Portland's Arts Education & Access Fund



In the spring of 2009, following 22 months of conversations with more than 1,500 citizens, the Regional Arts & Culture Council and Portland City Commissioner Sam Adams published a new Creative Action Plan for the Portland Metropolitan region. Act for Art established a number of goals for arts and culture in the region, including first and foremost the need for a dedicated funding mechanism to support arts education and arts access. A new advocacy organization, the Creative Advocacy Network (CAN), was established to make this goal a reality, and in 2012 CAN focused its efforts on the City of Portland and launched the Schools & Arts Together campaign to support ballot measure 26-146. On November 6th, 2012, 62% of voters approved the initiative, officially establishing Portland's Arts Education and Access Fund (AEAF).

The AEAF, or "arts tax" as it is commonly known, is an income tax of $35 per eligible taxpayer that currently generates about $9.5 million per year. Proceeds have restored arts and music education for every K-5 student in Portland’s six school districts by funding 1 certified arts teacher for every 500 students. The AEAF also provides funding to RACC to support nonprofit arts organizations that are bringing culture and creativity to life for every Portland resident. The City of Portland collects the tax and administers the funds, with oversight provided by a citizen advisory committee.

For a summary of grants that RACC has awarded to nonprofit organizations using AEAF funds, click here.



Q: Why is this fund needed?

A: In Portland in 2012 there were 11,596 children attending schools that do not have any art, dance, drama, and music instruction. In 2011 only 18% of Portland elementary schools provide art instruction compared to 83% nationally; only 58% of Portland elementary schools provide music instruction compared to 94% nationally. The rate of decline for arts education in Portland has been shockingly steep. In the last five years Parkrose and Centennial School Districts have cut their arts and music teaching staff by half, while Portland Public Schools has dropped all arts instruction in 22 schools in just two years.

In addition, arts organizations in Portland receive significantly less public support than their counterparts in other U.S. cities. More public funding will help arts organizations fulfill their obligations to make the arts accessible for every Portland resident.


Q: Who pays the new tax, and how much?

A: Every Portland resident age 18 and older whose household income is above the federal poverty level and whose personal income (not including Social Security) is $1,000 or more must pay the tax of $35. Certain other exemptions apply; visit http://www.portlandoregon.gov/revenue/60076 for details.


Q: How much will be raised?

A: The City of Portland estimates that the Arts Education and Access Fund will raise $10 million annually by 2016.


Q: How and when will the money be collected?

A: Individuals file a tax return at the same time that federal and state taxes are due.  The City’s Revenue Bureau oversees this process and manages all collections. Visit www.artstax.net for more information.


Q: Will there be oversight of these funds?

Yes. School districts and RACC will undergo annual independent audits. Also, an independent citizen Arts Oversight Committee (AOC), representative of the City’s diverse communities, reviews Fund expenditures and report the impacts to the public on an annual basis. The AOC meetings and minutes are posted at http://www.portlandoregon.gov/revenue/60089.  


Q: How will the money be disbursed?

A: Based on the City’s Revenue Bureau annual revenue projection of $10 million, the Arts Education and Access Fund will be distributed approximately as follows:

Arts Education and Access Fund, approximately $10 million
AEAF piechart (July 2015)

Approximately $6.7 million pays for 68.5 certified arts education teachers in Portland’s school districts (Centennial, David Douglas, Parkrose, Portland Public, Reynolds, and Riverdale). Districts receiving these funds are required to maintain weekly arts instruction in grades K-5.

By 2016, RACC should receive an estimated $2.8 million/year from this fund, to be invested accordingly:

  • $2.3 million to fund arts organizations that provide arts programming and access for every Portland resident through RACC’s general support grants program
  • $125,000 for “access grants” to schools and arts organizations that provide arts programming for K-12 students and underserved residents
  • $285,000 to coordinate arts education programs across Portland’s six school districts. 

The AEAF also provides direct funding (up to 3% of net revenues) for RACC to coordinate arts education activities across school districts.  

Q: What must arts organizations do if they accept these funds?

A: In exchange for these funds, general support organizations will demonstrate how they are increasing service levels for youth and underserved communities in Portland. To fulfill our obligation to the voters and the oversight committee, RACC has new reporting requirements asking grant recipients for more detail on where their services were delivered, and who benefited. RACC will continue to evaluate arts organizations based on artistic excellence, proven service to the community, administrative and fiscal competence and grant compliance.

For a summary of free and reduced cost admission opportunities to arts events in the Portland region, visit our new our Access to Arts and Culture page.


Q: How and when will the new “access grants” be awarded?

Some arts tax funds are distributed through RACC's Project Grant program. Project grant applications and guidelines are typically available in June of every year, with deadlines in August, and funding decisions in December. 

RACC has also created a new grant category, “Expanding Cultural Access” grants, which provide funds to nonprofit organizations that are making arts and culture more accessible to communities of color and other underserved populations. These grants are typically available in January every year, with deadlines in March, and funding decisions in May.

Interested parties are encouraged to subscribe to Art Notes, the RACC e-newsletter, to receive monthly notices of all RACC grant opportunities and deadlines. 





National Endowment of the Arts report: “How the United States Funds the Arts” (3rd edition; November 2012)


Do you have questions that aren’t addressed on this page? Click here to submit your question to RACC and we will get back to you as soon as we can -- we may even post your question (and our answer) to this page.