Twenty years ago, a mighty group of visionaries celebrated the fulfillment of a dream — a simple and effective way for Oregon taxpayers to direct funds to cultural activities. This was the genesis of the Oregon Cultural Trust and its cultural tax credit.
It is still cause for celebration. As the Cultural Trust marks its 20th anniversary, it has proven itself a stable source of funding for Oregon's arts, heritage and humanities nonprofits operating across the state.
The state tax credit is available to any Oregonian who donates to one or more of 1,500 cultural nonprofits and makes a matching gift to the Cultural Trust. At tax time, the amount you gave to the trust comes back to you, dollar for dollar. And the state sets those funds aside for Cultural Trust grant awards the following year. It's a win-win.
Since its founding in 2001, the Trust has raised — through the cultural tax credit — more than $74 million for culture statewide. It has distributed nearly 10,000 grant awards totaling more than $34 million and its permanent fund now exceeds $33 million. In addition, the Cultural Trust network of County Cultural Coalitions enabled the distribution of more than $25 million in Coronavirus Relief Fund for Cultural Support awards to 621 organizations struggling to survive the pandemic.
"I'd describe the role of the Cultural Trust as a vital incubator of culture, which allows arts organizations to take creative risks and amplify the voices of those who have been excluded from the cultural sphere for far too long," said Ethan Gans-Morse of Anima Mundi Productions in Phoenix, Oregon, the recipient of four awards totaling $91,736 since 2019. "The Cultural Trust is a vehicle for Oregonians to make each other's lives more beautiful, more profound and more interconnected."
Oregonians have the power to divert a portion of their state tax dollars to fund arts and culture. Please donate generously to the cultural nonprofits that matter to you — they need your help now more than ever — and use your power by making a matching donation to the Cultural Trust by Dec. 31.
Thanks to you, more books will go to libraries, more historic buildings will be saved and more support will go to the arts, places and people that make Oregon so special.
Nathalie Johnson, M.D., of Northwest Portland is a member of the Oregon Cultural Trust board.
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