I'm proud to be your Arts Commissioner. I have been involved in Portland's art community since I was a teenager, and I spent 22 years supporting Portland's literary and visual arts community through my bookshop. Today, Council is considering a package of amendments to the Mayor's proposed budget. We seem to be in agreement, and have community support, for most of the amendments. However, one that is up in the air is my amendment to partially restore the 9% cut to the Regional Arts & Culture Council.
I'm surprised that this small allocation--$147K--from general fund contingency is in question. Our arts community, from individual artists to non-profit organizations to our independent venues, are under threat. Artists who may be self-employed or independent contractors, are still waiting for unemployment relief. Performers, performing arts presenters, and venues that depend on large gatherings have no financially viable way to ply their trade or run their businesses. The potential impact to Portland's art and culture landscape and community is devastating.
Portland has built it's "brand" on the backs of our arts community, a multi-million dollar industry that provides thousands of jobs, is a major tourism attraction, and drives business to hotels, restaurants, and retailers across the city. But we haven't done enough to preserve or foster this community that is so essential, not just to our local economy, but to our heart and spirit. I made a modest ask--reduce the cut to RACC to align with cuts to our City bureaus. What I really want is full funding restored to RACC in light of the disparate impact to the arts community and our historic underfunding of the arts. I would also like to see the city commit to seeding an arts relief fund of at least $1M, an investment on par with cities such as Seattle, San Francisco, and Austin. This partial restoration of RACC's budget cut would be a small but meaningful step toward supporting our vital arts community. Thank you to everyone who has emailed, called, and provided testimony in support of RACC.
Hop on the livestream at the link below and please let my colleagues know you support the arts and want to see Portland do more to avert ongoing devastation to our arts community.