Celebrating Oregon Arts

“Art is a fundamental ingredient of any thriving and vibrant community. Art sparks connections between people, movements and new ideas. To put it simply, art makes life better. I am thrilled to celebrate Oregon’s best artists and art supporters through the Governor’s Arts Awards.” ~ Oregon Governor Kate Brown

I am really pleased to see that Governor Kate Brown is reinstating the Governor’s Arts Awards in honor of the Oregon Arts Commission’s 50th Anniversary. The Governor recognizes “the uplifting power of art and its value to Oregonians’ quality of life.”

Established in 1977, the once-annual awards have been on hiatus since 2007.

These Arts Awards recognize and honor individuals and organizations that have made significant contributions to the arts in Oregon. I can think of numerous individuals and organizations (Central Oregon’s Art & Culture Alliance) who are making a very distinct different in championing arts and culture throughout our communities.
It’s all good and I encourage you to make nominations representing the arts in our region.

But here’s the catch: The current makeup of the Oregon Arts Commission has not been kind to Central Oregon. Last fall the Oregon Arts Commission (OAC) pulled funding of the High Desert Museum stating that it does not meet eligibility requirements for two grants that amount to about $20,000. The OAC cleverly determined that the grants were for arts-related organizations and the Museum does not fulfill the requirements because its ‘core mission is not related to arts.’

The OAC reasoning was troubling because the Museum hosts permanent art exhibits and featured periodic art-related displays such as Art of the West and the Art for a Nation, ongoing Spirit of the West and Indian Nations of the Columbia River Plateau.

It sounded like the OAC had defined art as not being inclusive to history, culture and diversity.

In large part due to the OAC’s blatant disregard for funding Central Oregon artists and organizations, legislation introduced by Representative Knute Buehler is pending (approved unanimously by the Oregon House) that would assure that all future grants are designed to consider regional differences around the state and promote (this is really important): investment in communities where opportunities for engagement in arts and cultural development is limited.

Concentration by the OAC of disproportionate funding to the Portland and Willamette Valley needs to end. The cancelling of the Museum’s funding shouldn’t come as a surprise if you look at the bigger picture and see a pattern of Salem disenfranchising Central Oregon from arts funding. Over the last few years, since leadership at the OAC changed, Central Oregon has received less and less funding from the OAC and the Oregon Cultural Trust (the Trust was established by respected and celebrated Ben Westlund of Central Oregon). Ben would not be happy that the OAC and the Trust have taken a limited view of art on the eastern side of the state and developed a pattern of exclusion. It surely cannot have been the Legislature’s intention when establishing the Commission or the Trust.

This pattern of discrimination by the OAC is a very solid reason for sending numerous nominations for the Governors Awards. A committee will recommend three to five awards based on the nominee’s regional, national or international recognition for their contributions; role in improving the quality of arts experiences and appreciation for the arts in Oregon; contributions to advancing the arts’ positive impact on Oregonians’ quality of life and length of service to the arts in Oregon. Governor Brown will have final approval of award recipients.

A call for nominations for the arts awards is posted on the Arts Commission website www.oregonartscommission.org. Nominations’ deadline is June 30. Recipients will be notified by July 28 and must be available to attend the October 6 award ceremony in Portland

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