Madison mayoral candidates survey on the arts

The candidates for mayor of Madison share their positions on arts-related issues ahead of the Feb. 17 primary.
 

From left to right: Richard Brown, Christopher Daly, Bridget Maniaci, Scott Resnick, and Paul Soglin.

From left to right: Richard Brown, Christopher Daly, Bridget Maniaci, Scott Resnick, and Paul Soglin.

In the Feb. 17 primary election, five candidates for mayor of Madison, including incumbent Paul Soglin, will be narrowed down to two. We asked each candidate to tell us about their positions on how the City of Madison can play a role in supporting arts and culture. Below are responses from Richard Brown, Christopher Daly, Bridget Maniaci, Scott Resnick, and Paul Soglin. Each candidate received the same set of questions and was given the same deadline to write back. The wording and any links are all theirs, except for a few tiny edits for spelling and grammar here and there. For more about the candidates, start with the League of Women Voters of Dane County's Candidates Answers. For information about voting and to find your polling place, visit myvote.wi.gov.

RICHARD BROWN

Former Dane County Supervisor, currently Systems Accountant for Dane County Controller's Office

What role do you think the City of Madison should play in supporting or strengthening the arts in Madison?

I believe that when we work together for the common good we are better we are all better to include the arts.

As mayor I will support and strengthen arts that is committed to and supportive of reducing racial disparities.

If elected mayor, what specific policy proposals would you offer related to the arts? How do the arts fit into your overall policy agenda? Where does it rank between other economic and social issues that Madison faces?

As an accountant for Arts Are Prevention, a nonprofit started by Joe McClain, I learned and experienced that using the expressive arts with young people can have a powerful effect in preventing alcohol, tobacco and other drug use/abuse, and the related detrimental social/psychological issues. I am also excited about the anticipated increase in population density and growth on State St. that will create demand for a vibrant exciting entertainment and arts venues.

What is your position on City of Madison funding for Overture Center for the Arts?

In times of budget restraints, shrinking resources, and increase cost for doing business, my proposed Office of Performance Analysis will be vital in helping create efficiencies in city governments that can be invested in the Overture Center for the Arts.

What is your position on the City of Madison's other arts grants, including grants for Make Music Madison and BLINK public art installations?

Not sure - need more time to analyze

What are some things you think city officials have done right when it comes to arts- and culture-related policy?

By supporting arts financially.

What are some things you think city officials have done wrong when it comes to arts- and culture-related policy?

No policy demanding inclusion and support to the City of Madison on reducing disparities when providing such high levels of financial support.

What can Madison learn from other cities when it comes to supporting the arts, and what challenges are unique to Madison?

Not sure.

What do you think are the greatest obstacles and the greatest opportunities Madison faces in strengthening its arts and culture offerings?

The lack of strong fiscal leadership. Freeing up funds through efficiencies thus free up dollars to advance the arts to it highest level and increase inclusion.


CHRISTOPHER DALY

Activist

What role do you think the City of Madison should play in supporting or strengthening the arts in Madison?

The city should foster the growth of local artists through grants and by creating public spaces to serve artists, musicians, and thespians.

If elected mayor, what specific policy proposals would you offer related to the arts? How do the arts fit into your overall policy agenda? Where does it rank between other economic and social issues that Madison faces?

Too often in modern architecture function supersedes form…think suburban sprawl and concrete walls. We should reclaim our public spaces, treat our city like an open canvas. The worst that can happen is a fresh coat of paint. Art and music are what create a city's culture, and we need to embrace this. We should seek to give priority to supporting female artists and artists of color through grants and other means.

What is your position on City of Madison funding for Overture Center for the Arts?

My mind is not made up.

What is your position on the City of Madison's other arts grants, including grants for Make Music Madison and BLINK public art installations?

I am in favor of the grants for Make Music Madison and BLINK public art installations.

What are some things you think city officials have done wrong when it comes to arts-­ and culture-­related policy?

Freakfest.

What can Madison learn from other cities when it comes to supporting the arts, and what challenges are unique to Madison?

No response.

What do you think are the greatest obstacles and the greatest opportunities Madison faces in strengthening its arts and culture offerings?

No response.


BRIDGET MANIACI

Former City of Madison Alderperson (2nd District)

What role do you think the City of Madison should play in supporting or strengthening the arts in Madison?

