All Classical Radio James Depreist

Cultural Trust awards $3 million to state groups

The awards to Oregon arts and cultural groups and county and tribal cultural coalitions are a bright spot in a difficult financial year.

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Image by artists Shelby David and Crystal Schenk depicting the “Salmon Run” sculpture they’ll create with the aid of a $24,237 grant for the new lobby of the Oregon Coast Aquarium in Newport. Photo courtesy Oregon Cultural Trust.

The Oregon Cultural Trust this week announced almost $3 million in grants for the 2024 fiscal year, divided among 136 arts, heritage, and humanities organizations throughout the state. The grants, which total $2,917,149, range from about $5,000 for groups including the Central Oregon Symphony Association in Bend and the Ash Creek Arts Center in Independence to almost $90,000 to Multnomah County for cultural programs. They support everything from capital campaigns to repairing leaky roofs to special programs to bring arts opportunities to isolated rural and other underserved communities.

An even larger amount — $728,759 — was divided among the Trust’s five statewide partners: the Oregon Arts Commission, Oregon Heritage Commission, Oregon Humanities, Oregon Historical Society and the State Historic Preservation Office. The same amount is divided among the state’s 45 county and tribal cultural coalitions, which in turn give out an average of 450 additional awards annually in their communities.

The grants, which cover the year beginning Sept. 1, 2023 and running through Aug. 31, 2024, are a bit of good news for Oregon cultural groups still struggling to overcome financial hits and losses of audience from the pandemic years. They follow a roller-coaster financial year that began promisingly in February with the formation of the first cultural caucus in the Oregon Legislature to push for cultural funding in the state budget, but saw those efforts largely fail in July when the Legislature rushed to finish business after a six-week walkout by most Republican members of the Senate.

As major arts organizations including the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland and Artists Repertory Theatre in Portland fell into extreme financial deficits, federal Covid emergency funding to cultural groups and other businesses was winding down. And in the Portland metropolitan area, an apparently decisive rift between the City of Portland and the Regional Arts & Culture Council, which has administered grants throughout the three-county region since 1995, has left arts groups with a host of unanswered questions.

A $5,272 grant to the Friends of the Historic Union Community Hall will help repair 14 stained glass windowpanes in Union’s Catherine Creek Community Center in northeastern Oregon. Photo courtesy Oregon Cultural Trust.

Money for the Cultural Trust’s grants comes from the state’s Cultural Tax Credit, under which taxpayers can direct a portion of their state taxes to arts and cultural programs. State taxpayers earmarked $5.2 million to the program in fiscal year 2023. The Cultural Trust has awarded almost $40 million in grants since it was created by the Oregon Legislature in 2001.

“These awards will enrich the cultural life of every county in Oregon,” Niki Price, chair of the Cultural Trust board, said in a press statement. “Every year it is an honor to fulfill the vision of the Cultural Trust’s founders by ensuring our funding has broad geographic impact and benefits every part of the state.” 

Portland’s Rejoice Diaspora Dance Theatre received $17,649 to help underwrite a new production, “Rites of Passages,” a traditional and contemporary dance in celebration of Black history and continuing culture. Photo courtesy Oregon Cultural Trust.

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All Classical Radio James Depreist

A sampling of this round’s grants, including one to Oregon ArtsWatch:

  • Coos Art Museum, Coos Bay: $19,754 to enclose an open loading dock to improve shipping and storage, and to create an area for ceramics workshops and classes.
  • Wildlife Safari, Winston: $13,980 to expand use of the park’s 300-seat outdoor theater with new, retractable bleachers. The space is used for theater, live music, educational presentations, and more.
  • Peter Britt Gardens Arts and Music Festival, Jackson County: $28,179 to support admission-free arts education programs in underserved communities and schools.
  • The Vanport Mosaic, Portland: $33,166 to help archive eight years of oral history recordings with Vanport’s former residents and survivors of the 1948 flood that destroyed the town.
  • Oregon ArtsWatch, Portland: $23,624 to support capacity-building to pay core workers, develop a strategic funding plan, set the stage for future succession, expand statewide coverage, and other projects.
  • Community Center for the Performing Arts, Eugene: $30,966 to replace a leaky roof at the historic Woodmen of the World Hall, better known as WOW Hall, a busy hub for live performances.
  • Rasika Society for Arts of India, Hillsboro: $11,651 to help reopen its School of Music and Arts by hiring scholars/master artists from India as resident performers-teachers in the 25th performing art season.
  • The Museum at Warm Springs, Warm Springs: $22,779 to help replace the museum’s heating, ventilation & air-conditioning system, an urgent upgrade that must be completed before winter.

View the complete list of fiscal year 2024’s Cultural Development Program awards here.

View the complete list of Cultural Participation Program awards, given to the state’s 45 county and tribal cultural coalitions, here.

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Photo Joe Cantrell

Bob Hicks has been covering arts and culture in the Pacific Northwest since 1978, including 25 years at The Oregonian. Among his art books are Kazuyuki Ohtsu; James B. Thompson: Fragments in Time; and Beth Van Hoesen: Fauna and Flora. His work has appeared in American Theatre, Biblio, Professional Artist, Northwest Passage, Art Scatter, and elsewhere. He also writes the daily art-history series "Today I Am."

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