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March 4, 2008

Arts advocates, unite!

Jennifer A. Smith

Tomorrow, March 5, is Arts Day here in Wisconsin. It's an annual event organized by Arts Wisconsin, a statewide arts advocacy group. Although it works closely with our state Arts Board, it is an independent organization. Part of the goal of Arts Day is to get Wisconsin's artists, arts administrators, educators, etc. together with state legislators. Legislators are unlikely to fund what they don't even know about, and they need to know about what their constituents are doing. Arts Day is spearheaded by the vocal, passionate and determined Anne Katz, and I've asked Anne to do a guest post one of these days to talk about the role of arts advocacy from her perspective.

Arts advocates have had some recent successes here in Wisconsin, one of which is the passage of tax breaks for films (and other forms of entertainment) made in Wisconsin. While the knee-jerk liberal in me typically views any sort of corporate tax break with suspicion, I think this is great news. We've lagged behind nearby states in this regard, losing potential business to them. The first major film to be shot here, after the tax incentives took effect on Jan. 1, is "Public Enemies," based on Bryan Burrough's book about John Dillinger and starring Johnny Depp, Marion Cotillard (whee!) and Christian Bale. UW-Madison graduate Michael Mann will direct.

According to the AP, the film company plans to spend about $20 million in Wisconsin and will earn about $3.9 million in tax credits.

While Wisconsin's Arts Day will no doubt touch upon these sorts of large-scale economic issues, the overall vibe is much more local and grassroots, and the arguments put forth in favor of the arts are certainly not all based on dollars. Rather, it's a time for anyone who cares about the arts and arts funding to have a say based on what is most important to them -- and it's a challenge to all of us to try to become arts advocates in some form throughout the year, not just one day in March.

Posted by Jennifer A. Smith at March 4, 2008 7:34 PM