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Arts Leaders On Creating A Sustainable & Equitable Arts Career Pipeline In Milwaukee

High school students from the MIAD graphic design internship at Hanson Dodge learning from working professionals.
Courtesy of MIAD
High school students from the MIAD graphic design internship at Hanson Dodge learning from working professionals.

Creativity is often a top skill set that employers look for— along with other skills like complex problem-solving and critical thinking. However, Wisconsin misses the mark in supporting the arts.

"We are fiftieth in the nation in public funding for the arts," says David Lee, the chief executive officer of Imagine MKE. "We spend about 4 cents per capita in public funding for the arts. If we just got us up to 14 cents per capita that would put us into a virtual tie with states like Mississippi and Alabama."

According to a study from Greater Together, the city of Milwaukee is considered one of the worst metro cities in terms of racial equity in the creative sector. At least 1,600 positions are needed to be added in the sector to reflect the demographics of Milwaukee. Greater Together and its collaborators aim to reach that goal by 2030.

The Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design (MIAD) joined this initiative early on. Just this summer, they launched a graphic design internship for high school students in partnership with Hanson Dodge. Participants received introductory training from MIAD professors and spent two weeks learning from professionals at Hanson Dodge. They were also awarded scholarships to attend MIAD's pre-college programming this summer and were paired with a mentor who will support participants throughout the academic year.

MIAD has also partnered with TRUE Skool this past winter to engage students in elevating their creative explorations. Jeffrey Morin, president of MIAD says, "Our role in this process is in the early parts of the pipeline moving into these professions."

Both Lee and Morin agree that there needs to be stronger support from the local government.

Lee says, "We’re trying to flood the zone, particularly here in Milwaukee with incredibly talented designers, creatives and people with sort of an artistic way of looking at and thinking about the world. These are some of the top recruited skills and talents that companies in the 21st century need."

"From MIAD's perspective, it's serving in the community and helping to train people in their careers that will rewarding and life sustaining," Morin adds.

Mallory Cheng was a Lake Effect producer from 2021 to 2023.
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