help save the waterfront concert

Oregon Symphony Waterfront Concert | Photo:
Oregon Symphony Waterfront Concert | Photo:

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?