M.O. Stevens / CC BY-SA

September 24, 2020; Oregonian

Arts and culture organizations have been particularly hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic and ensuing lockdown, as we have previously reported at NPQ. According to a recent poll, performance arts professionals expressed their pain and angst over how the pandemic and economic crisis has impacted them as “financial havoc,” “the whole system is broken,” and “existential crisis.” The combination of earned income losses plus fundraising difficulties in a time when donors are trying to meet immediate basic needs for people has devastated many.

Yet, in Oregon, the arts industry is currently receiving a much-needed lifeline of $25.7 million in grants to keep their heads above water. With grants averaging $41,458, as many as 621 organizations will benefit from the Coronavirus Relief Fund Cultural Support this fall. In Portland alone, the Artists Repertoire Theater and the Children’s Museum will each receive close to $460,000, the Museum of Science and Industry will get $1.4 million, and the Portland Art Museum $1.3 million.

But the “little guys” will benefit, too, such as the Oregon Children’s Choir in Eugene, which had to close its doors indefinitely but received a $24,629 grant. They expressed their heartfelt thanks—like many others small cultural organizations—on their Facebook page:

With a small administrative staff and several music directors, this grant is not a drop in a bucket; it’s essential aid for an organization that was forced to quickly adapt, like many others, and offer remote summer camps, for example, with “live at the park” performances.

This financial care was made possible thanks to the Oregon Cultural Trust (OCT), statewide partners, and tribal cultural coalitions, which for years had built trusted relationships and urged Oregon’s legislature and executive to approve the $25.7 million infusion in aid. These grants were made available specifically for organizations that were not eligible to participate of an earlier $50 million relief fund through the federal CARES Act. An initial $10 million was also provided by OCT back in the spring through their $29 million permanent fund.

Established in 2001 by the Oregon Legislature to support the arts, heritage, history, and humanities, the Oregon Cultural Trust has captivated the hearts (and support) of Oregonians.

The permanent fund has been built over the years by accepting cultural trust donations and providing a tax credit for all Oregonians who pay state income tax. The tax credit reduces what people owe to the state thus guaranteeing those tax funds will go directly to support the arts and culture. Donors receive a 100 percent refund for their gift on their tax bill, for a maximum of $500 for individuals, $1000 for couples filing jointly, and $2,500 for Class-C corporations.

OCT’s legacy has never been more discernible than through this pandemic. Almost every county in the state will feel the impact of the Coronavirus Relief Fund Cultural Support. Beneficiaries include cultural institutions, county fairgrounds, cultural entities within federally recognized Indian tribes based in Oregon, festivals and community event organizations. A full list can be found on OCT’s website, which is also administering the distribution of grants.

“Due to the incredible need, we were able to fund a percentage of organizations’ eligible expenses,” said Brian Rogers, Cultural Trust executive director on their press release. “Smaller organizations received a higher percentage of their eligible expenses. The final awards represent a statewide, equitable distribution plan that was approved by our board of directors, the governor’s office, Business Oregon and our legislative sponsors.”—Sofia Jarrin-Thomas