Engage. Connect. Inspire.

Vision: All Dane County citizens and residents leading expressive lives in connection with one another.

Mission: Engaging participation, connecting people, and inspiring expressive living in Dane County, Wisconsin.


Every great society leaves a meaningful cultural legacy. The people of Dane County, Wisconsin have a remarkable gift to share with the world. Arts, culture and local history express our common humanity. The Dane County Cultural Affairs Commission within Dane County Government supports these beliefs through its Dane Arts projects and programs.

The Dane County Cultural Affairs Commission, with its programs also known as Dane Arts, is composed of 13 individuals (10 citizens + 3 County Board Supervisors) appointed by the Dane County Executive. It directs a small agency within Dane County government (located in the Madison region of south-central Wisconsin) focused upon supporting arts, culture and local history.

Through Dane County Cultural Aairs - Dane Arts, the Commission is committed to making Dane County stronger by supporting citizens, groups, and organizations that preserve our shared heritage, and create arts and cultural opportunities for residents and visitors. Current projects and programs include: a successful grant program, the Dane Arts Mural Arts project, the Dane Arts Buy Local Night Market, the new Dane Arts Gallery located in the City-County building, and the annual art posters and art calendars that showcase Dane County's cultural and historical life, supporting the dynamic local creative sector, and nurturing community collaborations. Dane Arts is leading the effort in showing the economic impact and community power of the arts; in education, community engagement, and cultural inclusion. Dane Arts continuously strives to support artists and arts organizations county-wide.


Overture Center for the Arts International Festival 2019, photo credit to Martin Jenich

Overture Center for the Arts International Festival 2019, photo credit to Martin Jenich

Foundation Story


1976 was a time of reflection in the United States. As communities around the country considered how to celebrate their local stories in observance of the nation’s bicentennial, the Dane County Board of Supervisors created the Cultural Affairs Commission, now doing business as Dane Arts. Its mission was to foster and celebrate creative expression among the citizens of Dane County, Wisconsin, validating the significant role art, culture and history play in contributing to the quality of life in Dane County. Since the beginning, the Commission has been stalwartly dedicated to fostering participation, increasing access, and forging alliances in support of arts, culture and local history. Lynne Watrous Eich was its first director and served the Commission for thirty years until her retirement in 2007.

At that time, similar local arts agencies were being created all over the country. The core principles used by many of them included:

  • Democracy of Art respecting the inherent worth, voice, and creativity in every individual - linked to the American democratic ideal
  • Importance of Place celebrating Dane County’s past, present, and future uniqueness, and the artistic expression of citizens ensuring their cultural story is told
  • Community building because arts and culture celebrate shared values and offer powerful opportunities for people to connect with one another
  • Excellence in everything we do respecting the ability of all Dane County citizens and residents to appreciate high artistic and cultural achievement and outstanding aesthetics

As an expression of our values, Dane County is one of only three counties in Wisconsin with a public agency dedicated to supporting arts, culture and local history.


Grant Program


Grant awards are provided to nonprofit organizations, schools, municipalities, and individual artists for projects and modest capital ventures. Annual distributions of nearly $300,000 in recent years contribute the largest single source

of financial support by any public agency targeting arts, culture and local history in Dane County. Substantial matching funds secured by grant applicants contribute to the financial mix. Approximately 150 grants annually support a diverse array of exhibitions, concerts, touring productions, festivals, educational residencies, art-making activities, publications, and community events.  


Africasong Communications Tribute & Ceremony Honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Africasong Communications Tribute & Ceremony Honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., 2018



The Commission and Dane Arts are well known for iconic signature products: an annual poster and desktop calendar showcasing art created by local artists. These widely-distributed publications present high quality artwork highlighting Dane County’s uniqueness. Poster donations and calendar sales help generate revenue in support of Dane Arts.

Community Resource


Dane Arts staff, along with Commission members, offer technical assistance, support, and advocacy countywide. Community service includes; initiating artistic projects, serving as an arts & culture resource hub and inspiring meaningful connections between artists, presenters, and the community.

Awards & Editorials


The Cultural Affairs Commission has received numerous recognitions including awards from American Association of Museums, National Association of Counties, American Association for State and Local History, Graphic Design USA, Philip Morris Industrial, State Historical Society of Wisconsin, Downtown Madison, Capital Community Citizens, and Madison Community Foundation.




Honoring and celebrating the Cultural Affairs Commission's community service spanning over four decades.

  • Brilliant artwork created by over 100 local individual artists showcased in annual art posters and calendars, of which, hundreds of thousands distributed near and far.
  • Over 100 local citizens provided service as Commission members and Grant Advisory Panel Members.
  • Arts, Culture & Local History Grants (2007-2019): over 1340 awards totaling over $2.6 million (public & private sources) matched by nearly $25.9 million from other community sources.


The Arts and Economic Prosperity 5 Study

“Americans for the Arts conducted Arts & Economic Prosperity 5 to document the economic impact of the nation’s nonprofit arts and culture industry.  Detailed expenditure data was collected from 14,439 art and cultural organizations and 212,691 of their attendees.”  To read the Dane County summary, click here. To read the full study, click here. To view the Economic Impact calculator, click here.