Regional Arts & Culture Council rebuilding after lay-offs
Times are changing for the Regional Arts & Culture Council, long known in the Portland community for helping individuals and groups with fundraising, promoting public art projects and fostering arts education.
Madison Cario, who was hired a year ago as RACC executive director, wants to look at arts and culture holistically and how RACC can advocate for more funding.
It's not any news flash that artists often deal with economic challenges, and Cario understands the predicament, which is compounded by high rents and little guaranteed income. And it's a matter of representing the work of historically underserved and marginalized communities and promoting the "the larger ecosystem," including Portland and the Pacific Northwest.
"It's a realignment of mission and purpose," Cario said. Changes include the laying off of 15 employees, eliminating five positions and hiring for 15 positions that better address RACC's goal of streamlining the organization.
"We're trying to balance business with the people," Cario said, and go forward "incubating new ideas, innovating the role of an arts council in today's world."
RACC is a nonprofit organization supported by the city of Portland, private donors, Metro and Multnomah, Washington and Clackamas counties.
A specific change is the shifting of the administration of the Right Brain Initiative, which works with school districts and schools to encourage arts, to the Young Audiences of Oregon and Southwest Washington.
The Arts Impact Fund (formerly Work for Art) campaign, in which RACC has partnered with local businesses to raise money, will continue through the fiscal year, but there'll be changes to the giving component.
A new platform for viewing RACC's public art collection is going to be developed to make it more user friendly. And, a cultural asset map of theaters, rehearsal spaces and arts in schools also will be created.
Cario has led the organization's movement to spread money around to more individuals, groups and companies in the past year.
And Cario wants to bring together artists, collectives and private companies such as creative tech firms and sports teams on projects to make "magic."
The RACC board of directors hired Cario to make substantial changes.
"I think the community and people we serve will feel a change over the next five months," Cario said. "We're focusing on what we do. New fundraising and advocacy is going to take awhile; it'll be a year and a half to recognize the new dollars in the door.
"We have a good problem in grantmaking — we have more applications than we can handle. We did a good job of getting the word out, but now what? Last year we shifted the pie, now we need to grow the pie. It's been flat for 10 years."
The proposed changes are responsive to the city of Portland's audit of RACC in 2018 and the city's current budget priorities.
Cario also points out that the Arts Tax can be leveraged for good uses.
RACC had a budget of a little more than $10 million last year.
"These changes respond to what we are seeing and hearing from our community, and position RACC to better serve our region today and in the future," said RACC board chair Linda McGeady.
Said Chloe Eudaly, Portland arts commissioner: "When RACC connects artists with resources, opportunities and each other, our communities become stronger. We have a vision of establishing RACC as a champion for arts and culture locally, regionally and nationally."
There'll be a "State of the Arts" report to the Portland City Council in the near future.
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