Portland voters overwhelmingly approved an Arts Education and Access Fund in 2012 restoring arts education in Portland public schools and expanding access to arts and culture for Portland residents. The City of Portland collects the tax and administers the funds. An independent oversight committee reviews expenditures, progress and outcomes.
Thanks to the Arts Education Access Income Tax, every elementary school in Portland’s six school districts (Centennial, David Douglas, Parkrose, Portland Public, Reynolds and Riverdale) now has at least one art, music, drama, or dance teacher on staff— approximately 100 teachers total. Funding allows for approximately one arts specialist for every 500 students. Teachers have risen to the challenge of distance learning, still delivering arts education to students online.
Money from the Arts Education and Access Fund goes first to schools (65% of total funding since 2012). Any additional revenues are distributed to RACC for grants to artists, arts organizations and art projects. In 2019 the tax provided $5 million for grants supporting a wide variety of performances, exhibits, lectures, and community events, including many free and reduced-cost arts experiences for Portland residents.
RACC also uses the Arts Education and Access Fund for special projects that expand arts access for communities of color, veterans, artists and audiences with different abilities. Portland neighborhoods underserved with RACC grants are prioritized for project funding.
For a summary of grants that RACC has awarded to nonprofit organizations using the Arts Education and Access Fund, click here. Thanks to Arts Education and Access Fund Oversight Committee Member Laura Streib for the use of her Arts Funding graphic. Click here to download here.
To pay your share of the Arts Education Access Income Tax, click here.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Q: When do I pay my share of the Arts Education and Access Fund?
The Arts Education Access Income Tax is due on the same day that federal income tax is due. This year that will be on April 18th, 2022.
Q: Who pays and how much?
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 pays the tax of $35. Other exemptions apply; visit https://www.portland.gov/revenue/arts-tax for details. Individuals file a separate tax return with the City of Portland at the same time that federal and state taxes are due.
Q: Why was this fund needed?
Without dedicated funding, arts education constantly finds itself on the chopping block. Between 2007 and 2011, many schools in the region reduced or eliminated their arts and music teaching staff. By 2011 there were only 31 arts specialists remaining in Portland, and 11,596 students attended a K-5 school that had no art, dance, drama or music instruction whatsoever. Today there are more than 90 arts specialists in Portland.
Additionally, the fund provides support for arts organizations in Portland. Public funding helps arts organizations sustain their programs and make creative experiences accessible and more affordable to Portland residents.
Q: How much is being raised?
In 2019 Portlanders paid approximately $13.1 million into the Arts Education and Access Fund for art and art instruction in Portland K-5 schools. More information about the tax and collection can be found on the City’s website.
Q: How is the money distributed?
The city disburses funds to school districts first (65% of total funding since 2012), and then to RACC for grants (24% to increase access; arts education coordination), the reminder (11%) has been used by the City of Portland for collections and administration.
Q: How does RACC decide who receives grants from the Arts Education and Access Fund?
RACC distributes Arts Education Access Income Tax proceeds through three RACC grant programs: General Operating Support, Project/Make|Learn|Build Grants, and Capacity Building Grants for Culturally Specific Arts Organizations. RACC is also setting aside funds to help invest in equity initiatives. Community volunteers evaluate all grant applications and make recommendations to RACC’s Board of Directors. For more information, including funding criteria, guidelines and deadlines, visit racc.org/grants. Prospective applicants are also encouraged to subscribe to Art Notes, the RACC e-newsletter, to receive monthly updates of RACC opportunities.
Q: Can I apply to become a member of the Arts Education and Access Oversight Committee?
Learn more about the committee responsibilities and how to apply here.
SUMMARY OF ARTS EDUCATION AND ACCESS GRANT AWARDS
Grants awarded by RACC include many sources of public and private funding—including City of Portland General Fund dollars, individual and workplace donations, special event proceeds, and funding from Clackamas, Multnomah and Washington Counties. Find out more by reading the most recent Arts Education and Access Oversight Committee report (March 1, 2019).
LEGAL INFORMATION AND LINKS
- City Code: Arts Education & Access Income Tax
- Artstax.net: The City of Portland’s website for the Arts Education & Access Income Tax
- Ballot Measure 26-146 as referred to the voters by Portland City Council
- Ballot measure description in the Voters’ Guide (PDF)
- Contract between the City of Portland and RACC (2010) (PDF)
- Amendment to the RACC/City Contract (2012) (PDF)
- IGA between the City of Portland and the school districts (PDF)
- Act for Art: the 2009 action plan for arts and culture that led to the creation of the Arts Education Access Income Tax (PDF)
- National Endowment of the Arts report: “How the United States Funds the Arts” (3rd edition; November 2012) (PDF)
Do you have questions that aren’t addressed here? We invite you 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.