Shanalee Hampton

$50 million? It’s a beginning

ArtsWatch Weekly: An emergency lifeline to Oregon's cultural sector staves off pandemic disaster. But the economic problem is still urgent.

FIFTY MILLION DOLLARS SOUNDS LIKE A LOT. AND IT IS. But spread it across the entire state of Oregon to aid a cultural infrastructure devastated economically by pandemic shutdowns and the cash runs out pretty quickly. The Legislature’s Joint Emergency Board approved the bailout on Tuesday, as part of a $200 million general economic package distributed by the state through the federal Coronavirus Relief Fund. The significant cultural part of the package came after a spirited lobbying push by groups and individuals, and notably recognized an economic truth that is often overlooked: Cultural workers are workers, and when they lose work they undergo the same stresses as anyone else thrown out of a job. “People who work in cultural organizations have families, have to pay the mortgage or the rent, have children to feed,” Brian Rogers, executive director of the Oregon Cultural Trust and the Oregon Arts Commission, said in a telephone conversation on Wednesday. “Without these funds coming in, these organizations are having a difficult time.”

The Emergency Board, and the state itself, can’t solve all the problems of the reeling cultural sector by themselves. The $50 million E Board allocation is exactly what it says it is – an emergency measure, meant to lend a significant hand during a disaster and help stave off collapse. It can’t magically make up the lost income of an entire industry that’s been hit exceptionally hard by the pandemic. A statewide Cultural Trust survey in May projected a $40 million loss by June 30 for the 330 cultural groups (out of more than 1,400 that the Trust tracks) that responded. It’s now mid-July, with no clear end in sight, and the losses keep piling up. For perspective, the $4.71 million that the E Board is delivering to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, which got the biggest allocation granted, covers a little more than 10 percent of the festival’s annual budget.

Everything’s coming up virtual. The 70-year-old Salem Art Association Art Fair and Festival, pictured in a previous year, becomes a virtual event this year, celebrated long-distance on Saturday and Sunday, July 18-19. Photo courtesy Oregon Cultural Trust 


Accounts to follow: Imagining the possible

Laura Weiler, Shanalee Hampton, and Laura Camila Medina's art will fill your Instagram feeds with hope for a better world

This is the fourth in a series of stories about outstanding Oregon-based artists to follow on Instagram. The series focuses on accounts that are regularly updated with engaging content and high-quality images that allow followers to enjoy artwork regardless of location. Curated by the artists themselves, Instagram accounts offer a relaxed opportunity to view completed and in-progress artwork and to get a glimpse into the artists’ ideas, process, and studio practices.

In 1983, artist Keith Haring wrote, “Our imagination is our greatest hope for survival.” Crucially, Haring speaks in the collective: our imagination, our hope. In the context of a global pandemic, a divisive election year, and an ongoing fight for social justice, imagination offers not just “hope for survival,” but a tool for visualizing and creating new futures. Together, the works of Laura Weiler, Laura Camila Medina, and Shanalee Hampton investigate relationships between past and present, suggest how the experiences and actions of individual relate to the community, and ask everyday people to consider the imaginary not as something opposed to reality, but rather as a reality that has not yet been brought into existence.

Laura Weiler, Yellow (2020). Collage. ‌‌Image‌ ‌courtesy‌ ‌of‌ ‌the‌ ‌artist.‌ ‌Instagram‌ ‌account:‌ ‌‌@cutandplaced