This Week in the Mercury


Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Yes, You Really Do Care About the State of the Arts

Posted by Denis C. Theriault on Wed, Mar 9, 2011 at 11:14 AM

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Portlanders who give a toot about art—and publicly funded art—were instructed to "mob it up" at City Hall this morning and sit in while the Regional Arts and Culture Council presented its annual State of the Arts report.

You clearly didn't need the prompting. The main council chambers were packed—with a dozen or so unlucky souls forced to stand against the windows in the chambers' third-floor balcony. CDs (how quaint!) were on sale in the hallway, next to paintings on display. Also as promised, students from the PHAME Academy performed a song, Neil Young's "Heart of Gold."

"This is one of my favorite presentations of the year," Commissioner Nick Fish said later in the meeting. "As a council, we're happy to support your work."

So, yes. It's a feelgood event. It's also amounts to a fantastic sales job: The council, which looks to the report to justify its substantial financial support for RACC, heard from teachers and artists, heard about how grant money was helping kids and addicts, or creating new artwork in downtown spaces and minority neighborhoods.

RACC itself, even without the city's help, is doing well. It's raised $700,000 so far over the past fiscal year, and hopes to rake in up to $1 million. RACC devoted $2.6 million in city contributions toward grants—out of some $3.1 million in grants overall—funding events and other projects that have brought in 2.6 million people.

"I just want to underscore," Mayor Sam Adams said before the council accepted the report unanimously. "This is a city priority. I feel like we've only just begun to realize our potential."

One intriguing nugget came from Jessica Jarratt, executive director of the Creative Advocacy Network, who said CAN was on the verge of launching an investment fund that would serve as a stable source of ongoing funding for RACC. No details, though, on how much that might amount to.

Want more numbers? Hit the jump.

• RACC gave some $500,000 in project grants, to 56 organizations, many of them doing work that's experimental. Applications for the grants rose by 12 percent.

•28 public art projects went up in Portland with RACC's help, installations worth some $635,000.

• Grants have reflected the city's 74 percent/26 percent divide between white hipsters and people of color.

• Thanks to a lot of recruiting, though, a third of RACC's board members are people of color.

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