Business and art might not seem to have much in common, but two Wisconsin groups are working together to prove this notion wrong.
Arts provides an economic impact of at least $145 million in Dane County annually, according to a report by Americans for the Arts in 2012. City leaders are taking notice — Mayor Paul Soglin stated in the report that the arts are key to the city’s economic cultural and development strategy.
Dane Arts Buy Local, brainchild of Dane Arts — a group promoting “expressive living” for Dane County residents — and entrepreneurial hub 100state, was designed to offer a unique platform for buying and selling local art.
The partnership between Dane Arts and 100state faced skepticism about its implementation, but is a strategic union designed to highlight the economic impact of art while encouraging a local arts scene, Brent Gerlach, community development director for 100state, said.
The partnership was born when Mark Fraire, director of Dane Arts, wanted to get more involved in the community by bringing people of different backgrounds together.
“The idea is that you bring people together from different arenas, and then you get sparks by having people with different backgrounds together,” Fraire said. “The whole idea of my work is to increase community engagement while still creating art of the highest merit.”
The first event was this fall, and gave local artists the opportunity to sell their art work, discuss potential opportunities and engage with the community, Gerlach said.
The event featured an impressive amount of local artwork set to groovy music and a hip-hop dance performance by a crew of local dancers.
The goal behind Dane Arts Buy Local is to create a platform where people can purchase art and be sure their money is staying local, Gerlach said. Frequently, during large art events like Art Fair on the Square, visitors think they are buying local, when in fact the artist has arrived from outside the region. Only submissions from artists who live within Dane County were accepted for DABL, he said.
Prior to this event, Fraire felt like not enough was being done directly for artists in the community. Hosting events like this, as well as reaching out to provide creative space for artists, are both ways Dane Arts will try to increase community engagement.
Though increasing the prevalence of art in the community is important to both Dane Arts and 100state, the economic impact of these types of events is significant. The arts contribute around $699 billion nationally, Fraire said.
The event held on Oct. 15 alone generated at least $100,000 overall, Gerlach said. A portion of this estimate is sales made at the event, but an additional portion is based on commissioned pieces, and relationships that will lead to future opportunities.
The partnership has benefitted both 100state and Dane Arts.
Longstanding government programs, like Dane Arts, can face challenges when trying to maintain a connection to younger generations. The partnership gave Dane Arts an opportunity to engage more with the younger population, bringing youthful energy into the planning process, Fraire said.
For 100state, working with Dane Arts established the organization as a group with a countywide reach, Gerlach said. Partnering with the county is the next step toward 100state’s goal of having a global impact.
“I think working with the county adds a lot of validation to our organization,” Gerlach said. “We are able to cultivate economic and cultural prosperity on a larger level.”
Though 100state and Dane Arts have barely finished debriefing from the 2015 Dane Arts Buy Local Event, the partners are already looking toward the 2016 event.
Gerlach considered the first event a success, and he does not anticipate as much skepticism during future planning.
“This was such an incredible opportunity to connect with so many key influences,” Gerlach said. “We are looking forward to playing a role in helping to create a more beautiful city and county.”