There is so much more the city can do to support artists and the creative economy. I held a listening session in December at Bright Red Studios and we had more than 40 creative industry professionals give me dozens of ideas of what the city can be doing better to support them and specific examples of how Paul Soglin's administration has not been helping artists. We need to simplify permits, licensing and committee approvals and better assist artists and business owners that want to put on events.

City leaders need to help build (and license) the spaces and help champion and grow the business market to help artists be successful and financially solvent. Many people in Madison seem to forget the hard market realities of being a small creative industry business owner. You still have rent and utilities to pay. Having worked as a photojournalist, I've gone through that experience personally.

The arts, especially culinary and musical arts, are outsized for our community and put us nationally on the map. Some of our festivals are well received (Wisconsin Film Fest, Wisconsin Book Fest), but as the Wizarding World Comic Con just showed, we have the capacity to support expanded festivals.

If elected mayor, what specific policy proposals would you offer related to the arts? How do the arts fit into your overall policy agenda? Where does it rank between other economic and social issues that Madison faces?

The biggest issues facing the city right now are those of homelessness, poverty, and racial inequity. The state of our schools and youth services also factor heavily. We have 3,000 people in our emergency shelters, and 1,000 of those are children. The arts have a huge potential to help with job opportunities and the lack of high school completion rates of our minority residents. Additionally, I would say having started professionally as a photographer, promoting the arts and the creative economy is right at the top of my overall policy agenda.

I would be very interested in a magnet arts and technical high school built on a partnership model with Manchester Bidwell. They have a successful track record of using the arts to build opportunity and job skills for both children and adults.

While establishing a new public high school will take a lot of planning and is a 3-5 year goal, in the more immediate future, I'd like to establish a joint venture between the Public Library and the IT Department to create a professional design lab available to freelance professionals to use and have access to computer software and production equipment so that we can support small business creative industry professionals thrive and grow their businesses in Madison.

I would like to open up the operating contracts regarding Freakfest and its revenues and start using Freakfest as a fundraising opportunity to actually fund the public art fund in a meaningful way.

On a lighter note, I always thought the wide open land by the Dairy Expo would make for an amazing Cochella-like summer music festival location. I don't suppose Justin Vernon would be interested in moving his summer Eaux Claires Festival to Madison?

What is your position on City of Madison funding for Overture Center for the Arts?

I am happy to provide some operating funds for the facility to assist with public programming. I voted for the original restructuring agreement and stood up to Paul Soglin twice when he threatened to cut resources to the facility. It would be helpful if Dane County created a county-level sports/performance venue revenue stream to help the City of Madison ensure robust community and youth programming for residents of all backgrounds and income levels.

What is your position on the City of Madison's other arts grants, including grants for Make Music Madison and BLINK public art installations?

The Make Music Madison initiative is not helpful to artists. The City of Madison has spent over $20,000 on the event (mostly to pay for a website and marketing), and then asked the artists to play for free. Nothing about this event helps musicians grow their business. We need to be investing in initiatives that will create lasting opportunities, revenue and jobs for artists in Madison.

For instance, I'm interested in exploring the relationship between our entertainment license and expanding the permit to include a requirement for a tip line on the receipt for artists and to have an accounting requirement similar to a requirement of the hoteliers that the city has a right to inspect the books. We could then do important market analysis to understand how much artists are being paid to perform and work to create an effective "Support Our Scene" initiative to help get the community to fund and support artists in a sustainable way.

I'm wholly supportive of the BLINK public art installations, but we need to find better sources of revenue to fund the program. I helped get a very successful installation at James Madison Park in 2010 as a partnership between a light artist and a Shabazz High School student. I suggest looking at restructuring the tickets and contracts for Freakfest to provide an annual revenue stream that can bolster the BLINK programs.

What are some things you think city officials have done right when it comes to arts- and culture-related policy?

I came into City Hall and municipal politics as an arts writer and photographer for The Daily Cardinal, so the arts have always factored heavily in the efforts I've championed, including organizing the 2009 Mifflin Street Block Party, the 2009 Statue of Liberty on Lake Mendota (part of Hoofers' Winter Carnival), booking the bands for the inaugural 2006 Freakfest, authoring the city's Noise Amplification Permit ordinance. I feel like those events and ideas have been a step in the right direction towards positive community event planning.

