We knew that 2017 would be an interesting and challenging year for our community and our country. Historically, the essential role of arts and culture comes into sharper focus in turbulent times. Even so, the past twelve months have presented surprises and opportunities we did not anticipate.
The good news is, RACC has a solid history of providing technical assistance and funding for artists and nonprofit organizations across Clackamas, Multnomah and Washington counties—more than 5,000 grants totaling $44 million in the past two decades. RACC manages a widely-celebrated public art collection of more than 2,000 artworks for the City of Portland and Multnomah County; conducts a workplace giving campaign that has raised more than $8 million for local arts organizations; organizes networking events, forums and workshops; and integrates the arts into the curriculum of other subjects for K-8 students in the region, serving more than 27,000 students a year.
Eloise Damrosch, our Executive Director since 2004, led RACC through a period of tremendous growth, launching Work for Art, The Right Brain Initiative, and Act for Art—a creative action plan that ultimately led to Portland’s Arts Tax. Also during Eloise’s tenure RACC began to reassess the equitable delivery of its resources, and made great strides toward diversifying its board, its services and its investments. Eloise retired in June with great affection and fanfare, and we remain grateful for her indelible impact and imprint on the local arts community.
Also this past year, the Oregon Supreme Court affirmed the legality of the arts tax once and for all; RACC produced three fun and financially successful special events: Battle of the Bands, In the Garden of Artistic Delights, and SHIFT; and we published a comprehensive economic impact study with Americans for the Arts revealing that the tri-county nonprofit arts industry generates $330 million in annual economic activity and supports 11,505 full-time jobs in the region.
Now we are looking forward to a bright and promising future as we rediscover and reevaluate RACC’s unique challenges and opportunities. The search for a new Executive Director continues and we hope to have a new leader on board in the spring. They will be jumping right in to help us tackle a range of important issues: the dearth of affordable space for artists and arts organizations; the ongoing need to strengthen public and private support of the arts in our community; and continued urgency in unlocking the full potential of emerging artists and culturally specific arts organizations that have been marginalized in the past.
Local arts agencies like RACC have a critical role to play in the future of our communities and our nation, but funding for the arts remains precarious at the local, state and federal levels. As we continue building the most relevant and responsive arts organization possible, we appreciate your support. In our efforts to bring the vision and voice of artists to the fore, we are grateful to many collaborators who make this work possible—including passionate and engaged board members, a talented staff, elected officials, community partners, hundreds of volunteers and thousands of donors who support the cause with cash and in-kind donations.
Thank you for being part of this vital organization and for helping us grow and evolve. As the world around us becomes increasingly fractious, we are resolute that the Regional Arts & Culture Council will support a better future by investing in the artists, educators and nonprofit organizations that imbue our neighborhoods, businesses and schools with more hopeful qualities of creativity, equity, innovation and inspiration.
Mike Golub, Board Chair
Jeff Hawthorne, Interim Executive Director
Photo by Intisar Abioto