Books like Richard Florida's 2002 The Rise of the Creative Class have focused attention on the relationship between cultural life and economic development. The author, a professor of public policy at George Mason University, argues that for communities to thrive in the 21st century, they must attract entrepreneurs and workers in knowledge-based industries. Those workers, Florida argues, are increasingly choosing where to live first and where to work second. Because of this, companies looking to attract top-notch workers must locate themselves in desirable communities.
And just what makes a community desirable according to Florida and a chorus of like-minded thinkers? First and foremost, it's a lively cultural climate, encompassing not just traditional markers of "high culture" like symphonies and ballet companies, but jazz and rock clubs and offbeat arts spaces. Workers who place a strong emphasis on quality of life will be attracted to these vibrant communities, where their skills will become drivers of the local economy.
So where does Wisconsin and its cultural climate fit into this larger picture? That's exactly what the Wisconsin Arts Congress is poised to examine. This event takes place Tuesday, Oct. 12, 2004, at the newly opened Overture Center for the Arts in downtown Madison. Keynote speakers will be Mark Barone and Tom Barnett of Paducah, Kentucky, who have launched a successful "Artist Relocation Program." The program promotes Paducah to artists as a welcoming, affordable place to put down roots. Since 2000, this small city in western Kentucky has attracted more than $12 million from the private sector for partnerships and programs that use the arts as an engine of economic development. Conference attendees will hear about Paducah's nationally lauded efforts.
The Arts Congress will offer plenty of opportunities for discussion and networking among participants who care about the quality of life, both culturally and economically, in Wisconsin. Attendees will include artists, members of arts organizations, business leaders, educators, elected officials, city planners, community activists and others. Together, they will seek practical ways to turn a broad vision into concrete action.
Among the specific issues addressed by the Arts Congress will be attracting and retaining businesses in the state; stopping the "brain drain" of educated young people to other states; boosting Wisconsin's appeal as a tourism destination; and ensuring access to the arts for everyone in Wisconsin, regardless of age, income or location. Whether your community is large or small, the Arts Congress will cover topics of relevance to you.
The Arts Congress is presented by the Wisconsin Arts Board, a state agency and one of the sponsors of PortalWisconsin.org, and the Wisconsin Assembly for Local Arts, an arts advocacy organization. More information about the Arts Congressincluding online registrationcan be found on the Web site of the Wisconsin Assembly for Local Arts, or you may call Anne Katz, executive director, at 608-255-8316 or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.