Also, I was pleased with Mayor Dave's efforts to organize Ride the Drive.

What are some things you think city officials have done wrong when it comes to arts- and culture-related policy?

Make Music Madison, as I detailed previously, is a misguided effort. We have cut our budget and annual acquisition of purchasing public art. We require conditional use permits and heavily regulate the installation and subject matter of murals and public art. Our elected officials have lost focus on the arts as an economy and chalk it up to "a nice thing to have when we can afford it." We do not easily support the permitting process for putting on special events and we require neighborhood associations to carry a $1 million insurance policy, which tends to stop many small community groups from putting on events.

What can Madison learn from other cities when it comes to supporting the arts, and what challenges are unique to Madison?

At times, being a city founded as a state capitol and seat of government, Madison eschews creative risk and we're not a city founded and built around industry. Thus, we do not tend to have the corporate and philanthropic support for the arts like I've seen in other communities (Overture Center, not withstanding). I have found compared to a city like Pittsburgh or Austin, many everyday residents in Madison do not actively display artwork and sculpture on their properties.

I heard from more than 40 creative industry professionals at the listening session my campaign held in December that locals hesitate to spend money on art objects, which tends to preclude many struggling creative professionals from being able to support themselves on their art here in Madison. Whether it is a challenge unique to Madison, it certainly appears that compared to other similar cities, Madison undervalues and undersells its artists. Many residents will spend significant money on dining out and individual experiences, but hesitate on spending on art objects or professional services.

What do you think are the greatest obstacles and the greatest opportunities Madison faces in strengthening its arts and culture offerings?

Our greatest obstacles at City Hall are our ordinances, licensing and permitting structures. Culturally, it is Madison's Germanic/Scandinavian/Midwestern aversion to openly displaying wealth. The general public in Madison doesn't regularly purchase art objects and support paying creative professionals the same way people do for services like personal accounting or home landscaping and repair. There's a constant pressure put on creative professionals to donate their time, talent and skilled craft in a way that would never be asked of an electrician or plumber. That depresses the market and does not enable vibrant artists or art that takes risks.

The greatest opportunity Madison offers is its influx of new young professionals with disposable income looking for opportunities to engage with the city. This year's Yum Yum Fest is a great example of a new successful cultural event utilizing Central Park that the city should be doing more of. Additionally, with the field turf installed at Breese Stevens Field, it's now possible to stage significant concerts, plays and other events on a regular basis in a way that the city hasn't experienced. The Capitol East District has been the residence and location for many emerging artists and installations. As it develops, it's a huge opportunity to rebuild the city in a way that strengthens the success and viability of artists.


SCOTT RESNICK

City of Madison Alderperson (8th District) and Chief Operating Officer of Hardin Design and Development

What role do you think the City of Madison should play in supporting or strengthening the arts in Madison?

I believe the city government should play a meaningful role in supporting the arts in Madison. I want to help build a city where all the arts are promoted and one where artistic and entrepreneurial opportunities are leveraged to promote Madison's culture.

If elected mayor, what specific policy proposals would you offer related to the arts?

If elected, I will implement recommendations from the Madison Cultural Plan. Specifically, I will have the mayor's office convene a regional effort and form a coalition with people from the public, private, and creative sectors to advance creative and artistic interests in our city.

How do the arts fit into your overall policy agenda? Where does it rank between other economic and social issues that Madison faces?

Fostering our cultural identity is an important part of my agenda. A vibrant arts scene is vital to our local economy and the well-being of our community at large.

What is your position on City of Madison funding for Overture Center for the Arts?

I have always been a vocal supporter of funding for the Overture Center and I believe in keeping with the city's $2 million commitment. We can improve the long-term vitality of the center and foster a sustainable facility from which the entire region can benefit.

The worst thing the city could could do is create uncertainty in the center's funding streams, as uncertainty regarding the long-term viability of the Overture Center will deflate the morale of its supporters. As someone who had served as an appointee of the Madison Cultural Arts District Board, I pledge that my administration will make sure that does not happen.

What is your position on the City of Madison's other arts grants, including grants for Make Music Madison and BLINK public art installations?

