If you’ve been listening to 88Nine Radio Milwaukee within the past few months, you’ve likely heard their Make Milwaukee campaign stories that all start with the questions, “What makes Milwaukee a creative place? Who makes Milwaukee creative?” They go about answering these questions by diving into communities and studios, uncovering the diverse range of people and projects that are fostering creativity in our region.
In tandem with that initiative, this past January the Cultural Alliance of Greater Milwaukee and the Greater Milwaukee Committee released their findings of a year-long study of the southeastern Wisconsin seven-county region’s creative industries at their Creativity Works! Moving Forward event, held at the Harley Davidson Museum.
When I signed up to be a volunteer for the event, I was asked if TKWA would be interested in creating a self-promotional centerpiece for the tables at the event. I posed the project to the studio. After getting into a discussion on the nature of the study and what actually keeps creative products, projects and events from happening, we posed our own question: “How does the Milwaukee region become a creative center?” We knew that the answer to that question had to be based around collaboration and communication between the key players behind those creative endeavors, similar to what happens in the initial stages of the design process. Any thought of self-promotion was thrown out the door.
So who are these key players, and what are their vested interests and motives for ensuring that creative endeavors become reality to benefit the regional economy? We identified ten players, one for each seat at the table: city leaders, banker, developer, business owner, citizen, architect, musician, artist, university, & philanthropist.
In keeping with the theme of communication, we wanted to send guests the message that they, too, needed to communicate with one another. In brainstorming ways to visually convey communication in a simple manner, we decided on the soup can phone from our childhoods, which we dubbed the “iCan.” We designed a label for each iCan to represent the key players, complete with a list of ingredients describing each player’s motives, roadblocks, and benefits to supporting creative endeavors in our region. Next, we welded a “telephone pole” to connect our players across the table. The mobile atop the pole includes photos of some of the places we would take guests new to Milwaukee, including the Art Museum, the lakefront, our neighborhoods, the Public Market and Pier Wisconsin. The backs of these photos include our initial question as well as our answer, “Through creative collaboration and communication.”
The results of the study conclude that the creative industries are an economic force and are likely to become a significant economic driver in the future that we should focus on. Next steps include creating councils around the five main creative industry segments, starting with the Design Council “to establish a nationally reputed center for design innovation and creativity.” At 46%, design makes up the largest sector of our regional creative industries.
On April 13th, Creativity Works! will be hosting another event, Creative Hub Live, in which they’ll unveil a website for creatives to find opportunities and for businesses to find local talent, a new organization name and mission, and more. If you missed out the first time around, don’t wait to register as this event is likely to sell out as well!