Tag Archives: funding

help save the waterfront concert

Oregon Symphony Waterfront Concert | Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/johnjoh/

Oregon Symphony Waterfront Concert | Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/johnjoh/

Yes, the headline says it all. The beloved Waterfront Concert, a gift from the city of Portland to its citizens (with attendance reaching nearly 20,000), is in danger of losing its funding. It almost goes without saying that this just cannot stand – and if funding disappears this year as part of the 10% across the board cuts in all city departments (with some saying that cuts of the arts sector may be more along the lines of 15%), then it is unlikely to come back in the future. If you care about this issue, and want to save this dearly loved tradition, then please take the time to write and email, letter, or call the mayor and city commissioners. Below is a sample letter to use as a template, along with the email and phone numbers of the mayor and the rest of the city commissioners. Thanks for helping!

To the Honorable Mayor Hales and
Portland City Commissioners:

Thank you for your service to our City. During these budget-cutting times, I know your work must be very challenging. I deeply appreciate your thoughtful consideration of ways to spend less while keeping our city safe, peaceful, economically vital and livable.

It has come to my attention that the funding for the annual free Waterfront Concert may be in jeopardy. I write to say what a loss that would be for our fair city. Each year around 20,000 people—of all ages, races, and neighborhoods—enjoy each other’s company for a night of splendid music in the open air. Please save this extraordinary event. It’s one of the things that make our City such a great place to live, work and play.

Secondly, for more than three decades, the City of Portland’s annual investments in Regional Arts and Culture Council (RACC) have shaped Portland’s neighborhoods, expanded educational opportunities, fueled our economy and supported Portland’s vibrant and diverse cultural communities. Even still, I understand that RACC and every City Bureau must cut spending by 10% next year to help close the FY14 budget gap. Although these cuts will be painful, they will be shared fairly and equitably across the board, and I support them.

I am writing to you today, with urgency, to ask that no further cuts to RACC’s budget be considered. A budget cut proposal closer to $1.1 million was described on April 10th in the Willamette Week and I believe that such a cut would be devastating.

As you know, 62% of Portland voters supported an increase in funding for arts education and arts organizations last November with the passage of the Arts Education and Access Fund. I understand that legal challenges will likely prevent RACC from seeing any of that money in the 2013-14 fiscal year, so a loss of any amount could not be recaptured from the newly passed Arts Education and Access Fund. The vast majority (87%) of RACC’s funding goes to grants and services in the community, and these brutal cuts would reverberate across Portland’s classrooms and communities.

Please lend your support to a budget proposal that honors the will of the voters and the educational, cultural and economic interests of our City: Save our Waterfront Concert and keep RACC’s cuts limited to 10% of their special appropriation.

Thank you for your kind consideration.

Mayor Charlie Hales 
City of Portland
1221 SW 4th Avenue
Portland, OR 97204
Commissioner Amanda Fritz
City of Portland, City Hall
1221 SW 4th Avenue, Room 220
Portland, OR 97204
Commissioner Nick Fish
City of Portland, City Hall
1221 SW 4th Avenue, Room 240
Portland, OR 97204
Commissioner Steve Novick
City of Portland, City Hall
1221 SW 4th Avenue, Room 210
Portland, OR 97204
Commissioner Dan Saltzman
City of Portland, City Hall
1221 SW 4th Avenue, Room 230
Portland, OR 97204

new city budget has no $$ for oso carnegie trip

Here’s the scoop from David Stabler.

the arts ARE worth it

Do you want to know why the arts face an uphill battle in the country? Check out the comments over at the Mercury that arose after it was discovered in the proposed city budget that $200,000 had been appropriated to help send the Oregon Symphony to Carnegie Hall in 2011.

Somehow, in the course of less than ten comments, it had degenerated to the point where the original post’s author suggested that sending the orchestra to Carnegie would come at the expense of fire protection, and that the orchestra perhaps might just stay home and play Barber’s Adagio for Strings for people when their houses burned down.  Somehow even the $20 million set aside for bike lanes was inserted into the mix.

The fact is, $200K is a big portion of the OSO’s annual budget to come up with out of thin air, while it’s a tiny fraction of the city’s budget.  These are tough times for everyone, I do recognize this, but the Oregon Symphony has hardly been a fiscal drain on city, metro, and state government for the past decades.  We’ve received little in the way of funding from the city – and that has dwindled to nearly nothing since Vera Katz’s term came to a close.  We used to do four free parks concerts that were paid for by the city, and now we play just one – the annual waterfront concert at Tom McCall Waterfront Park at the close of summer.  Almost all of the other money that is contributed to the orchestra comes through private donations and foundation grants, as well as ticket sales.

