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News: RACC reorganizes and changes directions

Regional Arts & Culture Council shifts its focus to fundraising, advocacy, outreach. One result: 15 layoffs, 15 new positions.

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The Regional Arts and Culture Council is reorganizing to expand its advocacy and fundraising programs with a deeper focus on reaching underserved communities, RACC announced today. In the process it will eliminate five vacant positions, lay off 15 employees and hire 15 new positions later to support the new direction.

The changes are occurring one year after RACC hired a new executive director, Madison Cario, and almost two years since the Portland City Auditor determined that the City had failed to set budgeting priorities for the non-profit group. Though it’s nominally a regional organization, RACC receives most of its budget from the City. It performs a variety of functions for the City in return, from managing public art and city art collections to distributing money to the city’s arts groups. It also manages the distribution of money from the city’s Arts Tax, which passed  in 2012.

RACC manages public artworks in Portland/Image courtesy RACC website

According to the RACC press release, the proposed changes are responsive to the audit of RACC in 2018 and the city’s current budget priorities. The changes are effective immediately. 

“We take this transition very seriously and deeply appreciate the work of RACC employees, especially those leaving the organization,” said RACC board chair Linda McGeady in the release. “These changes respond to what we are seeing and hearing from our community, and position RACC to better serve our region today and in the future.” 

At least some of the eliminated positions will be in the agency’s Right Brain Initiative, which places working artists in classrooms in the tri-county region and integrates the arts into classroom work. The initiative has 70 partnerships with area schools. The Right Brain program will move to another nonprofit, Young Audiences. RACC is also “sunsetting” its workplace giving program.

Some of the new positions will be in a new development team at RACC with clear fundraising goals to help increase and diversify revenue and use public dollars to secure new national and local funding. RACC also intends to increase its outreach and advocacy efforts, both with the general public and elected officials and policy makers, according to the release, hoping to increase awareness of the arts in the area and arguing for their importance.

We will be digging into the changes and the reasoning behind them in future reports. Stay tuned.

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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