Using Smarts to Improve the Arts Iowa County

Connections in Iowa County

Data Source: University of Wisconsin Service Center

Nestled on a quiet street near Brewery Creek in Mineral Point, Wisconsin, the nine cabins and limestone buildings that make up the core of Shake Rag Alley look like a quirky postcard from the Wisconsin mining village’s past.

But the nationally renowned art center and writing retreat is actually more interested in the future. Shake Rag Alley leaders are looking to expand, and to do so, they’ve turned to another historic center: the Bolz Center for Arts Administration at the University of Wisconsin–Madison’s Wisconsin School of Business.

UW–Madison’s Bolz Center is the oldest arts administration graduate training program in the country. And it’s at the forefront of a movement known as “creative placemaking,” which gives arts organizations a central role in urban planning and economic development efforts — and benefits local economies in the process.

It was eye-opening to see that the University of Wisconsin–Madison was willing to work with … Shake Rag Alley.

“It was eye-opening to see that the University of Wisconsin–Madison was willing to work with, you know, little old Shake Rag Alley and little old Mineral Point,” says Megan Kulick, executive director of Shake Rag Alley. “It was neat to know the opportunity was there to partner with UW–Madison.”

Shake Rag Alley approached the Bolz Center to help develop a strategic plan that will identify steps to build on its past success and chart a strong course for future growth. Wisconsin MBA students are currently in the process of identifying some of the center’s challenges.

“These students came in and offered fresh perspectives,” says Kulick. “I was very impressed with their level of expertise, their talents, and their credentials.”

The Bolz Center students develop relationships with organizations and then offer approaches to help them partner with community leaders to reach their goals.

“We’re gaining an outside perspective — people who aren’t as attached to our organization looking at what we’re doing, and how we could be doing it better,” says Kulick. The UW students have already interviewed several Mineral Point businesses to gauge their interest in partnering with Shake Rag Alley. “And seeing the responses was not only interesting,” says Kulick, “but also helpful for us in becoming more involved in the community and more of a community asset.”