Interestingly, due to the recent (and fully justified) upheaval surrounding Janet Zweig's public art project, the Creative Coalition's activities have been off the radar screen. Perhaps this is also why I haven't heard from the Coalition, even though I volunteered for one of the task forces (I opted for Communications lead by Jonathan West, mostly because I respect his position within the Coalition's constellation of players). It is a busy time, everybody pulling hair over a threat of loosing Zweig's project to the chopping - pardon, "voting" - block. I have to acknowledge though, that I did receive an electronic "Thank You" note.
Now, on to the issues. Two things were striking about the meeting:
- appalling homogeneity of the crowd in which minorities were barely represented,
- complete lack of involvement from our political "representatives."
Given the current uproar around the rejection of Zweig's proposal, the exclusion of politicians from the planning process (be it self-imposed, or not) should be quite instructive and serve as an important lesson - I taught for many years, so I do trust you will bear my tone- that the Creative Coalition should seriously consider.
From many cultural plans that I had studied in the recent months, both from the US and elsewhere, Milwaukee is the only instance in which the planning process is being lead entirely by a private - non-for-profit - but nonetheless, entirely private enterprise. The groundbreaking Chicago Cultural Plan, for example, was initiated by the Mayor Harold Washington and lead by the newly founded Department of Cultural Affairs. The funding was provided by the NEA and Chicago Community Trust, a good, ol' mix of public and private funding. Many other plans I had seen were sponsored by similar conjoined effort of both civic leaders, public and private bodies. While Chicago's case is certainly unprecedented in terms of governmental involvement, that kind of involvement provides a firm footing for other plans as well. I don't find it particularly surprising. For a plan to succeed, it needs a support coming from all the significant constituents.
What I do find rather shocking is the divorce of public and private that seems to be taking place in Milwaukee right now. I don't know how it happened that no politicians were involved in the Creative Coalition. I am not willing to speculate here why this might have occured. However, if the Creative Coalition trusted its own intelligence and power just less than two weeks ago, perhaps we have just learned a harsh lesson that without involvement of the political leadership, no "creative"/cultural plan can come to fruition. Without a smart strategy to engage and secure the support of the Mayor, the Common Council etc. we are just waiting for other valuable projects to get shot down. So while you're calling your alderman to ask her/him for a vote in favor of Zweig's project, also consider asking them how come they do not participate in the Creative Coalition.