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2nd Quarter, Article 2July 2014

Forum's work not done on cultural and entertainment needs and options

Few Forum research products in recent memory have received as much public attention and consideration as the organization's two comprehensive reports on major arts, cultural, recreational, and entertainment assets in Milwaukee County. 


The first - Pulling Back the Curtain - was released in December 2013. This report focused on the fiscal condition of Milwaukee County's arts, cultural, recreational, and entertainment institutions, including an assessment of their need for public financial support.


Three months later, the Forum released a second report - The Show Must Go On? - that explored a logical follow-up question: If there is a desire to pursue additional public investment in these regional assets, what are effective options for doing so? Building upon the previous needs assessment, the report tackled that question by considering how other metro areas have grappled with similar challenges, and by modeling how their distinct approaches might be employed in Greater Milwaukee.


Both reports have received widespread media coverage and  have been presented to dozens of audiences across the region, including the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce's Cultural and Entertainment Capital Needs Task Force and the Milwaukee Rotary Club. Several of those presentations have been re-broadcast on local cable networks and one was "live streamed" on the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel website.


Recently, the Forum initiated new research that is designed to bring additional important facts to the table to inform the debate about the future of the region's cultural and entertainment amenities. 


"As the public conversation about possible new public funding sources for cultural and entertainment amenities has evolved during the past several weeks, two questions continue to linger," says Forum President Rob Henken. "The first is the extent to which suburban counties might benefit from a regional funding source that would allocate a portion of the proceeds to address cultural and entertainment needs in their communities, while the second involves the wherewithal of our philanthropic community to help fill the needs gap identified in our earlier research."


To help answer those questions, the Forum will produce two research reports. The first will explore existing public funding for arts, culture, recreation, and entertainment in the WOW counties (Waukesha, Ozaukee, and Washington) and will apply the needs assessment methodology used for Pulling Back the Curtain to several cultural and entertainment facilities in those counties. The second will use a variety of quantitative and qualitative means to assess the capacity of Greater Milwaukee's private philanthropic community to play a greater role in supporting the region's cultural and entertainment needs.


"We're hoping these two new research efforts can shed some important light on these critical questions before any decisions are made," Henken added.


The Forum plans to release the two reports - which are supported again by grant funding from the Spirit of Milwaukee - by early fall.