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News & Notes: Reshaping the arts plan

Our Creative Future, which is shaping the Portland metro area's public approach to arts policies, will have a Virtual Town Meeting April 9. And the City of Portland shifts its cultural lineup.

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The steering committee of the evolving tri-county arts and cultural plan, which will hold a Virtual Town Hall 6-8 p.m. Tuesday, April 9. Photo courtesy Our Creative Future.
The steering committee of the evolving tri-county arts and cultural plan, which will hold a Virtual Town Hall 6-8 p.m. Tuesday, April 9. Photo courtesy Our Creative Future.

What’s the future of arts planning and funding in greater Portland? A remarkable amount of shifting has been going on in the past couple of years, from a giant shakeup at the Regional Arts & Culture Council to a new and still evolving City of Portland culture infrastructure to the shaping of a long-term regional cultural plan, called Our Creative Future, that is heading toward the finishing line.

Our Creative Future, a policy and envisioning process that’s involved people from Portland and the greater metropolitan area, has released a draft tri-county plan that you can read here and has been seeking public comment on it: Deadline for commenting is April 15.

In the meantime, the Our Creative Future steering committee is planning a Virtual Town Hall for 6-8 p.m. Tuesday, April 9, where you can listen in on the nitty-gritty of the planning project and get a sense of what’s in store. You can register here to attend the online meeting, which is free.

It’s worth noting that public comments can still have an effect on the eventual plan, which could set broad arts and cultural policies for the tri-county area for the next several years. “We’re excited to reach this milestone, but we recognize that the hardest work—bringing a shared vision to life—is still to come,” a message from the steering committee notes. “We’re talking with local government leaders about how to create action plans fitting the different needs and goals of various communities, from urban centers to rural areas.”

Subashini Ganesan-Forbes, chair of the Oregon Arts Commission and a member of Our Creative Future’s steering committee, underscores the importance of public input, noting, “We are trying so hard to remind our fellow citizens of the region that their voice counts (and it honestly does as there is a burgeoning plan for an implementation team to continue the work of the regional plan).”

Listen in on Tuesday’s Virtual Town Hall and let your voice be heard.

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In the meantime, the City of Portland has been busily reshaping its own approach to arts and cultural policy, first by drastically reducing its ties to the Regional Arts & Culture Council and now with a realignment of its own cultural policies and team.

Last week Portland City Commissioner Dan Ryan, whose portfolio includes several arts and cultural programs, announced a realignment of staff in what he calls the “Vibrant Communities Service Area.” The changes come as the five-person City Council prepares to expand into a twelve-person, geographically based council as approved by Portland voters.

The “Vibrant Communities” under Ryan’s leadership include Portland Parks & Recreation, the Portland Children’s Levy, and the Office of Arts & Culture. “The service area breaks down the historical silos between bureaus, creates efficiencies of shared services, and is budget neutral,” a release from Ryan’s office noted.

In the new lineup, Sonia Schmanski becomes the new Deputy City Administrator for the Vibrant Communities Service Area. She was chief of staff to the late Commissioner Nick Fish for five years, and was Deputy Chief Administrator Officer for the City of Portland from 2022 until her new appointment.

Kellie Torres, who had been Development Manager for Portland Parks & Recreation for almost 10 years and Ryan’s chief of staff since September 2020, takes over as chief of staff for the three Vibrant Communities areas.

Adena Long continues to lead Portland Parks & Recreation and Lisa Pellegrino continues to oversee the Portland Children’s Levy. Todd Lofgren, who had been deputy director of Parks & Recreation, now leads the newly created Vibrant Communities Support Services Office.

Chariti Montez, a musician who joined the City Arts Program last year, and Darion Jones, who had been Senior Policy Director of Arts, Culture and Equity in Ryan’s office, now lead the city’s Office of Art and Culture. Veteran arts administrator Jeff Hawthorne remains City Arts Program manager.

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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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