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Dubuque visit offers new ideas for art growth

Sept. 18, 2012

In addition to his development projects in Waukesha and Oconomowoc, Jeff Seymour also recently visited Dubuque, Iowa, with Mayor Jeff Scrima and other locals as a way to collaborate with a fellow arts city.

Seymour said the group was doing research on the role art plays in development in Dubuque and its growing Warehouse District.

"We met with the mayor of Dubuque and some of the 'movers and shakers' from their arts movement there and learned the significant role of the creative class in Dubuque's downtown revival," Seymour said. "Dubuque has developed some pretty creative ways to be sustainable and the district really values a cultural and social vibrancy."

Seymour said local developer Phil Lee, who investigates and explores other cities to see what works and doesn't, visited Dubuque and indicated that a group should go there.

The group attended an "Art Party" the day they were there.

"It's in their eighth year and has been a huge hit," Seymour said. "We just went there to learn what they have done to be successful."

According to the City of Dubuque's website, the City of Dubuque, through the Arts and Cultural Advisory Commission, has awarded almost $2 million to area arts and culture organizations and other nonprofits since 2005.

Through the Arts and Culture FundingProgram for Operating Support, $200,000 is available for the arts. This has resulted in $47 million in annual economic activity development, supporting 1,530 full-time jobs. Seymour said they learned that a lot of this has to do with the city's Riverfront, new convention center and Warehouse District.

Dubuque also has an annual Art on the River outdoor sculpture exhibit featuring 10 pieces of art on display located in the Port of Dubuque on the Mississippi RiverWalk. In its seventh year, the city had a record 118 entries from 66 artists in 20 states and one foreign country.

"We explored how some of those things relate to Waukesha and it was a great learning experience," Seymour said. "I think it was a great idea to take this trip as we met a lot of people with a lot of new ideas."

Seymour said Waukesha - which has had an art renaissance in the last number of years with art crawls, Art Fest, many galleries and GuitarTown - has a more walkable art community with more galleries and is larger in size than Dubuque (70,000 to about 58,000). But he said he could see the two form a partnership.

"There's some interest from them in coming here to see what we're doing," Seymour said. "It was very interesting and enjoyable to reach out to other communities to see what they're doing to make positive change. I think it's important to reach out to others for inspiration."

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