RACC, Portland's regional arts granting organ has published a letter responding to the proposed 10% cuts of funding from the city
. In these severe budget shortfall times it does seem appropriate that everyone do some belt tightening.
One thing I noticed was RACC is prepared to, "Suspend the under-utilized Opportunity Grants program for one year (a savings of $200,000"... this raises eyebrows. Why are there a disproportionate amount of cuts all from one area? An important one at that? At first I thought these were individual career opportunity grants (vague language clarified after a phone call to the ever helpful Jeff Hawthorne) but instead these are the Special Opportunity Grants available to institutions. These are the grants that funded major special exhibitions like Donald Judd in 2010
and in 2009 were used to keep many art institutions afloat during the depths of the great recession. It is still a bad idea to completely get rid of a program that has yielded such major results, special opportunities are just that and they go away if you cant support them.
Second, this raises a serious question of why are these funds under utilized when Portland's art venues are in such desperate need of them? Could it be these grants are not set up properly to fill a huge need that everyone I know discusses? This is of crucial interest to high level independent curators.
To put it another way... noteworthy projects are ambassadors for Portland to the rest of the world and for the city to remain attractive to artists it is crucial that the city help them in that capacity. Also, it is a terrible idea to suspend an entire program. To borrow a little logic, I suggest that the cuts in this area be proportionate, and RACC takes a good hard look at why they are under utilized.
RACC should reconsider this isolationist and disproportionate budget solution.
According to RACC: There are several opportunities for the public to comment on the Mayor's proposed budget before it is ultimately approved:
Thursday, May 16th, 6:30pm-8:30pm at City Hall Council Chambers (1221 SW 4th Ave.)
Saturday, May 18th, 3:00-5:00pm at Warner Pacific College (2219 SE 68th Ave.)
Thursday, May 23rd, 6:30pm-8:30pm at Jackson Middle School (10625 SW 35th Ave.)
I encourage everyone who has ever received a Special Opportunity grant or enjoyed a program funded by one attend a meeting and contact RACC about this proposed mistake via this email: jhawthorne AT racc.org (Jeff is a good guy and will want to hear what you have to say). Post comments on PORT if you want to add to the discourse as well.
we should note that a 10% decrease isn't unfair and that with the somewhat flawed but still important Arts Tax RACC actually has significantly more funds to work with than last year. Perhaps, RACC just revealed a huge hole in their thinking... one that weve known about forever but they just confirmed a bias we suspected.... they may simply be unprepared to understand how "special" true "special opportunities" are. Independent curatorial initiatives like Donald Judd raise the bar for all cultural institutions in Oregon and the Special Opportunity Grants made them happen.