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ArtsWatch gets back to its founding principles


Carl Morris, 1942, Eugene Post Office

Carl Morris, 1942, Eugene Post Office

During the next couple of weeks, I’m going to be talking about Oregon ArtsWatch. I know what I’m thinking: May the wood sprites preserve me from another Pledge Week, even one that I’m staging!

And yes, I’m going to be asking for your help to keep ArtsWatch going and growing. It’s just inevitable, I’m afraid. On the other hand, we haven’t had an ArtsWatch membership drive since 2012, which sounds crazy now that I type it.

That’s crazy in two ways. The first is simply the money: One important source of revenue for ArtsWatch is direct public support in the form of memberships. And the more we receive from you, the more independent our enterprise is. The second is the opportunity to talk about arts journalism in depth, both here in Oregon and across the country, and how we should be pursuing it here with the resources we have. I probably don’t have to tell you about the collapse of arts writing nationwide and the transformation of the fragments that are left into puffery of various sorts. ArtsWatch is in part a reaction to that process, but maybe we need to scrutinize it a little more closely, just so we can figure out what our next steps should be.

Since we started publishing ArtsWatch in the summer of 2011, we’ve been committed to a few principles.

  • The arts in the 21st century are important to a healthy, democratic culture.
  • Journalism of various kinds about the arts can deepen our engagement with them and help create a culture in which they thrive—our two primary aims.
  • Our journalism should serve our readers (and listeners) and respond to their ideas, desires, and corrections.
  • It requires a variety of experiments to make it more useful as the culture changes.
  • And finally, to keep that journalism alive and thriving, we need to pay the journalists a reasonable fee for their work.

We wanted to be a community resource for informed inquiry into and discussion about the culture we create together. And because our focus was on the community, we decided ArtsWatch should be a nonprofit organization. Fortunately, the IRS agreed that our activities were in the public interest and qualified for a 501(c)(3). Which in most cases makes your contribution tax deductible.

I’ll be talking about these things during our Pledge Drive, and I hope it will help you to understand what we’re about now, how that might change, and how much of the ArtsWatch project depends on you. So, I hope you’ll keep reading, even if you decide that right now, you want to become a member!

What do you actually receive in return if you click one of the levels of support in the online payment form below?

1. You receive the very best arts reporting, reviewing and writing we can muster, all written with our shared local culture in mind.

OK, of course! We’re going to do our best! But what else?

2. Members receive the ArtsWatch eNewsletter. And we’re going to pack it with as much ArtsWatch goodness as we can. For example:

1. special deals and events from our ArtsWatch sponsors, because who doesn’t love a discount and special access?
2. links to the best work on our website and from other media outlets, in one easy list
3. updates on local cultural conditions from Oregon Arts Watch journalists, ahead of publication on the website
4. invitations to special Oregon Arts Watch events
5. the opportunity to advise and shape our journalism going forward

That last one is for real. As part of our community, we’re hoping you’ll help us figure things out, both for the little nonprofit business we’ve started and for the practice of arts writing here in this place and time. Only with your help can we make it better.

That’s it! That’s what you get for your donation. No mugs, no t-shirts, no handbags. Instead, we’re offering a deeper engagement with our local culture than you can get without us, from ticket deals to advance notice on popular shows to invitations to special events involving artists in the community.

It’s not fashionable to bet on “deeper engagement” these days, or on the writers, reviewers and reporters trying to make it more possible. ArtsWatch is contrarian in that way. And if you are too? Maybe we have a bargain!

And it couldn’t be easier…

Payment suggestions

…or you can donate ANY amount, and any amount would be most welcome!

You can also avoid electronic payments altogether by sending us a check directly:

Oregon ArtsWatch
2146 NE 14th Ave.
Portland, OR 97212

For many of the readers of ArtsWatch, this might not be the best of times to support the project financially.  But let’s say you want to help in other ways? Just … tell your friends about us. Seriously, that helps more than you can imagine. The more involved we get in local culture, the more adaptive local culture becomes to our needs. At heart, that’s what ArtsWatch is really all about.

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