The Future of Arts Central Securing a Legacy & Preserving Education in Arts

Cate O’Hagan has been spearheading the advancement of art, artists and arts education in Central Oregon for the past 20 years. Her sudden departure as executive director of Arts Central is troubling and urges a thoughtful approach to its survival. (Arts Central is our regional arts organization providing arts services in Deschutes, Jefferson and Crook Counties…with a purpose to inspire creativity through arts education and advocate for integration of the arts in all aspects of community life.)
Queried as to why she left Arts Central with no preparation for a replacement, Cate said with a heavy heart that she is not in alignment with the current board of directors’ plans for the organization and… “I want to pursue a new career adventure. It has been very gratifying to participate in building community through the arts and I look forward to continuing the work.”
Reaching out to Arts Central’s board members that include President Bert Kronmiller, Secretary Cindy Briggs, Treasurer Alyce Dawes, Libby Unger, Marsha Stout and Paula Johanson, ex officio… little explanation was provided for Cate’s sudden departure.
Cindy was kind to say: “It’s hard to imagine Arts Central without Cate, I admire so many things she has done for arts advocacy for the community, schools and artists.” I was told that Bert and Alyce were the spokespersons for the board but Bert informed me that he was as surprised as anyone and knew of no plans to change the organization. Alyce did not return my phone calls.
Which leaves a quandary about exactly what is going on and raises the possibility that we should be concerned about the future of this viable organization. Changes in organizations can have a negative impact on fundraising and we hope sponsors plan to continue their support and the board makes efforts to engage with contributors.
Arts Central operates a number of programs, most notably the Art Station, Artists in Schools Program and VanGo. In January 2015 through Cate’s efforts the Buccola family and High Plateau Ventures donated $150,000 over three years to Arts Central, which was to provide much needed support for education programs.
Arts Central is known for brightening the hearts of school children with creativity through the Artists in Schools program. Virtually every school in the Bend-LaPine District is a Title I school, meaning students qualify for free or reduced lunch.
That economic reality, combined with increasing budget cuts, means there is little or no public funding for arts education in the classroom. Artists in Schools ensures quality, professional arts instruction is part of students’ learning experience. Nearly 50 percent of the funds to support Artists in Schools comes from business sponsorships and private donations allowing over 3,000 young people to access the learning benefits the arts provide.
Arts Central’s outreach vehicle, VanGo, brings high quality arts programming to rural communities. VanGo partners with social service agencies such as Head Start, Oregon Youth Authority, J Bar J Youth Services and Partners in Care Camp Courage to bring the healing power of the arts to their clients.
In partnership with William Smith Properties and ODOT, Cate spearheaded the creation of the Art Station. Since it opened in 2000 it has served well over 90,000 people. As Central Oregon’s largest nonprofit visual arts school, Art Station is a creative hive of classes and camps for all ages and abilities. Bert tells me that enrollment is at pre-recession level.
In the meantime Cate, who took Arts Central from a small guild-type group to a multi-faceted regional provider of arts education and advocacy services, is as industrious as ever. She informs me she is restructuring her previous company, Interesting Projects Only, serving as a freelance project manager and grant writer for cultural nonprofits. In her former life she developed and honed her arts management skills as a department head at the Portland Art Museum, the Corcoran in Washington D.C. and the Oregon Symphony. Interested in diversifying her field of arts disciplines she moved into entrepreneurial work in marketing and project management for Oregon Ballet, Oregon Humanities, arts festivals, small theatres and the Museum at Warm Springs.
Upon moving to Central Oregon she entered the field of rural arts development through her work at Arts Central and spearheaded efforts to restore historic structures, establish a regional art council and champion an artist-in-schools residency program.
I’m happy she has decided to move forward quickly as her knowledge and expertise are invaluable to the Central Oregon arts community.
At press time I was hoping to have some reassurance from Arts Central board members about the future of this organization. Stay tuned.

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