Wisconsin's In Last Place For Arts & Culture Funding Among US States

Aug 17, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has been especially difficult for Wisconsin’s artistic and cultural industries. These industries account for 3.1% of Wisconsin's gross domestic product. That's more than hospitals (2.9%) or accommodation and food services (2.4%), which includes the revenue made from restaurants, bars, and hotels. While some states have created emergency funds for these industries, Wisconsin hasn’t. In fact, Wisconsin ranks dead last for the amount of funding the state generally provides to arts and culture among U.S. states.

A new report by the Wisconsin Policy Forum looks at the impact this could have on Wisconsin’s economy and cultural organizations.

The COVID-19 pandemic has been especially difficult for Wisconsin’s artistic and cultural industries, which account for 3.1% of Wisconsin's gross domestic product.
Credit Courtesy of Wisconsin Policy Forum

"Arts and culture contributed $10.1 billion to the state’s economy in 2017, and over 96,000 people were employed — either part-time or full-time in arts and culture," says Joe Peterangelo, a senior researcher at the Wisconsin Policy Forum. 

More than a third of people employed in arts and culture in Wisconsin have filed for unemployment since the beginning of the pandemic. Peterangelo explains that many of these organizations and employees were the first to feel the effects of the pandemic and resulting lockdown — and these industries will be among the last to normalize once the pandemic subsides. 

Still, there doesn't seem to be any discussion among state lawmakers and leaders to aid this industry locally, and the impacts of that inaction could be felt long after the COVID-19 pandemic. 

"We don't know what's going to happen at the state level or at the federal level ... but it does put more pressure on trying to attract private funding support," says Peterangelo. 

Right now, he says getting private donations is difficult because of the economic hardship that so many people are facing. 

"You have a lot of competing needs right now, it's not only arts and culture. Though they are one of the hardest-hit sectors, there are a lot of other needs out there. And also, you have a lot of people who've been personally, financially hurt by the pandemic themselves and are therefore less likely to be able to contribute to these organizations," he explains.

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