University of Wisconsin Extension
The creative economy is understood as the space where commerce and culture meet, where individuals and businesses thrive because of their innovative products, services and ideas.
A local creative economy movement started gaining traction in 2008 with the creation of the Arts and Humanities Alliance of Kenosha (AHA Kenosha). This was formalized through the later creation, in 2010, of the City of Kenosha Commission on the Arts and then underwent analysis through the KenoshaRising project from 2013-2014.
Now this movement is culminating — in less than one week — through the public unveil of the first ever Kenosha Creative Economy Strategic Plan. This process — sponsored by the City of Kenosha Commission on the Arts and its partners and created in in close collaboration with UW-Madison’s Bolz Center for Arts Administration and its advisors — has allowed the community to deliberately plan for and leverage resources to ensure the growth and development of the local creative economy.
During the planning process, countless relationships were forged through learning and sharing. Many sources of knowledge, synthesized data and key insights were gathered through various phases of community outreach, steering committee interviews, key influencer interviews, surveys, focus groups and comprehensive review of eight substantial community plans dating from 2012-2016.
What follows are the four key initiatives that have been identified based on Kenosha County’s competitive strengths, available resources and special opportunities:
1. Philanthropy and business partnerships ensuring connections between commerce and culture is a major point of emphasis in the plan. Corporate leaders and individual donors seek to “tap in” and fortify a vibrant culture across the county and these parties need to be more wholly engaged. We learned that the number of jobs in creative industries is growing significantly faster in Kenosha County than in other compared counties, the state of Wisconsin or nationally. Now is the time for our cultural producers, institutions and organizations to secure the partnerships and leverage resources to thrive.
2. Downtown revitalization through entrepreneurship incubation at the Kenosha Creative Space. Increased collaboration between public schools, institutions of higher education and K-12 students, teachers and administrators can create a robust entrepreneurship and innovation network to serve today’s and tomorrow’s workforce — and, at the same time, serve to revitalize Kenosha’s historic downtown. Meanwhile, the Kenosha Creative Space, as a physical “hub” slated to open Fall 2017, will be a environment for collaborations between freelancers, entrepreneurs and creative workers. This will allow co-location of support services to grow a dense network of individuals working together, learning together and growing businesses.
3. Community marketing through centralized events calendar at KenoshaNews in close collaboration with key partners will add value to Kenosha County’s brand for internal and external audiences. In both the community outreach events that engaged more than 100 community members, this community marketing element was highly prioritized and the promotion of events and cultural activities was seen as a key vehicle for enhancing Kenosha County’s brand as an innovative, vibrant creative economy.
4. Neighborhood Revitalization through the Arts is the final of four initiatives that will require heightened coordination between residents, organizations and public sector institutions. Whether it’s the nascent arts district in Union Park, the stately Lincoln Park neighborhood, or the historic Uptown Brass Village neighborhood, there is rich store of human capital that is a largely untapped resource in revitalization of neighborhoods and residential communities. Arts and culture activities, events and displays bring people together in good will, foster community identity and mobilize engagement.
Join us to celebrate the unveiling of these four key initiatives at 5:30 p.m. Friday at Gateway Technical College’s Horizon Center. This event features live music, local foods and individuals that span the breadth and depth of Kenosha County’s creative economy.
Learn more and RSVP at www.kenosharising.com
Amy Greil is a community, natural resource and economic development educator for the University of Wisconsin Extension in Racine and Kenosha counties.