I worked to help bring people together so "Make Music Madison" could happen. I am a huge fan of public installations like Pianos on State Street and am a strong supporter of freedom of expression in our public spaces.

What are some things you think city officials have done right when it comes to arts- and culture-related policy?

The creation of the Madison Cultural Plan—a five-year project which finished in 2013—was certainly important work which I supported.

What are some things you think city officials have done wrong when it comes to arts- and culture-related policy?

The Madison Arts Commission website still has links to art projects from 2009 on their homepage and lacks important information about contemporary events and cultural showcases that should be getting promoted. Artists struggle to navigate the site and too often have a difficult time finding funding opportunities.

Many other cities like the Twin Cities and both Portlands—Maine and Oregon—provide much more comprehensive information for artists, other residents and tourists that promote the breadth of cultural opportunities in their cities.

What can Madison learn from other cities when it comes to supporting the arts, and what challenges are unique to Madison?

Madison can learn a lot from efforts of other cities to help make life as an artist in the community as economically sustainable as possible. For example, in Lafayette, Louisiana, the Public Trust Financing Authority developed affordable housing in the city's downtown for artists. In Austin, musicians, business and community leaders came together to provide affordable healthcare to the city's musicians through the Health Alliance for Austin Musicians.

Madison must leverage our own resources including investors, spaces for performance, and supporters of the arts. By meeting this challenge, we will be able to provide more opportunities for artists in our city.

What do you think are the greatest obstacles and the greatest opportunities Madison faces in strengthening its arts and culture offerings?

The greatest obstacle for Madison comes from the Walker administration and its short-sighted approach towards support for the arts in Wisconsin. The governor has eliminated the "Wisconsin's Percent for Art" program and our state's investment in the arts has been reduced from 59 cents per Wisconsin resident in 1992 to only 15 cents per resident today. This figure represents the smallest per-resident investment in the country. Additionally, Walker's policies have taken millions of dollars out of Madison's economy, which directly affects the support available to local artists.

Our greatest opportunities lie in our ability to connect tourism to promotion of our cultural assets and in our city's willingness to try ideas that can show the rest of Wisconsin the ways supporting arts can benefit our communities. Investing in our culture can help make Madison stand out in a state where support for the arts is not being prioritized.


PAUL SOGLIN

Mayor of Madison

What role do you think the City of Madison should play in supporting or strengthening the arts in Madison?

Great cities have great art. The arts ignite civic dialog, catalyze the development of beautiful public spaces, serve as a magnet for economic development, and enhance children's educational attainment. They challenge our assumptions, reinforce our traditions, and broaden our grasp of the possible. They bring wonder.

Madison is at a time of opportunity with regard to the arts. While the Overture Center is the most visible sign of a growing commitment to the arts, film, music, and book festivals are also gaining visibility. A group of new cooperative and commercial galleries have grown up over the last decade. The Art Fair on the Square continues to draw huge crowds as does Art Fairs Off and Off-Off the square. The Children's Museum is developing more diverse and creative programming. The City itself has adopted a new approach to public art, that promises more citizen participation, higher quality art, more support for participating artists, and artworks more fully integrated with functional infrastructure demands. Madison is also at a time of trial with regard to the arts. Local arts need more rehearsal, performing, and technical space despite Overture Center and the smaller existing venues popularity. The economic climate will make continued progress a challenge.

That same climate threatens arts organization's ability to earn income through admissions and memberships. The Bartell Community Theatre always needs support and it is unclear how much longer it will serve the needs of community-based performing arts groups. Local visual artists face a shortage of opportunities for exhibition, and artists in other disciplines also face market limitations on the sale of their work. The University, under barbaric pressure from the state, continues its pattern of disproportionate and systematic cuts in arts funding, threatening an invaluable set of resources on which the whole community has historically relied. Critical dialog in the arts is minimal; media treatment of arts offerings is constrained.

