Oregon’s performance venues, including Whiteside, Majestic seek state funds

PETER WONG Oregon Capital Bureau

Corvallis’ Whiteside and Majestic Theaters are among Oregon arts and cultural organizations and venues seeking another round of $50 million to help them recover financially while they cope with life during the coronavirus Pandemic lost attendance and rebuilding audiences.

They got help in July 2020 when lawmakers approved $50 million in federal funds to help them.

House Bill 2459, heard by the House Economic Development and Small Business Committee on Tuesday, Jan. 31, proposes $22.6 million of state funds to be split between seven major organizations and 77 smaller venues named in the legislation .

The Majestic would get $103,000 and the Whiteside is set to get $40,000.

The remainder of the $50 million would go to the Oregon Business Development Department for distribution.

Chet Udell of Oregon State University performs an original music score he wrote “Fantasia for the Spider Harp” on the Spider Harp on August 14th.

Logan Hannigan-Downs, Mid-Valley Media

House Bill 2911, which was heard last week, proposes $20 million for the business agency without naming organizations or venues.

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Chair Janelle Bynum, D-Happy Valley, said the final fate of the bills rests with the Legislature’s Joint Budget Committee.

They’re not the only ones urging lawmakers to continue aid that originally came from federal dollars. Gov. Tina Kotek on Tuesday, presenting her budget recommendations for the next biennial cycle beginning July 1, said, “Future fiscal cycles may present difficult decisions.”

Brian Ferriso, director of the Portland Art Museum, said 2022 attendance is about half what it was before the pandemic, despite two major exhibitions and conservative projections.

“Our organizations, big and small, are struggling to get back on track after the pandemic. Oregon experienced some of the longest pandemic-related shutdowns in the country,” he said at a committee hearing.

Ferriso acknowledged that downtown Portland, the scene of racial justice protests and the target of vandalism for weeks in 2020, poses a particular challenge for the museum and other prominent institutions.

“We know that many workers and their families have yet to return to downtown Portland,” he said. “Let me assure you that we are doing everything we can to be part of the solution.”

As with the 2020 allocation, a small group of organizations would share $11.8 million: Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, $5.1 million; Oregon Symphony, $1.9 million; Portland Art Museum, $1.5 million; Portland Center Stage and Portland Opera, $949,375 each; High Desert Museum in Bend, $759,500; and Oregon Ballet Theater, $683,550. (Excludes the 2020 recipients Metro, which had operated the Portland Center for the Performing Arts, and the Pendleton Roundup.)

All but two are based in Portland. The Portland Art Museum received no money in its first round in 2020, but lawmakers later added some organizations and venues to its original list.

An additional $10.7 million would be split across 77 named venues. In the 2020 allocation, approximately 80 venues shared $9.7 million; 41 of them in the Portland area received a total of $6.3 million.

The total bill calls for $9.6 million to be distributed outside of the greater Portland area.

The 2020 allocation was approved by the Legislative Emergency Committee, which meets between sessions of the entire Legislature, leaving cultural coalitions in Oregon’s 36 counties to distribute the remaining $26 million.

Ginger Savage, a board member of the Cultural Advocacy Coalition of Oregon, said a recent announcement by the Oregon Shakespeare Festival about major staff cuts and production cuts could anticipate what lies ahead for smaller organizations without government aid.

“I have no doubt that by supporting the arts, we are supporting Main Street and all of the various businesses that are associated with the arts,” said Rep. Greg Smith, a Heppner Republican, an economic development adviser and a co-sponsor.

Ferriso mentioned a 2017 study by Americans for the Arts that found that the activities of cultural nonprofits in Portland generated $330 million in ancillary profits annually, nearly 10 times the national median of $35.8 million. dollars for a metropolitan area.

Rep. Rob Nosse, D-Portland, is co-sponsor and organizer of the Arts and Culture Caucus in the Legislature. He said economic losses in Oregon’s creative sector from the pandemic totaled $1.6 billion.

“This loss was compounded by the fact that audiences are still slow to return to their pre-pandemic numbers. Even now that restrictions are lifted, venues are still not seeing audiences in the numbers they are used to,” said Nosse.

“The number of visitors is developing in the right direction. But if we don’t provide a lifeline of support, I believe we risk losing some of our most important heritage sites in our state.”

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