For the spring 2018 primary election, RACC distributed a questionnaire to all candidates running for Portland City Council; Clackamas, Multnomah and Washington County Boards of Commissioners; and Metro Council. Each candidate was asked five questions on March 13 or 14, and given the opportunity to respond by March 30 when this story was first published. RACC will continue to publish responses from candidates even after the deadline has passed.
Here are the responses provided by Kimberly Culbertson, running for Washington County Commissioner, District 4. All responses are reprinted verbatim from what the candidates sent us.
RACC: In what specific ways have you supported arts and culture in Washington County?
KC: I frequently buy art from local artists, support our local theatrical companies and contribute to the Oregon Cultural Trust. I have not been an elected official, nor am I a person of wealth, so I advocate for the arts in my capacity on the Design Committee for the Hillsboro Downtown Association and the Urban Renewal Advisory Committee. I also have advocated for arts to be a stronger element in the redesign of the Hillsboro Airport, as I am on the HIO Master Plan Advisory Committee. I supported the renovation of the Venetian Theater as well as the development of Sequoia Gallery and The Vault, home of the Bag & Baggage Theatre Company. Moreover, I would promote a public drive to pay off the City loan on The Vault building, so that theatre can be created without the hindrance of a large mortgage.
RACC: Artists and arts organizations add measurable value to our region’s economy, our education system and our quality of life. Yet there are a number of pressing needs in Washington County that often compete with arts and culture for attention and investment. How would YOU describe the importance of arts and culture in our community, and what should Washington County be doing to support this sector?
KC: Arts and culture are exceptionally important for our community because it is one of the drivers of our economy and defines our quality of life in Washington County. Our growing creative class can spur innovation across other fields.
For many years, the focal point of arts experiences has been in the urban core of Portland, and our colleagues at Multnomah County continue to lead the state in their forwarding thinking and planning related to arts infrastructure. Of particular concern, throughout the region, is the decline in affordable performance spaces. As Portland “feels the squeeze” of ever growing property values and high rents, many arts organizations have found themselves priced out of the city. Washington County, too, has challenges related to available performance and creative spaces. Over time, artists and organizations in the Portland area will naturally begin to look outside of their city for more affordable spaces to create their work. Washington County has an opportunity to plan, support, and incentivize the formulation of such spaces, and should position itself as a welcoming, affordable destination for these creative entrepreneurs.
It is important that we magnify this valuable sector. Washington County Commission can act as a megaphone to support creative people and organizations, just as we do manufacturing and technology. We can work with the many large companies in Washington County to partner in projects that promote arts infrastructure and capacity building, and in neighboring school districts and neighborhoods, we can design elements that enhance the aesthetics of our public buildings. We can also promote more collaboration with the arts community in our public spaces. Finally, as we lessen our deficit of affordable housing, our most pressing need, we should ensure that we are developing solutions for members of the creative class who are priced out of many of our communities. Helping artists and makers have the ability to live and work in our county will not only help to develop a rich and vibrant culture, but will also help us promote and grow these small businesses, bringing new revenue and jobs to the County.
RACC: Washington County is currently moving forward with development of a $46 million events center at the Washington County Fairgrounds. Do you believe there is a place for the arts in future development of the fairgrounds site?
KC: Yes, the fairground Events Center should be an important element for promoting arts and culture in our community. The Events Center, as well as any future development, should take every opportunity to grow our creative community and facilitate spaces where people from all over the county can come together and create. Creativity does not preclude agricultural events, and I would advocate for the arts being showcased at our County Fair, an event that brought in 103,625 attendees in 2016.
RACC: Washington County does not currently have a percent-for-art program. Would you support the development of a program to support more art at public facilities?
KC: Yes, I would support a percent-for-art program as adding art into our public spaces brings a great value to our quality of life in Washington County. It also provides us a great opportunity to partner with our local schools and universities to showcase some of the amazing talents of our younger people. Public buildings should be gathering places and the arts can help to convene those gatherings. Percent For Art programs have been hugely successful across the nation in helping to create connection and community. The research is clear; public art lowers barriers to access to arts experiences for all residents. It can help create a unique sense of place, improve the overall quality of life, generate economic impact from cultural tourism, and bring together diverse groups of people for shared experiences.
RACC: What are some of your other priorities for Washington County that would be of interest to artists, arts organizations and arts educators in our community?
KC: I would like to see more local artists, designers and actors featured in the many film productions we foster in Washington County. Large production companies like Laika, headquartered in Hillsboro, can reach out to our communities to showcase their work and draw from the creativity our diverse county has. In my capacity as Commissioner, I would promote the arts in all aspects of our infrastructure and public works. I would also promote publicly showing the many corporate collections of art held here. Arts Learning and Education is also key; throughout Washington County, the arts have consistently been a target for cuts in school district budgets. As a result, many of our most vulnerable youth are attending schools without the benefit of exposure to the arts. I am a strong and dedicated advocate for the STEAM approach, which includes the arts as a key part of the focus on building the next generation of professionals and places arts as of equal value to science, technology, engineering, and math.