Profiles of Milwaukee’s creative economy

Artists bring fresh perspective to Milwaukee metal manufacturer

Profile #1 The Wagner Companies

The Wagner Companies, one of Milwaukee’s oldest metal manufacturers, is best known for producing standard products like hand railings and snowplow parts. If you dig a bit below the surface, you’ll find the company also harnesses a unique story about the region’s creative economy. Several Wagner workers are artists who were looking for a way to make a living and took jobs as metal fabricators for the company. While at Wagner, they’ve used downtime to create artwork out of scrap metal from the line floor. The company has a product development board that reviews any employee’s creative product ideas. In the end, the employees’ creativity could benefit the company’s bottom line. The company hopes to add a recent employee design, a stainless steel light fixture, to its formal product offerings.

Milwaukee non-profit leading the way nationally through development of collaborative operating model

Profile #2 – Milwaukee Ballet

The creative economy is only as strong as the groups that comprise it. Milwaukee Ballet, a cornerstone non-profit in the community for more than 40 years with its nationally recognized ballet school, is strengthening the region with new strategic plans to create a collaborative operating model in Milwaukee. The Ballet, in partnership with UWM’s Peck School of the Art and the Medical College of Wisconsin, have launched The Harmony Initiative to establish an exciting destination where artists, students and the community collaborate to create a unique, sustainable arts and education program. This new collaborative model will leverage financial and human resources, physical space and shared artistic and management practices to secure a strong future for the performing arts in Milwaukee.

Artists group connects businesses, civic leaders and local artists to revitalize downtown

Profile #3: Waukesha West End Artists Group

Part of the importance of the creative economy is making a region a place where people want to live, work and play. It improves the daily quality of life of people in the region. Ten years ago, downtown Waukesha was a bit of a desolate place – hard to navigate, with many deserted storefronts. The city has come a long way since then, recently named one of the top 50 small cities in America by Money Magazine. The Waukesha West End Artists Group had a lot to do with this transformation. Through the development of regular Art Crawl events and a strong commitment to the aesthetic enhancement of the downtown community, the city now thrives. There are more than 20 galleries and studios in a one mile radius, surrounded by the support of 34 additional local business owners. The artists and galleries in the area have been able to succeed in part because of financial support from local businesses. The group’s effort to tie together artists, community leaders and local businesses is an important part of growing and nurturing the creative economy.

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Creative Segment Employment

The region’s design segment is the largest component of the creative sector — though media and film is also significant.

What is Creativity Works!?

The Creativity Works! project is designed to link and leverage our creative industries into a cohesive economic cluster. The purpose of establishing this cluster is to provide a differentiating regional asset by generating economic development through elevating the identity, value, contribution and potential of our creative industries. This year-long project is being facilitated by Mt. Auburn Associates, a leading economic strategy and development consultancy in Massachusetts.

Project Funders

US Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration • National Endowment for the Arts • Helen Bader Foundation • Forest County Potawatomi Foundation • Greater Milwaukee Foundation • Richard and Ethel Herzfeld Foundation • Kahler Slater • M & I Bank • MillerCoors • Spirit of Milwaukee • The Wagner Companies • West Bend Mutual • Wisconsin Arts Board

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