It started with a spark

BAACA and local community partners announce arts and culture assessment to begin in Green Bay

By Rachel Sankey

Kelli Strickland, executive and artistic director of the Weidner Center for the Performing Arts, talks to the audience at The Art Garage during the announcement of Spark GGB!, a community-wide assessment of arts and culture in Green Bay. Josh Staloch Photo

The Bay Area Arts & Culture Alliance (BAACA) was born out of Art Squad, a group full of artists, makers, arts educators and more. 

BAACA stands as the representative group that identifies important matters in the local creative community from Art Squad and takes action on those matters, Executive and Artistic Director of Weidner Performing Arts Center Kelli Strickland said. 

“When we sat down to tackle some of these problems, we realized that what we needed was a comprehensive understanding of not just who the creative sector was, but also what our community was asking us,” Strickland said. “What we needed to be doing to get a seat at larger community conversations where arts can be a powerful tool for some of the work that our community is trying to do.”

After realizing the community’s needs, as well as hearing from local leaders about not having a strong sense of who the arts and culture community was, Strickland said the members of BAACA knew that Green Bay needed an extensive assessment of its creative sector.

After putting out a Request for Proposal (RFP) and gaining support from the Greater Green Bay Chamber, Greater Green Bay Community Foundation, Northeast Wisconsin Technical College (NWTC), University of Wisconsin – Green Bay (UWGB) and more, Spark GGB! started to come to greater fruition. The assessment is an eight month-long process with the end goal of the entire community having a shared consensus of what needs to be done for arts and culture in Green Bay.

Strickland said the assessment consists of several different parts: interviews, town hall meetings, surveys and data.

Interviews

By the end of the assessment, consultants for Spark GGB! will have completed 60 one hour interviews with individual artists, organizations, political leaders and more. 

The interviews will provide a wide variety of outlooks on the arts and culture sector in Green Bay to get a better understanding of what needs the community should take action on.

30 out of 60 interviews have already been conducted.

Town halls

The town hall meetings will be divided up by different sections Spark GGB! will look into, such as arts education. Other sections will include artists, business leadership, specific demographics and more.

“Our goal will be to get as many individuals in our community who are directly involved with arts education, and that’s across the board,” Strickland said. “That’s after school programs. That’s K-12. That’s people who oversee curriculum at the school districts. This outreach is a repeated pattern of need in the project.”

Surveying

The next step in the assessment, Strickland said, is surveying. 

The survey asks people in the community about where they access the arts, what role the creative sector plays in their lives, whether they make or consume art and more.

“We send out surveys with as broad a reach as we can facilitate,” she said. 

Data collection

Along with the other parts of the assessment, data analysis is being done in the background.

“Consultants are pulling census data, any local data assessment that has been done by our city, our county and big organizations like United Way,” Strickland said. “They’re taking all the qualitative information that they’re getting from the conversations with the individual groups, and then they’re mapping it all alongside the data.”

Once the data is collected, the consultants will make a presentation that will provide what the creative sector looks like in the community and then provide recommendations on what to do next. Strickland said there will be physical maps, numbers, ideas sectioned into categories and more.

“Then it’s our community’s responsibility to take all that work and get together and say, ‘Okay, we’ve got a shared vision, we’ve got a shared vocabulary, but foundationally we have a shared understanding of what the creative sector is in our community,’” she said.

Community involvement

Members of the community are encouraged to get involved with the assessment, Strickland said, whether that be attending town hall meetings or sending an email and sharing their experiences and relationships in the arts and culture sector in Green Bay.

“My hope is that the conversation is so robust, and the findings are so exciting that anyone who is thinking about investing in the community, whether that’s starting initiatives around wellness, mental health, equity and startups,” Strickland said. “Whatever it is, that they pause for a moment and say, ‘Is there a way to integrate arts into this conversation?’ I think people will be surprised at how powerful a tool the arts can be.”

To watch the press conference for Spark GGB!, follow BAACA’s Instagram account to stay up to date on where the video will be posted.


Rachel Sankey is the associate editor of Green Bay City Pages. She can be reached via email at [email protected]

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