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Sunday, September 21, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 56.0° F  Fair
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Common Council approves Madison Cultural Plan to bolster city's creative infrastructure
Five-year framework moves forward
Wolf calls the plan's quick passage "a vote of confidence."
Wolf calls the plan's quick passage "a vote of confidence."

After almost 10 years of research, discussion and planning, there is finally a Madison Cultural Plan, but the work has really just begun. The Common Council approved the latest version of the plan on Tuesday evening.

Karin Wolf, the city's arts program administrator, says she is thrilled with the council's action.

"It's just one symbolic step in a long process," she says. "But it's an important symbolic step."

Wolf called the council's passage of the plan, which was quick and without discussion, "a vote of confidence."

"I think it shows they appreciated the thorough process,' she says.

The five-year plan contains 51 recommendations to the council to, as it says in the document, provide a framework to strengthen Madison's creative infrastructure; increase public access to creative activities; integrate public resources into civic development; and sustain creative workers, businesses and institutions.

Wolf says the next step is to begin work on several recommendations the Madison Cultural Plan Steering Committee asked the city to immediately prioritize. These recommendations include forming a Creative Initiatives Staff Team within the Department of Planning & Community, & Economic Development; strengthening cultural programming in neighborhood centers, particularly in underserved areas; preserving public uses of parks and lakeshores; continuing to seek the Wisconsin Historical Society's Certified Local Government grants to identify and preserve areas and properties of historical significance; establishing a community center in south Madison with strong cultural programs; developing artist work spaces as part of community development plans; and setting aside 1% of the funds dedicated to municipal capital projects, including infrastructure projects and TIF districts, for local arts initiatives.

A call for a cultural plan first came in 2003, after a city arts summit. Subsequently, former Mayor Dave Cieslewicz incorporated that call into his 2005 Healthy City Plan. The Madison Arts Commission got the ball rolling in 2008 by initiating a process that ultimately selected Madison-based consultant Mary Berryman Agard and Associates in 2009 to put the cultural plan together under oversight of a steering committee.

Two years later, Berryman Agard issued a report, and the steering committee began meeting with different city committees and other local groups to get more feedback on the plan.

By summer 2012, Wolf finally had a list of all the corrections and amendments the steering committee approved. This meant a final revision of the cultural plan document could be made.

The process did take a long time, Wolf says, but that time allowed decision-makers to hear the priorities of the community at large and incorporate this feedback into the plan.

"The steering committee definitely took all the [community feedback] into consideration," Wolf says. "They literally went through them one by one."

Wolf said the cultural plan will help guide city officials when funding and planning strategy decisions are made, but she hopes the plan helps local people become more conscious of arts efforts and inspires them to do creative work in their particular areas of interest.

Wolf said she hopes the community realizes that approval of the cultural plan is just the beginning.

"We need to keep this conversation going," she says.

Read the draft plan.

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