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Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Art Is Everything

Off The Cuff with Angela Damiani of ART Milwaukee

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In his 2013 State of the City address, Mayor Tom Barrett recognized three individuals “whose energy and commitment are producing real results. They deserve our attention and thanks.” Two of the three were Angela Damiani and Jeremy Fojut of ART Milwaukee. Off the Cuff spoke with Damiani about art’s universal totality and events citywide. 

 

How was the State of the City address? 

We were overjoyed and encouraged, mostly. The mayor acknowledged Milwaukee's growing art scene. He also highlighted its importance for the region's economy and national perception of the city. That is true progress. 

 

What does ART Milwaukee do, exactly?

Art advocacy is what we do best. We’re trying to empower and inspire. We do arts programming. We host more than 150 events a year to increase exposure for local artists, find artists paid opportunities and heighten city vibrancy. We put out a newsletter that brings all these together.

 

I’m generalizing here, but Milwaukee culture is often frustrated with, and even distrustful of art, especially art with a price tag. How do you convince Milwaukeeans of art’s value? 

We acknowledge that art is everything. There is not a single manmade thing that hasn't been touched by an artist at some point in its inception. And we make art social and fun. That dissipates a lot of the pretension and angst that normally surround fine art. We find the audience base normally expands.

 

One of your ends is enlightening business and another is showing how art can be “a social and economic driver.” How can/does art drive business? Too often, it seems, they are at war. 

There is an obvious uptick in business at events when art is sold. Beyond the events, art helps organizations increase membership, expand clientele bases and bring repeat customers to local business. And again, every product is touched by an artist at some point. Might as well embrace it. 

 

Your mission statement also mentions creating “art infrastructure.” What is it? How does it differ from city infrastructure? 

(Laughs) It is everything. If that’s not confusing enough, you could call it a creative ecosystem, too.

 

Another goal is ensuring art’s sustainability. What does a sustainable scene look like? 

Ending artist flight to the coasts, first and foremost—reversing the flow of talent. Fortunately, Milwaukee has a lot to offer artists. The community and the popular support of arts culture is so vast and the cost of living is so affordable that artists who aren’t from Milwaukee choose to relocate here to create.

 

What is one way an average Milwaukeean can support the arts? Preferably an inexpensive way.

Attend one of our events! They are free!

 

A full listing of ART Milwaukee events is at artmilwaukee.com. E-newsletters are also available.

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