Milwaukee Business Journal Opinion: Play your part, support local artists

June 10, 2021

By Heather Dunn, Steve Johnson and Greg Wesley – United Performing Arts Fund

In March 2020 the performing arts scene in eastern Wisconsin entered a forced intermission. 

While record-breaking seasons were abruptly brought to an end, fundraising events were canceled and in-person arts education programming was put on pause, we knew as a sector we had to adapt and persevere to ensure our lights did not dim.

The overwhelming support of our community through the United Performing Arts Fund and directly to our region’s world-class organizations helped all to navigate through the dramatic hardships caused by Covid-19. With dedication, innovation and a community they could count on, our talented local artists were able to transcend the boundaries of the stage to continue positively impacting lives throughout 2020.

Not only has the last 14 months caused the performing arts sector to identify new and innovative ways to connect with audiences, it has also allowed time to take a step back to consider the important roles the performing arts will play as our community heals and rebuilds – be it financial challenges or making social justice a priority in all that we do. 

The performing arts embrace uncertainty, ask deep questions, lean into discomfort, make room for all people and question the status quo. 

We have been able to turn crisis into opportunity during these incredibly challenging times. But only because our great community has never wavered in their generous support through UPAF.

It is an honor for us to serve as the co-chairs of the 2021 UPAF Community Campaign as we work to ensure the stability and sustainability of our artistic community for the long term during the most difficult time it has ever faced.

Now more than ever, the 14 member groups funded by UPAF are depending on the generosity of our community. While our local artists and organizations have begun a return to the stage, they are still facing the challenges of operating under great limitations and the impact of nearly $23 million in lost revenue will take years to recover from.

Our call to action this year is clear — Play Your Part and Support our Artists. As a community, we all benefit when we rally behind the talented artists and groups who bring us joy, make us laugh, lift our spirits, inspire hope and make our region a better place to live, work and play. 

Heather Dunn, Steve Johnson and Greg Wesley are co-chairs of the 2021 UPAF Community Campaign.