How the arts fair under Governor Walker

The Arts Face Severe Funding Cuts

by Doug E. L. Haynes

by Doug Haynes
Public funding for the arts is on the chopping block in a big way in Governor Walker’s budget plan. The proposal cuts the Wisconsin Arts Board’s budget by 73%. The Arts Board would loose 7 out of 10 staff members and cease to be an independent agency. Under this budget State funds available to support arts engagement, arts education and development of the creative economy falls from $2,963,300 to $804,000 annually. This reduction of $2,159,300 per year is a far greater percentage cut than almost any other state agency is receiving.
In such a reduced funding environment, the Wisconsin Visual Artists might expect to lose the the $5000 grant which has helped sustain the publication of this magazine. In addition, cuts in support might have devastating effects on venues throughout the state that show the work of Wisconsin artists. The budget will also eliminate the percent for art program, which provides funding to include public art works in the construction of state facilities.
The current Arts Board budget is .013% of the overall state budget. If these cuts go through, the Arts Board budget will be .0005% of the total state budget. Currently our Per Capita spending on the arts is 43 cents. This places us 38th amoung the 50 states. If these cuts go into effect and all other states’ arts funding remains the same, our rank will fall to 47th. By comparison Minnesota’s rank is #1, with per capita funding of $5.69. This is due to the Legacy Amendment that was passed in 2008 providing a percentage of the sales tax to support conservation, clean water and the arts throughout Minnesota.
In the past, funding for the arts has for the most part had bipartisan support in the state. During the campaign, candidate Walker did not make his plans for the Arts Board known, so those who are alarmed by these cuts might want to contact their legislators, or consider participating in recall efforts if their legislator is not responsive to these concerns. Another resource for making one’s voice heard is Arts Wisconsin which is an arts advocacy group. Their website,, is a great resource.
Among the recent throngs of protesters gathering at the capitol, I have meet a number of artists and have seen many creative forms of protest. The actions of our governor have been a painful reminder that elections do matter and have stired a new level of interest.
Another thoughtful take on this crisis can be found on the blog of WVA member Helen Klebesadel: