Grantmakers announce new relief fund for Oregon arts organizations

Hard-hit nonprofits benefit from program’s streamlined process, pooled funds

Theaters are dark, museums shuttered, contracts canceled, revenue lost. In a matter of weeks COVID-19 destabilized the nonprofit arts world. The damage is difficult to quantify and, for some organizations, may be irreversible.  Artists themselves were among the first to rally, organizing efforts to provide immediate emergency support. Now, a collaborative group of funders is ramping up an ambitious effort to help organizations and artists in need. To date, $1.3 million in pooled resources is dedicated to the Oregon Arts and Culture Recovery Program.

Established in partnership with state and local arts funders, and administered by the Oregon Community Foundation, funds will support nonprofit arts and culture organizations throughout Oregon with grants for emergency operating support and recovery activities. Pooled funds will give preference to arts nonprofits led by and serving communities disproportionately impacted by the social and economic consequences of the outbreak of COVID-19.

“We know that this unprecedented crisis requires unprecedented collaboration,” stated Madison Cario, Executive Director of the Regional Arts & Culture Council. “Together public and private funders – as well as individual donors – can make the greatest impact by pooling our resources, prioritizing those with few reserves, and streamlining our application processes.”

Local economic impact
Comprised of thousands of individual contractors and nonprofit organizations, the state’s creative sector is a driver of local economies and employment. In the Portland metro area alone, Data Arts reports more than 9,150 jobs in the arts sector in Clackamas, Multnomah and Washington counties. Regulations limiting group sizes and public gatherings issued in early March by the City of Portland and the Governor had an immediate and devastating effect on artists, performing arts organizations, staff, and contract workers throughout the state. The economic impact quickly spread through the entire arts community as COVID-19 restrictions led to massive layoffs from closed venues and canceled events, exhibitions, and performances.

In a recent statewide survey conducted by the Regional Arts & Culture Council, 260-plus arts organizations in Oregon estimated losses of more than $46 million in March, April and May 2020 alone. Revenue from earned income is by far the largest source of funding arts organizations (nationally estimated to be about 60% of all sources). Even small changes in revenue can mean trouble for most arts organizations who operate with small reserves.

The emergency funds will be awarded to meet immediate operating needs and losses related to the cancellation of performances, gallery exhibitions, fundraising events and more. Additionally, funders will look for proposals with strategies that allow art organizations and cultural institutions to innovate and adapt to the challenges of COVID-19. Organizations serving as a hub or facilitator for the arts and artists in their local, state and regional communities will also be prioritized for funding.

Collaborating to serve the common good
Partners contributing toward the pooled fund currently include: The Collins Foundation, James F. and Marion L. Miller Foundation, Oregon Community Foundation, Regional Arts & Culture Council, and Schnitzer CARE Foundation/Jordan Schnitzer. Other partners aligning and supporting the effort include: Oregon Cultural Trust, Oregon Arts Commission, Reser Family Foundation, and the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust.

Further details
In order to reach as many communities and organizations as possible, the first wave of collective awards will give priority to requests under $5,000. Proposals requesting between $5,000 and $25,000 will be highly competitive, with rare awards over $25,000.  Funding priorities are limited to the pooled funds. Additional funding partners may make awards from this group of applications using their own individual priorities.

Find the streamlined application on the Oregon Community Foundation’s website: