Pulling Back the Curtain

Assessing the needs of major arts, cultural, recreational, and entertainment assets in Milwaukee County

December 2013


Earlier this year, with a grant from the Spirit of Milwaukee, the Public Policy Forum launched a comprehensive effort to re-examine the issue of public funding for the region’s arts, cultural, and entertainment assets. The Forum is not a newcomer to this subject, having produced a detailed report on the Milwaukee County parks in 2002, as well as an overview of the fiscal condition of the county-owned arts, cultural, and recreational institutions in 2008.

For this research effort, we set out not only to assess the condition of those assets, but also to explore how their specific needs might best be met. In addition, we examine several privately-owned arts and cultural amenities – as well as major sports and convention facilities – to provide a broader perspective for policymakers and citizens who soon may be asked to weigh in on new approaches for publicly supporting these assets.

This report is the first of two comprehensive analyses that will address the issue of dedicated public funding for arts, cultural, recreational, and entertainment institutions in Milwaukee County. In this first report, we focus on the finances and physical needs of the institutions, including an assessment of their need for public financial support. In our second report – to be released early next year – we will explore how other metropolitan areas have addressed the need for dedicated funding for their quality-of-life assets, and then model some possible approaches for Metropolitan Milwaukee.