As Waunakee community members plan for the second Imagination Celebration, they are also fulfilling part of a larger creative economy initiative.
In June 2012, the first Imagination Celebration attracted more than 1,500 visitors to see exhibits and performances. The upcoming Nov. 3 event will also attempt to showcase Waunakee’s creativity and help develop a creative economy.
The first Imagination Celebration did more than simply celebrate the arts; it drew attention to Waunakee as a place that nurtures artists and innovation. Village Administrator and Economic Development Director Todd Schmidt has noticed the increased recognition.
“I've spoken across the state, and I know we’re being spoken about,” Schmidt said.
Recently, the village economic development committee approved Schmidt’s strategic plan for the village’s Creative Economy Initiative.
The plan sets forth short-term, mid-term and long-term goals spanning the next five years. In the end, Schmidt hopes that the initiative results in Waunakee attracting unique businesses, finding a niche and building an identity.
He cited Spring Green, Wis., and Galena, Ill., as examples of communities with strong creative economies. Such an economy also grows tourism and revenue through hotel taxes. But it also establishes a community as a place where creative people want to be.
The long-term goals include Waunakee establishing a reputation as “creative friendly,” according to the plan. Local artists would also find a strengthened market for their work.
Schmidt’s plan also envisions a physical transformation with a more “vibrant physical feel.”
Already, the first Imagination Celebration seems to have achieved some results.
Some Waunakee artists have made sales of their work because of awareness gained at the Imagination Celebration event. No sales were allowed at the event.
A new awareness that local artists existed and could be contacted was also realized. When the Dean Clinic was about to open, representatives from the clinic contacted the village to find local artists whose work could be showcased there, Schmidt said.
The event also helped connect the artists, who opened galleries at Murphy Mill during the holiday shopping season.
One participant opened her own business, Art Party Place, after the event.
Schmidt said he regularly receives calls from people asking about presenters at the Imagination Celebration.
“It was fun, and we hope it will be fun again,” Schmidt said.
The village partnered with Arts Wisconsin to plan the second Imagination Celebration mainly because Schmidt and others kept hearing a demand for it.
Planning is currently underway, and anyone looking to participate as an exhibitor can visit the village’s website, waunakee.com/celebration.
One other goal for establishing a creative economy is to eventually allow it to sustain itself, Schmidt said.
The Economic Development Committee “has been clear that this should evolve into something that should be more than a village-led effort, something borne of its own fruition,” Schmidt said.