Doug Rosenberg coaches Little League. He farms on his land in Oregon. He works, owns a home and pays taxes.
Rosenberg is also an artist, another group targeted by Gov. Scott Walker’s budget cuts.
“I don’t know who they think these ‘artists’ are … we’re not privileged,” said Rosenberg, a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who received an $8,000 Wisconsin Arts Board grant in 2010. “These arts grants people get, we pay taxes on. It’s taxable income.
“It’s work, not welfare.”
In the proposed budget announced this week, the Wisconsin Arts Board would lose more than half of its funding and get rolled into the Department of Tourism. The WAB awarded more than $2 million in grants in 2011.
Anne Katz of Arts Wisconsin is encouraging people to join an “arts march” in protest on Thursday, March 3, starting at the Concourse Hotel at 12:30 p.m. Coincidentally, Thursday is the annual “Arts Day” at the Capitol.
Not surprisingly, Madison’s working artists are dismayed by the proposed cuts to state funding. Eliminating grants would affect arts organizations from the Madison Symphony Orchestra and Kanopy Dance to the Chazen Museum of Art and Opera for the Young.
Local community theaters, the Madison Youth Choirs, annual festivals like Token Creek and Bach Dancing and Dynamite and arts programs for disabled people all receive arts board funds.
Cuts would also impact individual artists who receive grants that let them focus on their work.
“It appears he doesn’t think that art is work,” said Angela Johnson, a local photographer who manages the art studio at the Madison Children’s Museum. Johnson received a $5,000 grant in 2010 for a photography project at Marquette Elementary School that involved more than 250 students in grades 3-5.
“The planning behind it, the coordinating with teachers, being in front of a classroom, working with a grade level, being able to see a project from beginning to end — it is work,” Johnson said. “It’s rewarding, it’s fun and creative. But it’s also work that should be looked at seriously.”
Walker’s budget cuts state funding for the arts to $759,000 in 2012, down from $2.4 million in 2011. The Arts Board provides money for public art on new buildings and a few individual grants in subject areas that rotate — eight visual artists received grants in 2010; other years focus on literary arts, choreography and performance art and music composition.
The board also funds artistic partnerships with local nonprofits. Artist and Community Collaboration Grants, worth $5,000 each, fund projects that bring artists into schools, senior centers, assisted living facilities and community centers.
Kate Hewson at the Arts Institute at UW-Madison used a grant in 2010 to connect the community to local food systems by partnering her dance company, Dear Heart Dance, with the Madison Area Community Support Agriculture Coalition.
The grant, Hewson said, “allowed us to hire local musicians and have an original score, and hire a local costume designer and have her create costumes for us.
“When you think about how little funding goes into the arts in the first place … in a way it’s an incredibly efficient use of funds because artists work for next to nothing most of the time.”
Hewson also objected to categorizing arts funding as “tourism.” One scholar, Richard Schechner, has placed arts on a spectrum from “efficacy,” or art that promotes change and interacts with its community, to “entertainment.” Overall, Madison arts tend toward the efficacy end — major touring shows like “Young Frankenstein” and Cirque du Soleil are in the minority.
“Arts do have a positive impact on the community,” Hewson said. “By putting it under tourism it denies the many, many other benefits of the arts.
“They’re not just about fueling the economic engine. They’re about community’s abilities to have an expressive life, and communication, and humanity.”
Cutting the relatively small funding for the arts also flies in the face of studies that show the arts contribute not only in terms of actual jobs — people working on stage crews, owning sculpting studios, teaching classes, etc. — but also in terms of entertainment. A couple coming downtown to see “Legally Blonde” at the Overture Center or catch a dance concert at the Wisconsin Union Theater is likely to spend money on pre-show dinner, drinks afterwards and parking.
“One of the things that Madison is known to be is a place where young creative entrepreneurial types want to come live,” Hewson said. “By reducing arts funding, it reduces what they want in their life and community and makes it a less attractive place.”
Rosenberg’s “Meditation/Labor,” a video installation, is currently showing at the James Watrous Gallery in Overture Center. Johnson’s photo project is still on display at Marquette Elementary; in October during a short stay at the children’s museum, some 22,000 visitors saw the collages of student photographs taken near the Yahara River.
“I took my son last week to see the Jackie Robinson story (Children’s Theater of Madison’s ‘Most Valuable Player’) at the theater,” Rosenberg said. “It the most extraordinary thing to … watch this great local theater group that relies on Arts Board funding, to see them doing a piece that talks about racism and diversity and all the things we try to teach our kids in school through the metaphor of baseball.
“But hey, cut their budget. That’ll be great.”