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Act for Art: The Creative Action Plan for the Portland Metropolitan Region

Research and outreach on the issue of arts funding needs, started by Adams and his staff when he took office as Arts Commissioner in 2005. Focused on getting input for artists, art educators, arts businesses and nonprofit organizations. He worked with the Regional Arts & Culture Council to host a series of arts townhalls

A formal strategy development process started in 2007, when Adams worked with the Regional Arts & Culture Council to assemble 100 arts, business and education leaders and elected officials from throughout the tri-county region (including Clackamas, Multnomah, and Washington Counties) to be part of this project. Working in committees facilitated by Kathleen Cosgrove, of Portland-based Skyline Consulting Group, participants identified and researched the broad creative needs of the region and helped quantify the extent to which citizens value arts and culture and how.

That initial outreach and research work included taking input from 1,500 participants[i], and led the creation of the 2009 “Act for Art” strategy process. It was co-chaired by Metro Councilor Carlotta Collette, Washington County Commissioner Dick Schouten, and Adams. The steering committee consisted of 51 politicians, business leaders, arts professionals and educators from Multnomah, Washington and Clackamas counties. Participants included Multnomah County Chair Ted Wheeler, Washington County Commissioner Dick Schouten, Portland General Electric Foundation executive Carole Morse, Portland Art Museum director Brian Ferriso, and Nike executive Peter Koehler, among others. It was a broad regional group working together for the first time to solve what's been a perennial problem: inadequate arts funding, said Adams, the man who initiated process. [ii] The steering committee and staff researched the issues, their community impacts, and options for addressing them.

Research concluded that local arts funding in public schools had eroded severely over the years, partly because of the passage of Measure 5 in 1990[iii], which limited property taxes and resulted in school budget cuts. As a result, about 18% of Portland elementary schools provide art instruction compared to 83% nationally. Over 58% of Portland elementary schools provide music instruction compared to 94% nationally. [iv]

These Portland failings had the potential for academic impacts beyond art education too. The nonprofit Americans for the Arts, for example, has shown tht students immersed in the arts perform better on college entrance exams than those who aren't. Students involved in the arts are also less likely to drop out of school by the 10th grade.[v]

The Steering Committee compared the Portland area to other United States cities and region, concluding that public finding for the arts was deeply insufficient. It found that local public funding was $2.47 per person, compared to $7.52 in Seattle and $15.62 in Denver.[vi] It also concluded that the percentage of the average arts organization budget that is received from local government sources is 2% for Portland region compared to the %5 national average.[vii]

A public opinion survey was conducted to gauge how taxpayers viewed the arts. A 2010 poll of 400 people --150 from Multnomah County and 125 each from Clackamas and Washington counties. The project found that 77% of people polled, “stated that opportunities to enjoy arts and creative learning id essential to them and their family.” And, 70% of those polled that they “would be willing to pay $1 per month to support additional funding for the arts.”[viii] Over 95% of those surveyed also agreed that “arts education is an essential part of their children’s education,” and 70% were concerned that arts education in local schools are being cut back.” [ix]

An economic analysis provided to the process by Americans for the Arts, estimated the existence of 3,354 arts-centric businesses in the region in 2008, employing more than 18,000 people. Arts-centric businesses as calculated by Americans for the Arts and Dun & Bradstreet: museums, galleries, theatre companies, symphony orchestras, cinemas and movie theatres; architecture, advertising, and creative design firms; film, radio, and television production companies; art supply stores; and art schools. It found that art groups spent $152 million on salaries, supplies and services in 2010. Audiences generated an additional $101 million in related spending -- parking, restaurants, hotels, shopping or paying a baby sitter. Attendees spent an average of $21.84 per person, per event, not including the cost of admission, the study found. The ripple effect produced $21 million in local and state government revenue. In the Portland region, attendance at 193 organizations was 4.6 million in 2010.[x]

The Act for Art Steering Committee recommended that the region needed $15 million to $20 million annually in dedicated public funding for the arts, a significant increase private-sector giving to prevent cuts in public school arts education, keep ticket prices down and art organizations financially stable, and better support the basic needs artists.[xi]

In his last State of the City address, in 2012, Adams announced that based on recommendations of the Art for Art recommendations, that with the Creative Advocacy Network, he would ask the Portland City Council to refer to the 2012 General Election ballot a dedicated tax for arts and music education in Portland elementary schools.[xii]

The Act for Art strategy served as the foundation for creating the Arts Creative Advocacy Network (CAN), and the successful City Measure 26-146[xiii] dedicated arts funding campaign.



[i] Act for Art: The Creative Action Plan for the Portland Metropolitan Region. (Spring 2009). Retrieved 2018-18-2. [ii] Row, D.K. (December 14, 2009). “The quest: raise millions more for the arts each year.” The Oregonian. Living Section. [iii] Row., D.K. (March 4, 2012). “Arts funding plays part in Portland candidate’s forum.” The Oregonian. Sunday Feature Section. [iv] Adams, Samuel (October 2012) “Multnomah County Online Voters' Guide for the November 2012 General Election.” Retrieved 2018-23-2. [v] "The Arts Leading the Way to Student Success." Arts Education Partnership. Retrieved 2018-23-2. [vi] Based on data from American for the Arts and RACC (2008). Retrieved 2018-18-2. [vii] National Endowment for the Arts and RACC (2009). Retrieved 2018-18-2. [viii] Fairbanks, Maslin & Associates (Spring, 2008). “Telephone Survey of 600 likely voters in the tri-county area.” Retrieved 2018-18-2. [ix] Fairbanks, Maslin & Associates (Spring, 2008). “Telephone Survey of 600 likely voters in the tri-county area.” Retrieved 2018-18-2. [x] Stabler, David (June 9, 2012). “Cultural events are an engine for economy.” The Oregonian [xi] Act for Art: The Creative Action Plan for the Portland Metropolitan Region. (Spring 2009). Retrieved 2018-18-2. [xii] Slovic, Beth (March 3, 2012). “Mayor pledges a plan for Portland.” The Oregonian. [xiii] Multnomah County Elections Department (October 2012). “Measure 26-146: Restore School Arts, Music education; Fund Arts Through Limited Tax.” Retrieved 2018-18-2.

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