|Project:||Creativity Works Here|
|Organization:||The Cultural Alliance of Greater Milwaukee|
|Christine Harris, President and Executive Director|
The Cultural Alliance of Greater Milwaukee was created in 2005 as an umbrella organization representing the arts and culture sector in greater Milwaukee. Christine Harris joined the organization in 2007 as its President and Executive Director. This year, under Harris’ leadership, the Cultural Alliance of Greater Milwaukee made a change, not just in their name, but in their business model, service, and most importantly, their mission.
In 2008, the Cultural Alliance was commissioned by the Greater Milwaukee Committee (GMC) to conduct an audit of the major cultural assets in the region, including a review of organized philanthropic support. The GMC was not interested in a traditional cultural plan; they wanted a study that was broader in scope. The Cultural Alliance hired Mt. Auburn Associates, a consulting firm that has been at the forefront of the creative economic development field for the past 10 years to help with the project. With that, the study Cultural Asset Inventory of the Seven County Region, made clear that the Milwaukee region has outstanding arts and cultural assets—and a fragile infrastructure. The study recommended a planning process for the creative community incorporating for-profit business, nonprofit arts and culture organizations, and individual artists and creatives.
As a result of the initial study, Creativity Works! Milwaukee Regional Creative Industries Project launched in 2009 with the goal of inventorying and growing the Milwaukee seven county region’s creative economy, meaning those individuals and businesses whose products and services originate in aesthetic, artistic, or cultural content. After a summit of regional community leaders was held in February, followed by several gatherings with the creative community, it became clear that the scope and complexity of the project required outside assistance. The Cultural Alliance applied for a federal grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Agency (EDA). When the Cultural Alliance approached the Commerce Department’s regional office they were told that the EDA doesn’t fund "potters in basements"—that they were looking at real jobs and a real business. Harris realized that in order to work with the Department of Commerce and the general business community, the Alliance would have to change its language. Through persistence and working with the cultural and business community, the Cultural Alliance’s application demonstrated the link to the creative industries and was successful in earning a $146,250 from EDA, the first ever grant to a cultural organization. The Cultural Alliance was also successful in earning a Mayors’ Institute on City Design (MICD) grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, helping to leverage other support for the project.
In January of 2011, the report, Creative Industries: A New Economic Growth Opportunity for the Milwaukee 7 Region, was released. The report recommended a strategic action plan for the region’s creative sector. In order to implement those recommendations and serve the broader creative industries in the Milwaukee region, the Cultural Alliance became the Creative Alliance Milwaukee in April 2011, with the goal of adding jobs, small businesses, and increased creative capacity in our region that will ultimately lead to more innovation.
The Creative Alliance is already working on new initiatives that support its mission, including Creativity Works Here, a program in partnership with the Shops of Grant Avenue. It is designed to foster growth and development in Milwaukee’s creative industry, as well as spur retail growth in The Shops of Grand Avenue. Creativity Works Here offers the mall’s resources, namely space, to local creatives and artists, as well as small business owners. Not only does the program offer unique and affordable location options, but with so many varied and talented people under one roof, there is tremendous opportunity to collaborate and share. Through Creativity Works Here, a once powerful retail destination will be transformed into the epicenter of arts, culture, and creativity in Milwaukee.
Christine Harris has learned a few things through the transition of the Cultural Alliance transitioning to the Creative Alliance. One, try to raise the funds before executing your project. Harris was raising the money for Creativity Works! while trying to plan and implement the project. Two, she learned that the idea of the creative industries really moved her and it’s an area she hopes to continue working in; however, not as an agency executive, but rather as an independent consultant. Christine stepped down as executive director in early June and will continue to advise the organization for the next 12 months.
To learn more about Creative Alliance Milwaukee and their new initiatives, please visit www.creativeallianceMKE.org.
|Organization Contact:||Christine Harris|
|Project Contact:||Christine Harris|