Going to Carnegie Hall is the crowing achievement of one’s career as an individual musician, and for orchestras it is much the same.  Once you go to Carnegie, you declare yourself to the world that you have arrived.  For the Oregon Symphony to play Carnegie for the first time is to place it in the company of the greatest orchestras in the world, and the chance to face the most powerful critical establishment (who have heard all of those other orchestras) is a challenge that will help to further the remarkable artistic growth that the ensemble has already experienced in the seven years of Carlos Kalmar’s tenure with the orchestra.  Returning triumphantly from the debut will also bring a higher profile to the orchestra and to the arts scene of Portland to which it belongs.  As the city’s (and state’s) flagship arts organization, it’s a chance to share our talent on the world stage.  If doing so does not matter, then why does Thomas Lauderdale proudly proclaim Pink Martini as being from Portland, Oregon at every concert? He does so because people learn more about the city by seeing what comes out of the city.  If a community is full of fabulous, vibrant, and creative organizations, it’s a powerful incentive for people to move to the region, for businesses to locate here, for people to retire here.  That growth leads to a more cosmopolitan, vibrant, and creative community – which is always a good thing.

But we constantly face the obstacle that music is an ephemeral art: it happens and then it’s gone.  There is no fire station, mall, bike lane, or homeless shelter left behind to admire.  But the orchestra itself (made up of people who love this city and make it our home) does remain, and so do our audiences, who spend money in the downtown core, lobby their schools for more arts education, pay taxes, and yearn for a more artistically viable community.  Our going to Carnegie is for them, really, and for all of those musicians who have come before us, working entire lifetimes to make the Oregon Symphony a great orchestra – we love Portland, we love playing for our fantastic audiences here, and we want to take that love and joy and Oregonian spirit to Carnegie hall and knock their socks off in NY.

Isn’t that worth a measly $200,000?

the arts are value-added

In this month’s Atlantic, there is a set of 15 mini articles gathered under the heading “15 Ways to Change the World“.  One of these, by Felix Salmon, is entitled “Pay the Artists”.  Here it is [emphasis mine]:

We’re living in a newly frugal world. But the rediscovered values of thrift and moderation should apply to the government as much as they do to households. No more trillion-dollar misadventures abroad: we need to spend money at home, and we need to get the maximum bang for our buck. If the Obama administration is serious about stimulating the economy and creating as many new jobs as possible, one choice is clear: it should announce a massive increase in federal arts funding. Artists are among the very poorest citizens. When they get cash, they spend it both quickly and carefully. That’s not what most recipients of federal largesse do, but it happens to be exactly what economists look for in any stimulus package. Arts spending is fantastic at creating employment: for every $30,000 or so spent on the arts, one more person gets a job, compared with about $1 million if you’re building a road or hospital. And such spending has a truly lasting benefit: the Works Progress Administration didn’t just create murals, it subsidized enormous leaps in graphic design, in theater (including America’s first all-black production of Macbeth), and in fine art. One painter lived off the WPA’s Federal Art Project for eight years before finally getting his first solo show in 1943. Maybe a similar program today could produce America’s next Jackson Pollock.

Felix Salmon is the finance blogger for Reuters.

oregon symphony ‘crisis’

Classical music critic from the Oregonian, David Stabler, gives a short, not-so-sweet synopsis of the state of the Oregon Symphony at the end of the 2008-2009 season:

The symphony in crisis

primer for ailing arts groups

As a casual observer of the arts scene (and perhaps even an avid supporter and attendee of concerts) you might not be able to see through all of the raging arguments in online forums surrounding the ailing arts organization.  Barry Johnson over at the Oregonian has written a very thoughtful column about the facts surrounding the troubles of Oregon Ballet Theatre, and it’s a good template for how to approach thinking about any arts organization that’s going through difficulties.

Arts organizations in trouble are messy places. Passions run high. The fickle finger of blame gets pointed this way and that. People worry about their jobs and about the future of the art form. It’s awful.

If we’re looking in from outside, we wonder how we can make sense of it all, what we can possibly do about it and how much it really matters.

That describes almost any organization in trouble, arts or not, but right now, we’re talking about Oregon Ballet Theatre, which is in big trouble. The company, as we’ve reported, needs to raise $750,000 by June 30. The alternatives include shutting its doors for good.

Fortunately, we have people around who are used to peering into the chaos of a thrashing arts group and figuring out how to proceed. Arts consultant George Thorn, for example, has been working with the company and has helped reorganize its budgeting process to help stabilize its situation in the next fiscal year.

Click here to read the rest.

what’s up in seattle?

Well, here’s an update of sorts: my info was completely wrong (that’s what you get for trusting rumors, even if they seem to be from a good source) – I’ll have some real information as things move along.  Mea culpa.

There hasn’t been any press on this as of yet, but I’ve been hearing rumblings of some pretty massive cuts that may have to be made by the Seattle Symphony, and the players are right at the end of their current contract.  Something in the realm of 30 percent is what I’ve been hearing from sources close to the situation.  Word is that the usual funding sources who open their checkbooks at the end of each fiscal year are determined not to help at this point now that Gerard Schwartz is a lame duck.

It’s a shame, because the SSO is a great orchestra and the musicians work very hard there, and deserve the pay and benefits they currently receive – and doubtless they deserve much more.  I warned about this scenario a couple years back – that with the departure of Schwartz they would face a dearth of funding from his major donor friends.  One would hope that their philanthropy will extend beyond personal loyalty, but it often takes years for such wounds to heal and for such donors to return to an orchestra.

Stay tuned…