Gov. Walker mistakes zoos for art, art for tourism
Or: Woodland Pattern, and the virtues of elephant shit vs. cultural programming
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Way back when he was just a wee little tyrant running for Milwaukee County Executive, Scott Walker was asked what his most recent encounter with the arts was. His answer? The zoo. No, he wasn’t pre-pubescent, though he might’ve looked like it. He was a politician who appeared to take a dim view toward funding for the arts.
Well, now that he’s got his “mandate,” you can pretty much kiss having a vibrant cultural scene goodbye. One of the less-bandied-about parts of Walker’s budget-gutting atrocity is the plan to almost completely de-fund the Wisconsin Arts Board—shrinking it from $2.4 million a year to $759,000 a year.
The Wisconsin Arts Board provides a chunk of always-needed change for organizations like Milwaukee’s own Woodland Pattern Book Center. Woodland Pattern is a terrific local resource, and not just because it does all manner of community outreach (after-school programs, programs for the aging, bringing world famous authors in for readings, having quite possibly the best selection of poetry of any bookstore in the country), but because of the distinct lack of the stench of elephant shit.
Anne Kingsbury, Executive Director at Woodland Pattern, says the bookstore will feel the pinch after Walker’s arts-hating budget goes into effect. “Woodland Pattern has received Wisconsin Arts Board funding for our entire 31 years. We received programming support, general operating support. This is going to be particularly significant for us.”
But again: no pandas and no gawkers waiting for a snow leopard to appear. Why, you might ask, must Wisconsin choose between zoos and the arts? Well, besides losing most of its money—and having six of the 10 positions in its big-government bureaucracy eliminated—the Wisconsin Arts Board will be folded into the Department Of Tourism.
It’s plain to see the direction the Governor wants to take arts funding: “family-oriented,” i.e. boring and non-existent for anyone who likes doing things after dark. He’s gunning for that lucrative toddler and casino day-trip demo! And we can’t wait to see the kind of “investment” a culturally bankrupt backwater will attract.
Still, nothing an organization like Woodland Pattern does can compare to screaming kids looking at caged animals, right?
“We brought in older writers, and they met with seniors from Milwaukee and different senior centers,” says Kingsbury. “That program was so successful that seniors are meeting on their own two years after the program.”
Woodland Pattern also utilized Wisconsin Arts Board funding to bring in several writers from China for a reading when travel restrictions were much tighter. “This was before Tiananmen Square,” explains Kingsbury. “We had so many people in the room. There was a lot of members of the Chinese community that came to that reading. We were worried about the floor.”
So if you sympathize with Woodland Pattern, please feel free to let Gov. Walker know how you feel about the virtues of elephant shit vs. cultural programming. Or share your favorite funny monkey story with him.