The Work of Art

A Survey of Milwaukee’s Artists and Creatives

February 2022


The arts are vital to Milwaukee’s vibrancy and economy, providing a wide range of unique educational and cultural opportunities while employing thousands of individuals. To date, however, relatively little work has been done to understand who the city’s individual artists, performers, and creators are, how they support themselves and their creative pursuits, and how they view Milwaukee as a place to live and work.

Likewise, previous Wisconsin Policy Forum research has documented how the arts and culture sector has been one of the hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic both locally and nationally, but less is known about how individual local artists and creatives have been affected and their outlook for the future.

This report – commissioned by Imagine MKE – is designed to improve understanding of Milwaukee’s artists and creatives and their views and experiences. It summarizes the results of a survey that was distributed to the local arts community by Imagine MKE and 39 partner organizations via email and social media. The 393 responses collected between late July 2021 and late September 2021 provide a snapshot of the characteristics of artists in Milwaukee County, the challenges they face, and their perceptions of how local governments, businesses, and the general population could strengthen support for their work.

By shedding new light on the challenges facing an important sector of Milwaukee’s local economy and an important contributor to its quality of life, we hope to provide useful information to policy makers and civic leaders and prompt renewed consideration of the potential need for new strategies to strengthen support for local artists and creative workers now and in the future. Continue reading…