The Great Recession: The state of the art economy in Wisconsin

by Tony Rajer

My profession as an art conservator takes me all over Wisconsin-consulting with museums, artists and collectors. Over the past 6 months Iíve been conducting a straw poll on the art economy in the badger state. The news is not good. Almost everyone says that people are not buying art, or are requesting deep discounts or payment plans. Art is selling but at a much slower pace. People are sympathetic about the state of things, but with high unemployment rates, such as Beloit running at nearly 20% itís hard to convince people to buy art. Even in good times itís rough being an artist, but now the situation is drastically worse. One Wisconsin museum closed in January (Fairfield in Sturgeon Bay) and several others are near financial collapse. Arts organizations like WVA are actively promoting, trying to keep the art spirit alive. We have to work together.

Several art workshops are now offering payment plans for summer classes. Times are tough. The big museums are even crying poor, with attendance down, costs up, they are scrambling to make up budget deficits and keep the doors open. Circus World in Baraboo is having a hard time staying open.

We are living in hard economic times; this should not lead to a recession in originality. You have to keep working. Changes in the state and national economy provide opportunities if you keep yourself open and willing to be flexible. The following recommendations were gleaned from talking with dozens of people throughout Wisconsin. 1.Try bartering for goods and services. 2. Swallow your pride and ask for help-network with others. State and local governments are setting up workshops for business and your art is a business. Take advantage of these opportunities. 3. Stop whining and start promoting. If you have a lemon, you must make lemonade. 4. Like Darwin said, ďitís not the strongest or the smartest animal that survives, but the one most adaptable to change.Ē There have been many recessions before, and we will survive this economic recession only if we work together and keep a positive attitude. Get started.