Oregon Cultural Trust funnels CARES Act money to organizations across the state

PMG FILE PHOTO - The Chehalem Cultural Center will soon be the recipient of a $208,204 grant from the Oregon Cultural Trust to defray lost revenue brought on by the pandemic.

Officials at the Chehalem Cultural Center learned last week that the facility will receive a large grant meant to defray lost revenue brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Coronavirus Relief Fund Cultural Support grants, administered through Oregon Cultural Trust and its county and tribal cultural coalitions, meted $25.7 million in grants to 621 organizations throughout the state. The Yamhill County Cultural Coalition received $858,658 in grants.

The CCC will receive $208,498, second only in Yamhill County to the Evergreen Air & Space Museums in McMinnville, which earned a $484,204 grant. The Newberg Old Fashioned Festival was awarded a $6,858 grant as well.

The largest grant in the state went to OMSI in Portland; the average grant was $41,458.

"Many cultural organizations and institutions have closed their doors to help keep us all safe during this pandemic," said Gov. Kate Brown. "These grants will mean that more than 600 Oregon arts and culture organizations across our state's counties and tribes will be able to keep up their vital creative work."PMG FILE PHOTO - Many of the cultural center's exhibits were canceled or delayed due to the onset of the pandemic in March.

Money for the grants came from a $50 million relief package for Oregon culture, passed by the Legislature in July. The package was partially funded by the federal CARES Act.

"These funds are life blood to Oregon's cultural community," said Chuck Sams, chairman of the Cultural Trust board of directors. "While they won't replace all the losses suffered during the pandemic, they will ensure Oregon culture survives this crisis.

CCC Executive Director Sean Andries said the process to seek a grant was streamlined, to say the least.

"The program was approved on Aug. 6, applicants went live on Aug. 12 and organizations were given just 12 days to return a completed application by Aug. 24," he said. "That is an unusually swift turnaround, especially for a program of this size."

Andries explained that as the grant is derived from the federal CARES Act, it carries many of the same restrictions of the Paycheck Protection Plan instituted by Congress earlier in the year.

"For the CCC, the funding will primarily be used to fund salaries and benefits for our staff," he said, adding that of the many grants the cultural center has received from the YCCC, this is the largest. "The CCC saw a dramatic reduction in earned revenue, specifically in our venue rental operation, which is responsible for funding much of the programmatic work we do for the community."

Andries said the grants were based on a formula created by the Oregon Cultural Trust and the Oregon Arts Commission, with an emphasis on placing "impactful funding where there was the greatest need."

"The CCC is the largest arts services provider in Yamhill County," he added. "Our award … was made in proportion to our operating budget, our demonstrated impact from COVID-19 and the resulting restrictions on public gatherings. … This funding through the Oregon Cultural Trust is a lifeline for many arts and cultural organizations such as the CCC; it is no hyperbole to say that this will save the arts sector in Oregon from financial ruin."

The organizations receiving the grants range from cultural institutions to country fairs, tribal events to festivals and community events, as well as some for-profits organizations that have a cultural impact on their communities.

The grants were intended to provide financial assistance to cultural nonprofit organization and community venues forced to cancel or postpone public programming due to public health orders that came after the pandemic hit in March.

The Oregon Cultural Trust, formed in 2001 by the Legislature, provides a 100 percent tax credit to people donating to fund cultural events and projects in the state.

"In 2019, Oregonians gave $4.5 million to the cultural trust," a release from the organization said. "Sixty percent of that went straight back to the field. The remaining 40 percent helped grow our permanent fund."

Each year the Yamhill County Cultural Coalition receives Oregon Cultural Trust money to fund cultural activities in the county. The county organization, in turn, awards grants of up to $2,500 to a variety of groups and has distributed more than $150,000 for local cultural entities since 2004.

To celebrate receipt of the grants, the Yamhill County Cultural Coalition is planning a check-signing party in conjunction with the Oregon Cultural Trust, according to Richard Page, president of the coalition. The date of the event has yet to be announced.

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