,920,000, $807,100 Arts Budget, $12.9 Billion Visitor Spending, 169,700 Jobs Created, Larger Population.”
On the top left, hispanic person with a green hat and white hoodie rubs their face with a hand that has a floral hand tattoo, their eyes are spinning. They say, “That is…so much.” The artist’s head is to the left, she says, “Yeah, it’s why it’s so hard to talk about. Let’s simplify is a bit!” Header, “When you go to a concert…chances are you’re not just paying for tickets:” Under neither is an illustration of a cab and a parking sign with checked boxes that say “Gas, Taxi, and Parking,” a fish fry and old fashioned that say “Pre-show fish fry and after show cocktails,” a baby and a bottle that says “Child care/babysitter,” and a band t-shirt and necklace that say, “March and Local Shopping.” “And that’s if you’re LOCAL! That doesn’t include: (more checkboxes) “Hotels or Flights, or even Admission! Studies show cultural tourists (aka travel for art, cultural heritage, and history) is driven by the arts.” In a word bubble at the bottom, “Which begs the question; if WI RELIES on Tourism, why WOULDN’T it fund the arts?”
In a word bubble, top left, “Maybe the arts don’t provide as much REVENUE in Wisconsin?” With an overlapped, “Ope.” Word bubble. Header, “Reality Check #3: But it do, though.” “Let’s compare…another tourist attraction, our BEER, to our arts re: their economic impacts.” An illustration of a can of stout next to a glass of stout. “WI Beer Industry: $9,000,000,000 (Billion) Revenue, 62,856 Jobs” with an exclaimed “Cheers!” “WI Arts + Culture: $10,828,800,000 (Billion), 87,185 Jobs.” At the bottom is an illustration of the artist in a green tank, wearing sunglasses, and holding an empty pint glass. She says, “Oh, and it gets better. The beer industry hires US to make their labels, logos, and all customer facing marketing. Strong art economies benefit ALL biz sectors because we help non-art biz PROFIT. Full stop.” Next to that is a closed bottle of IPA.
“Remember State Budget 101? The state budget only exists because we live in Wisconsin and contribute to it. But what if there wasn’t a population to fund the budget?” Word bubble, “It falls apart.” Arrow points to left, same illustration for Panel 2 of 4 step cycle, but on an illustrated piece of paper that’s ‘taped.’ “Well, Wisconsin’s population isn’t growing as fast as previous years.” Word bubbles read, “In fact, since 2020, almost ever major WI city has declined. Of course, there are a few exceptions. The outliers aren’t growing fast enough to maintain a tax base, but they ARE good models for successful growth. Particularly since WI must rely on MIGRATION to grow.” Illustration of another Wisconsin silhouette, but with red lines leading to (counter clockwise) “Kenosha: -1.34%, Racine: -1.73%, Milwaukee: -3.59%, Green Bay -0.28%, Wausau: -1.7%, Superior: -1.49%, La Crosse: -2.61%” and one green line that leads to “Madison: +0.39%.”
Word bubble upper left, “What does this have to do with arts econ—“ Header cuts it off, “Reality Check #4: The Arts Attract Talent. Let’s look at Madison: #1 Best Place to Live, 2022 (Livability), #2 Happiest City in US, 2020 (Men’s Health).” To the left is an illustration of the state capitol. A word bubble comes from it that asks, “Why?” On a ripped sheet of paper ‘taped’ one it lists 3 checkmarks, “Our parks, our food, and our strong arts and entertainment scene.” Below is an illustration of a white woman painting a flower mural on a brick wall, a word bubbles says, “Beauty + Value!” To the left and bottom, “How the arts help: Create communities w/ high appeal (for residents, biz, + tourists, 20% increase in property values when communities have art orgs!, and Arts create economic growth and delivery a creative workforce (which is desirable for high-incomer jobs!)
Panel 9: Header, “SO— … I ask again,” there’s an illustration of the artist dressed as an old-time accountant with a green visor and looking over a list of $$$$$$$. She says, “What economic reason is there to NOT fund the arts in Wisconsin? No, seriously. 105% increase in tax revenue, job creation, boosts migration, diverse income streams = a more stable economy. AKA WI GOP talking points.” In thought bubbles, “Am I being Punk’d??? It does not add up.” In a word bubble, “…could it be…” Header “Reality Checks: (down arrow) The Arts make residents 86% more involved in civil issues.” Word bubble “Voter suppression?” “Neighborhoods w/ arts activities see increase in test scores and a decrease in crime. } In Chicago; 5-year study in low income neighborhoods shows 5-10% improvements.” Word bubble, “Classism?” “Art increased Community Connection by 1.6% and strengthens empathy.” Word bubble, “Racism?”
“Regardless of the reason, Wisconsin NEEDS the arts, and the arts NEED funding.” Word bubble, “But from where?” Header, “Reality Check #8: Community Support.” To the left, an illustration of the artist in a green shirt, right hand on him, left hand rubbing her neck. Her eyes are closed as she’s saying, “In an ideal world, our tax dollars would be spent SMARTER, but that’s not our (present) reality.” “So, if you got it: Donate. The ONLY (financial) support artists have in Wisconsin comes from ART ORGS—and they aren’t funded well EITHER.” Header, “But YOU can help by:” Checkbox, “Becoming a sustaining donor for your local art organizations! (So they can better support us!)” Word bubble, “Helps with monthly expenses like rent, utilities, and staffing.” “In Part 2, we will investigate the impact of Madison Art Org, COMMUNICATION, as a REAL example of everything Part 1 has covered, with even more ways YOU can help Wisconsin help art.” At the bottom in a black footer, white text, “If you found this comic insightful, support this important research, witting, + art by donating to: Venmo: @ TLLUKEART (or) PayPal: TL@ TL – LUKE . C O M (together). Thank you!!”
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