Portland Center Stage at the Armory Coriolanus Portland Oregon

Foundations pool their Covid-19 arts relief cash

Major foundations join forces to create the $1.3 million Oregon Arts and Culture Recovery Program.

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A group of major Oregon foundations has pooled its money to create a new arts relief fund. So far, the Oregon Arts and Culture Recovery Program has $1.3 million to distribute to nonprofit arts and culture organizations throughout Oregon with grants for emergency operating support and recovery activities.

Organized and administered by the Oregon Community Foundation, the fund will give preference to arts nonprofits led by and serving communities disproportionately impacted by the social and economic consequences of the outbreak of Covid-19. The application process doesn’t look too onerous, either.

Carl Morris (American, 1911-1993), Audition, 1946; reworked 1951, oil on paper board, Gift of Frederic Rothchild, © 1946 Carl and Hilda Morris Foundation, 76.39/Portland Art Museum

The emergency funds are intended to meet “immediate operating needs and losses related to the cancellation of performances, gallery exhibitions, fundraising events and more,”  according to the RACC press release announcing the start of the program. The group of funders will also look for “proposals with strategies that allow art organizations and cultural institutions to innovate and adapt to the challenges of Covid-19. Organizations serving as a hub or facilitator for the arts and artists in their local, state and regional communities will also be prioritized for funding.”

Most of the money will be distributed in smaller grants, $5,000 and below, though larger grants (up to and even exceeding $25,000 in rare cases) will also be available. 

The applications will be circulated around the foundations, which will have the opportunity to fund larger requests. Partners contributing toward the pooled fund currently include: The Collins Foundation, James F. and Marion L. Miller Foundation, Oregon Community Foundation, Regional Arts & Culture Council, and Schnitzer CARE Foundation/Jordan Schnitzer. Other partners aligning and supporting the effort include: Oregon Cultural Trust, Oregon Arts Commission, Reser Family Foundation, and the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust.

According to Oregon Community Foundation’s Jerry Tischleder, additional funds may be added to the program. 

More Funding News

The Portland Institute for Contemporary Art is converting its Precipice Fund to a relief fund for independent visual artists in the Portland metro area who are experiencing financial hardship. The fund will award a total of 120 $500 grants to eligible artists. 

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Portland Center Stage at the Armory Coriolanus Portland Oregon

The details:

“The grantmaking process will be administered by PICA, and applications will be reviewed by a panel of local cultural workers, artists, and members of the PICA staff. Panelists will evaluate applications based on a combination of eligibility; application content, including demonstration of both financial need and active artistic practice; and a commitment to equity that ensures diversity among awardees and the inclusion of artists whose communities are underrepresented in relationship to visual art opportunities, economies, and funding streams.”

Applications will go live on Monday, May 4. Full application information including application details, eligibility, and frequently asked questions can be found at precipicefund.org.


The Gimme Shelter Performers Emergency Fund, created to help Portland performers of all kinds with their rent or mortgages, is still accepting both donations and applications. The grant limit is $500.

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Photo Joe Cantrell

Barry Johnson has written about and edited arts and culture stories of various sorts since 1978, when he started writing about dance for the Seattle Sun. He edited the arts section of Willamette Week and wrote a general culture column in the  early 1980s and started at The Oregonian as arts editor in 1983, moving between editing and writing (visual arts, movies, theater, dance) until leaving in 2009. Since then, he's been thinking about new ideas to help make arts and culture journalism ever more useful and engaged. Oregon ArtsWatch is one of those ideas.

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