The arts are in trouble.
Or are they? "The good news is that the arts seem a little bit immune to challenging economic times. Donations to arts groups sometimes stay the same or go up," says Samantha Crownover, one of the organizers of the Arts Enterprise Symposium at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Layoffs from arts groups may be the result of past difficulties that the economy only exacerbated, Crownover suggests. Still, even in good times, funding is dependent on at least rudimentary business and marketing skills that are seldom taught in conservatories or art schools.
The cross-disciplinary Arts Enterprise Symposium, Jan. 30-Feb. 1, is designed to give tools to community and student artists working in a broad range of media, from poetry and painting to music, dance, film and advertising. The event is a joint venture of the UW-Madison and the Bach Dancing & Dynamite Society. The St. Paul-based Springboard for the Arts will also participate.
"This is going to be like, 'Roll up your sleeves,'" says Crownover, executive director of Bach Dancing & Dynamite. "Let's get you a decent marketing plan that you can walk out of the room with, with ideas for getting your work better recognized. This is also going to open up many, many doors for people who just feel lost, because we'll have presenters, and we'll also have mentoring sessions where people can sign up to speak with them."
The long list of speakers includes area and national notables such as Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Barbara Lawton, Toni Sikes of the Guild, Wisconsin Union Theater director Ralph Russo, Wisconsin Arts Board executive director George Tzougros, choreographers W. Earle Smith and Li Chiao-Ping, John DeMain of the Madison Symphony Orchestra, producer-writer John Roach and Rich Dahm, co-executive producer of The Colbert Report.
Hopefully, they'll give area artists a leg up. "We all talk about how important the arts are to our community," says Stephanie Jutt, Bach Dancing co-artistic director, "but the quality of life for most artists has never been terrific, and it's not going to get better unless artists get the tools to create their careers on their own terms."
Arts Enterprise Symposium
UW Pyle Center, Jan. 30-Feb. 1
Advice for artists feeling the pinch
1. Say thank you often. Keep relationships with patrons alive and let them know you appreciate them.
2. Keep it simple. Look at your plans and think of ways to make your project just as vital with less cost.
3. Collaborate with others in your field on things that cost the most, such as publicity, advertising and printing.
4. Plan a potluck networking party. Find out how others are coping and share ideas.
5. Ask favors of friends or barter with those in complementary fields. If you need a website built by a techno friend, play your instrument at their party, or trade a piece of artwork for help writing a business plan.
Sources: Samantha Crownover, Stephanie Jutt