No, I'm not looking to be marked as that guy who never wants to work in the Milwaukee arts scene again. I'm trying to point out some radical alternatives.
To fight for an already marginalized fund so that it can remain marginalized and the pitiful little pot that it is seems like a waste of energy to me at this point.
The people who are making this fight right now are exclusively artists. Granted, I was not at the public hearing last night at City Hall, and I applaud my fellow Milwaukee artists who were there. But, and I know 99% of the artistic community is going to disagree with me on this, I believe we are fighting the wrong fight on this Milwaukee Arts Board issue.
The city budget is a mess. Cuts need to come all around. Many will argue that my suggestion of eliminating the Milwaukee Arts Board fund simply takes arts and culture out of City Hall completely. Guess what folks, outside of Michael Murphy and Nik Kovac there are no great arts advocates in City Hall. Sometimes you really need to burn something down to build it up and make it better, and that's my thought on this whole thing.
If you haven't read the Journal Sentinel's story about the public hearing please follow this link. The basic plot of that tale is that artists showed up in good numbers, but those firefighters (also facing big cuts) were the ones who really made some impact.
I also received a recap and call to arms communication from Christine Harris and The Cultural Alliance today. I took note of this item in the e-mail I received with particular interest:
One avenue we need to pursue better is getting people from other walks of life - particularly businesspeople, or teachers, or students - to speak out. We are in the field, but when people not in the arts directly speak, it makes a much stronger voice. So please think about who else you can bring along in this advocacy. Meanwhile, communicating with the Mayor and your Alderman is a very good idea.
A great idea that jumps out at me in this is to get more people from outside of the arts to speak out for the arts. So, here's my three point plan to start to do that:
- Call the Mayor.
- Tell him we don't want any Milwaukee Arts Board money.
- Tell the Mayor to give whatever would have remained in the Arts Board Fund to the firefighters.
You want to get new allies, you have to sometimes play on their turf. I would like to believe that the world does not function under the quid pro quo philosophy, but the realist in me knows that it does.
If we choose not to accept any money from The City of Milwaukee for Arts Funding, we've actually changed the conversation, and taken control of the future of how we want our city to recognize and support the arts in Milwaukee. And perhaps, a few more firefighters will be attending Gallery Night and the Sunday matinee of SMELL OF THE KILL.
(Please, throw tomatoes at will.)