Wisconsin tourism secretary visits ArtStart as part of week-long tour
Story and photos by Lori C. Adler, reporter
In celebration of National Travel and Tourism Week, Sara Meaney, Wisconsin Tourism Secretary-designee, visited Rhinelander Friday to meet members of the community and tour a couple of Rhinelander attractions. Her main goal, however, was to demonstrate the state’s commitment to tourism and to share how tourism impacts Wisconsin’s economy.
Meaney and members of her staff, along with State Representative Rob Swearingen and Jeff Anderson (regional tourism specialist) visited ArtStart in downtown Rhinelander. Explaining that National Travel and Tourism week was a celebration of how well Wisconsin is doing in competing for tourism dollars, Meaney began her comments by noting that visitors to the state generated $1.6 billion in revenue last year. She also stressed the value of tourism as part of the state’s economy, stating that tourism equals jobs. Over 199,000 jobs in Wisconsin are related to tourism. “That means,” Meaney explains, “one in 13 jobs is sustained by tourism.”
According to Meaney, outdoor recreation is the number one reason people choose to visit Wisconsin, though outdoor recreation versus environmental concerns has been a recent topic for discussion on the state level. Explaining that Governor Tony Evers is committed to finding a balance between recreation and being “good stewards of the land”, Meaney added that the governor’s budget includes the creation of an Office of Outdoor Recreation to combine the efforts of all stakeholders.
During Meaney’s visit, ArtStart Development Director Melinda Childs spoke about the center’s big upcoming event, Project North, for which they received a state tourism JEM grant. The event will combine music, art, and sustainability. “I’m really excited to see how all the music and art and culture comes together with this, “ Meaney expressed.
Following Meaney’s remarks, she was given a tour of the ArtStart galleries by Ashley McLaughlin (ArtStart Program & Operations Director). Currently hosting a two-month exhibit of Haitain art, the galleries contain a mixture of paintings, metal, and textile artwork. The exhibit ends this weekend, culminating in a dinner Saturday and a Mother’s Day brunch Sunday, both prepared by a celebrity chef from Haiti.
After touring the ArtStart galleries, Meaney was scheduled to visit the Pioneer Park Historical Complex in Rhinelander later Friday.