Despite Madison's rich array of arts resources, access to the arts, in terms of both audiences and participants, is inequitable. Many of Madison's youngest and poorest residents in particular are too often excluded and arts organizations located outside the downtown area are too often forgotten. These young people often use different and unfamiliar mediums to the consternation of their parents and teachers, but they deserve the opportunity to explore. As Madison's arts resources grow in complexity, the City must invest in its capacity for arts stewardship. In particular, the City must work to:

  • Create a vehicle for public/private partnership in arts funding, coordination, and advocacy by exploring options and creating an on-going solution that fits our community's structure and style.
  • Support the systematic growth and development of our public arts programs.
  • Demonstrate the City's regard for the critical importance of new works by local artists.
  • Spread the arts to all the City's neighborhoods by funding outdoor special events like Dane Dances.
  • Steward the arts by creating a municipal capacity to monitor the health of local arts resources and the needs of local artists, and to plan and implement appropriate strategies to advance their well-being.

If elected mayor, what specific policy proposals would you offer related to the arts? How do the arts fit into your overall policy agenda? Where does it rank between other economic and social issues that Madison faces?

  • Advance a county-wide effort through Housing First, to create balanced housing, providing mixed income housing not just in certain neighborhoods, but in all neighborhoods so that all communities are racially, economically, and culturally integrated.
  • Steward the arts by creating a municipal capacity to monitor the health of local arts resources and the needs of local artists, and to plan and implement appropriate strategies to advance their well-being. Just as city officials meet to review human service needs on an annual basis, a comparable program must be developed for all artistic disciplines. This program must evaluate the citizen's preferences for and access to various arts activities; the adequacy of opportunitiesthrough which citizens can participate in the arts; the availability, affordability, and sufficiency ofchildren's arts events and activities; the vigor of the arts marketplace; the availability of venues for art learning, making, exhibition, and performance; the health and growth of artsorganizations; and the sufficiency of resources for the professional development and support of individual artists. In addition, this process should identify and rectify municipal behavior or policy that may be inadvertently confounding arts development.

What is your position on City of Madison funding for Overture Center for the Arts?

When the present Overture Funding agreement was established in 2010, too little consideration was given to the needs of other arts facilities, the lack of diversity in Overture programming resulting in a principally white audience, and the sorry financial state of the city of Madison. Since that time, city finances have improved and Overture leadership has significantly work to diversify programming and audiences. Overture funding is now appropriate and it is time to focus on developing and strengthening other performing arts facilities.

What is your position on the City of Madison's other arts grants, including grants for Make Music Madison and BLINK public art installations?

The city has a critical role to play in opening up the arts to all artists and all audiences – even those who do not know they may be an artist, and more importantly those members of the community who do not envision themselves as an audience or an audience for a specific art form or artist. Make Music Madison and BLINK are two endeavors that bring spontaneity and fun into our lives, and expose us to experiences we might otherwise ignore as we rush through our day and only experience what we already know. Grater support and expansion of these kinds of artistic adventures are critical to the wellbeing of Madison.

What are some things you think city officials have done right when it comes to arts- and culture-related policy?

Expanded programs like BLINK, Make Music Madison, and Dane Dances, funded more diverse artistic opportunities for artists and audiences, and created a heightened awareness that Overture is not the panacea for all artists and audiences.

What are some things you think city officials have done wrong when it comes to arts- and culture-related policy?

We have ignored neighborhood and community based arts development. The opportunity to explore the arts is limited geographically and economically. We need to provide more neighborhood-based arts programming for children and meaningful support for artists and arts organizations by increasing public and private financial commitments to both programming and facilities. This is reflected in the lack of a public performing arts facilities on the Southside, east of Stoughton Road, and in the expanding southwest side.

What can Madison learn from other cities when it comes to supporting the arts, and what challenges are unique to Madison?

From other cities we can learn the appreciation of greater public support and diversity in our artistic endeavors. Our challenge is to not remain content with what we have. We must understand that Overture is a great asset to bring us professional performances and to inspire young artists to create but that there is an enormous gulf in our ability to provide young generation's access to their abilities and their hearts.

What do you think are the greatest obstacles and the greatest opportunities Madison faces in strengthening its arts and culture offerings?

The greatest obstacle is financial. The lack of funding created by pressures on the city government, the public schools, and our neighborhood centers exacerbates the most frustrating hurdle—our inability to provide access to the arts to all of the young people of the community and give them the opportunity to search themselves in writing, drawing, sculpting, performing, and filming their world.

The greatest strength are the tens of thousands of Madisonians who understand the importance of the arts and take the time each day to appreciate the creativity of the friends, family, and neighbors.