Putting Art Clearly in View

donna fischer | the artist next door | feb. 2017

Green Bay is about to catch up with other cities in Wisconsin and beyond when it comes to supporting public art. Taking a cue from cities like Madison and Milwaukee, Green Bay resident Kent Hutchison went to the Protection and Welfare Committee of the Green Bay Common Council last fall with his vision for an organization that would help artists create sculptures, murals and other forms of art in locations where folks could appreciate them for free. And in doing so the Green Bay Public Arts Commission began.

With $75,000 in the bank, thanks to leftover money from the Stadium Sales Tax, the GBPAC is off and running. Hutchison says that he and his wife moved to the city three years ago and have stayed, in part, because of the emerging art scene. Having lived in a number of places around the country and world, he saw a need for an arts support system in Green Bay. An artist himself, Hutchison knows how vital it is to help artists fund their work.

“I received a few grants and participated in the community arts program in Madison nine years ago," explains Hutchison. “The GBPAC came into existence because I wanted to follow the same path that Madison and many other communities had started with the Public Arts Commission."

After researching, Hutchinson discovered that only five exist statewide.

“There are these communities that have smaller populations but have a PAC and I really wanted to catch Green Bay up with the art scene in Wisconsin and potentially make Green Bay and the Fox Valley a major player as far as public art and talent retention for artists — to make us a player in the state and the Midwest."

Hutchison believes that a city with a healthy public arts representation generally benefits economically. That may be one point he will use when he goes about raising more money, hopefully to the tune of $200,000 per year from public and private monies.

“I think we can attain that. The interest is not just within the artist, but it's in the community and businesses, because if we're seen as an art community that will reflect positively on their business, so I think there is incentive for businesses to participate in the funding also."

As Chairman of the GBPAC, Hutchison is getting his board together, including representatives from Mosaic Arts, Inc. and the ARTgarage. There will be an opening for a part-time administrative position and plans to get a Rotating Arts Program off the ground. This will offer exposure to artists, but also that important element of sales as visitors to the organization's website will be given an opportunity to purchase the art displayed there.

The concept of public art can be somewhat nebulous, but in the case of the GBPAC, it will at least begin with art that can be situated outdoors or in a window setting for public viewing, but this has the potential to extend beyond the visual arts.

“This isn't just a program for sculptures and murals," states Hutchison. “We want to open it up to musicians, actors, poets. If they want to go into a park and preach for a day on their poetry, we're going to make that available for them. Public arts are the whole gamut of creative expression."

Artists may be able to apply for a grant for their work as early as this summer, but they will only find support for half of their expected budget and that's by design.

“We want this to be an incentive package as much as an actual fulfillment package," says Hutchinson. “I know that's going to carve some people out who don't feel comfortable engaging in fundraising practices, but it's also going to make people who want to take the initiative to open up their network and talk to businesses and potential sponsors and get more people involved in the public arts program."

He goes on to say that while $75,000 may seem like a lot of money, that money will go quickly. Making the artist responsible for part of the funding allows for that sum to affect more projects and have a larger impact on the community.

Hutchison sees the GBPAC as a way to help a city with an overwhelming NFL presence blossom in other areas.

“Green Bay has a cultural diversity that is rich and broad but it's over-shadowed by the Packers. A lot of us feel that there's way more to be represented in Green Bay than just the Packers … Not all of us align with the Packers … this is a way for those people to have a voice and have expression and to have celebration in Green Bay as a community that's not all wearing green and gold."

The future looks bright for this new entity in Green Bay and Hutchison believes that art can prompt folks to think more progressively and positively.

“I think it [Green Bay] will be happier, more open, more conversational about what's being held back in Green Bay … that's something that art and expression does; it creates conversation through media and subject matter that helps people understand each other. So I think this is going to give Green Bay's community steam and energy to interact with each other and express each other and that can only be a positive thing."

For more information on the Green Bay Public Arts Commission, check out their Facebook page or go to GreenBayWI.gov.

--mural by Beau Thomas


Donna Fischer is an avid fan of music, film and art. When she's not writing on these subjects you'll find her gardening or snowshoeing around Green Bay.

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