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Grants to help support projects advancing history, culture in Clackamas County

PMG FILE PHOTO - The West Linn Historical Society is one of more than a dozen local organizations receiving a boost from the Clackamas County Cultural Coalition through nearly $40k in project grant dollars. A $2,500 grant will help WLHS with the return of their Willamette Living History Tour this fall. Seventeen local organizations were recently awarded a piece of $39,000 in state grant money by the Clackamas County Cultural Coalition to help fund a wide range of projects supporting the arts, heritage and humanities.

Since its inception in 2005, the Clackamas County Cultural Coalition has distributed more than $535,000 to 321 organizations for projects promoting cultural and historical experiences.

"It's exciting to be able to offer these funding opportunities for Clackamas County arts, culture and heritage organizations, and individual creatives. The impact extends beyond simply the immediate performance or project — cultural experiences can change lives and communities for the better," said Katinka Byrk, coalition chair. "They increase the quality of life, explain our history and bring joy. Thank you to all the organizations who work so steadily to make Clackamas County the best place to live."

In the grant program's 17th year, an eight-member grant review panel was tasked with sifting through nearly $60,000 worth of grant requests to find those that best supported the coalition's goals and priorities for 2021. Those priorities included things like increasing how Clackamas County culture is valued and supported, removing barriers to access and working with the county's various governmental organizations. But they also focused on how to support organizations meeting the operational challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

For example, the National Alliance on Mental Illness' Clackamas County affiliate (NAMI Clackamas) was awarded $2,500 to help the group restart its "Open Minds Art Studio" which provides opportunities for those dealing with mental illnesses to participate in self-directed art projects. These projects — for which all materials were provided by the group — included artistic endeavors both big and small, from finger painting to painting a large wall mural.

According to Gary Marschke, outreach and development coordinator for NAMI Clackamas, the COVID-19 pandemic forced the group to suspend in-person activities including the art studio. PHOTO COURTESY OF NAMI CLACKAMAS - Gary Marschke, outreach and development coordinator for NAMI Clackamas.

"What we found is that so many of the people who were going to that group were isolated. That's why they went to the group," Marschke said. "This was one of the few opportunities that they felt comfortable with or were able to take advantage of to get out, actually socialize and do something that was of value and interest to them. And they were missing that, obviously, during COVID, so we felt as though it was time to try and reactivate that group in some way."

The group will use its grant from the Cultural Coalition to begin offering art studio sessions virtually through Zoom and by delivering art materials directly to its participants. The idea is that although they can't meet physically, the Zoom format will bring some semblance of that socialization and engagement back to their participants who are also eager to resume their artistic work.

Marschke said NAMI Clackamas — which is based in Milwaukie — is in the process of gathering materials to distribute and laying out the curriculum for suggested projects from week-to-week.

Although the initial group will be participants who have formerly attended the art studio, Marschke said the goal is ultimately to open the group up to the public once they're back in full swing.

"We're anticipating about a half a dozen in the pilot group to start with," he said. "We would typically average 8 to 10, but sometimes we'd get up to 20 with visitors. We still haven't confirmed all the attendees that will be engaged, but we aren't receiving funding until February so we're taking a very pragmatic approach to make sure we're doing this right since we probably won't get a second chance."

According to Marschke, NAMI Clackamas is excited to reinvigorate this group because of how fun and eclectic the mix of participants typically is and how it tends to help people get out of their comfort zone and socialize a bit.

"The element that's missing here, and we're not going to replace that by doing this virtually, but I think we can and really want to attempt to recapture some of the dynamic at least that took place there, so that folks don't feel as though they're so alone," Marschke said.

Elsewhere in Clackamas County, another $2,500 project grant will go toward helping the West Linn Historical Society bring back its annual Willamette Living History Tour for the 13th year after having to suspend the event in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The West Linn Historical Society has received this grant in years past, but according to Danny Schreiber, historical society vice-president, the funds will be particularly helpful in 2021 as the group navigates planning for an event under a shroud of ambiguity and unknowns posed by the pandemic.

"Obviously we had to cancel the event last year due to COVID, which gave the organization a big financial hit," Schreiber said. "We're planning for 2021 knowing that we at least have some grant money available to us if things go forward as we hope they will. We'll have that already in place so that we can make accommodations for everybody for the event to take place in September."

Schreiber said that the group typically begins planning for the event right around this time of year, but that process is taking place virtually this year, including casting calls for characters, rounds of auditions, rehearsals and other meetings. Events can be easier to access if participants don't have to travel.

"We know we can do things virtually now, and hopefully that'll actually get more involvement," Schreiber said. "We've seen in some of our other events we've got more people to be able to be involved."

Although the intent is to have the event take place live in September, when visitors can interact with actors portraying historical figures from the town of Willamette, the group has decided to record the performances and produce a video as they did last year. That will allow those who can't attend in person to watch a replay at home.

Schreiber said some of the funding received through the Cultural Coalition grant will go toward hiring a camera crew and professional editor. He also said they'll spend a few extra dollars on promoting the event this year as it grows near in order to create some buzz and ensure they continue the momentum that's been built over the past 13 years.

Awardees included:

The Artback – A Camino Largo, Paso Corto Mural ($2,500)

Art in Oregon – Operating Support ($2,500)

Chapel Theatre – Operating Support ($2,300)

Charbonneau Arts Association – "The Biggest Pumpkin" Community Sculpture ($2,500)

City of Canby – Amplify Wait Park ($2,000)

Forests Forever – Historic Molalla Log House – Educational Interpretive Panel ($2,500)

Jacknife Zion Horseheaven Historical Society – Operating Support ($2,500)

NAMI Clackamas – Online "Open Minds Art Studio" and Art Show ($2,500)

New Century Players – "There I Take My Stand" ($2,500)

Rex Putnam Music Boosters – KINGSMEN THUNDER Virtual Drum Line Start of Season ($2,500)

Rivers of Life Center – Celebrating our Seniors and County Through Word and Song ($2,200)

Rose City Brass Quintet – RCBQ Tour of Clackamas Communities & Parks During COVID ($2,500)

West Linn Historical Society – 13th Annual Willamette Living History Tour ($2,500)

The Whiskey Hill Store – In-Store Historical Display ($1,000)

Willamette Falls Heritage Foundation – Conversion of Print Book to E-Book ($2,000)

Wilsonville Celebration Days – Operating Support ($2,000)


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