In last week's issue, we talked about the Mayor's push to contain the Last Thursday arts event in Northeast Portland. While permitting the event (allowing for legal closure of the street) is the long-term goal, Mayor Sam Adams made it clear where his priorities lay: Sponsorships.
Despite the Spring comments of Rochelle Saliba, former member of the nonprofit Friends of Last Thursday (FOLT), whose complaints centered on sponsorships and fundraising breaking the "free spirit" nature of the event, FOLT is now making significant strides towards financial independence from the city.
I spoke with Bridget Bayer, event coordinator hired by FOLT, about how the 15-year-old monthly event has begun to take the reins into its own hands. Bayer says that while the standards have not changed much since last year, the leadership has reframed the neighborhood event. "It's the same system, but instead of the city being responsible for it, and taxpayers paying for it, we're paying for it. It's now in our hands," says Bayer.
At the moment, it looks like the majority of new funding has come from the recently introduced beer garden on 19th and Alberta, sponsored by the Vagabond Theater. Additionally, Bayer says, FOLT has set up a few stations throughout the event where visitors can donate directly, with some incentive. "At each booth, visitors can buy one of five collectible glow-in-the-dark wristbands. It'll keep folks interested," says Bayer.
While she says that eventually applying for a permit is an inevitable next step, FOLT's main focus this summer is volunteer recruitment. Says Bayer, volunteers are key in keeping police presence at the event to a minimum, as they can likely settle an issue before it explodes into a phone call by an irritated neighbor.
Already, Bayer says, police haven't had much of a presence at the event, judging by the most recent Last Thursday fest. Stay tuned to see if FOLT can secure its independent footing over the summer months!