Lawmakers approve $50 million for arts groups, performing venues
Lawmakers have approved $50 million in federal funds in an attempt to help many of Oregon's arts and cultural organizations and performing venues survive the public shutdowns resulting from the coronavirus pandemic.
About half the money will go to specific organizations — and more than $14 million of that $24 million will be for organizations and venues in the Portland metropolitan area. But the other $26 million will be distributed by cultural coalitions in Oregon's 36 counties, which already get smaller amounts from the Oregon Cultural Trust that go to community groups.
House Speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland, said lawmakers have worked for months to find the best way to help these organizations. A few are run by government, but most are nonprofit or private.
"What we are trying to do is give them a base level of funding so they can be here on the other side of this pandemic," she said Tuesday, July 14. "I don't want the public to assume something nefarious is going on here."
But Sen. Betsy Johnson, D-Scappoose, said some advocates may believe that the aid will make them whole.
"Every venue was encouraged to write in support of this item. I don't know what they were told, but I think their expectations are through the ceiling," she said.
Johnson also said two major institutions were omitted — Portland Art Museum and the Oregon Historical Society. The latter receives some public support from a Multnomah County tax levy, and Johnson said it chose to forgo state aid so that needier organizations could be in line.
"But I think we have a moral, ethical and legal obligation to help them as the repository of the tangible treasures of Oregon," she said.
The money comes from the state's $1.4 billion share of federal aid from the CARES Act for coronavirus-related costs. The Legislative Emergency Board, whose members handle budget issues when the full Legislature is out of session, approved the allocation on Tuesday.
The top recipients are Oregon Shakespeare Festival, $4.7 million; Metro, $4.1 million (the agency runs the Portland Center for the Performing Arts and other venues); Oregon Symphony, $1.75 million; Portland Opera and Portland Center Stage, $875,000 each; High Desert Museum in Bend, $700,000; Oregon Ballet Theater, $630,000; Pendleton Roundup, $375,000.
About 80 other venues will divide $9.7 million. For Portland and the metro area, they are:
• Portland (37 at $5,689,168): Aladdin Theater, $497,000; Alberta Rose Theater, $198,940; Artichoke Music, $52,885; Atlantis Lounge, $82,600; BodyVox dance studio, $45,962; Bossanova Ballroom, $120,400; CoHo Productions, $24,605; Crystal Ballroom, $526,414; Dante's, $191,100; Doug Fir Lounge, $268,898; Goodfoot Lounge, $61,600; Hawthorne Theater, $315,700; Headwaters Theater, $24,675; Holocene, $205,100; Imago Theater, $73,269; Jack London Revue, $64,120; Kelly's Olympian, $36,400; Kickstand Comedy, formerly Brody Theater, $60,935; Laurelthirst Pub, $56,840; Milagro Theater, $25,711; Mississippi Studios, $294,049; New Expressive Works, $25,081; Northwest Children's Theater, $80,500; Old Church concert hall, $87,500; Portland Institute for Contemporary Art, $187,133; Polaris Hall, $183,694; Portland Playhouse, $85,281; Revolution Hall, $434,294; Roseland Theater, $486,094; Shaking the Tree Theater. $63,049; Stage 722, $179,753; Star Theater, $150,500; The Siren Theater, $41,300; Theater Vertigo, $18,375; Tony Starlight Showroom, $51,422; White Eagle, $116,452; Wonder Ballroom, $271,537.
• Other metro area (four at $597,450): Lakewood Center for the Performing Arts, Lake Oswego, $84,000; Pickathon, Happy Valley, $425,131; Theater in the Grove, Forest Grove, $25,900; The Vault Theater, Hillsboro, $62,419.
The only dissenter on the 18-1 vote was Senate Republican Leader Fred Girod of Lyons.
"It is very ladened in Portland," he said. "I am not thinking this is equitable by any stretch of the imagination. I am kind of bitter about it. We have to realize that this state isn't confined to just a couple of cities, and we have to start looking at rural Oregon."
House Republican Leader Christine Drazan of Canby said Girod had a valid point — but she voted for the allocation. She said smaller organizations that do not receive direct state aid can seek help from the cultural coalitions in Oregon's 36 counties, whose volunteer boards know their communities best.
She also said it was a matter of survival.
"These are the things that make our communities unique and strong, that augment and support student learning, that allow for community conversations to happen, to build bridges and help us understand each other," she said.
"I am deeply committed to when we are on the other side of this pandemic, not only will our churches reopen and sports restart, but our communities are not empty of cultural offerings."
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