Timing Is Everything

Arts Investment Is Good for Smaller Communities

ARTICLE | Dec 27, 2017

By Al Vacanti

The city of Wisner, Nebraska, is a community of 1,170 population and located 85 miles northwest of Omaha. As you might guess, its primary industry is agriculture, and its local economy is also strongly represented by education, health care, service, and financial businesses. (Learn more about Wisner at www.ci.wisner.ne.us/2197/Wisner--This-is-Who-We-Are.)

The reason I write that timing is everything is because I just finished reading the article in the October 2017 issue of Public Management (PM) magazine titled "The Arts Strong Connection," and it fits right into a project that we are working to make happen.

Auditorium Renovation

We are currently in the process of raising $1.2 million to renovate the 60-year-old Wisner City Auditorium; $250,000 has already been raised for the project. A big challenge is to convince some potentially major funders to invest in our project.

These include a program through the state of Nebraska that could provide up to $375,000, and two major foundations in the Omaha area that could each provide up to 25 percent of the project cost.

Because our auditorium is fortunate to already have a stage, I foresee live musical performances being brought to Wisner once the doors to the new and improved Wisner City Auditorium are opened.

When I was the city administrator/clerk/treasurer of Scribner, Nebraska, in 2009, I worked with the Nebraska Arts Council (NAC) and together, we were able to present three to four free summer concerts to residents and visitors. NAC provided 45 percent of the appearance fee for the performers, and we secured sponsorships from businesses to pay the balance.

The door is open for us to do the same in Wisner, presenting different styles of music with each concert, allowing our residents and visitors to enjoy performances and performers that they would normally have to travel to Omaha or Lincoln to hear.

An Artistic Outlook

I also envision the residents of Wisner reaching out to area artists to develop and host an annual arts festival in the remodeled auditorium. I am sure there will be even more events that a rural community can host to complement the steady stream of wedding receptions, family reunions, fundraisers, and other staples that require auditorium space.

I plan to use the PM article as a supporting document to upcoming grant applications, which will help present the value of upgrading and having a quality venue to a small rural community.

Al Vacanti is city administrator/clerk/treasurer, Wisner, Nebraska (citywisner@cableone.net).

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