The Regional Arts & Culture Council was formed as a private, not-for-profit organization to be the steward of public investment in the arts and to serve the community as a resource for the growth and support of our regional arts ecosystem. Through a community planning process, followed by collaboration with multiple local governments, a multi-year contract between RACC and government partners was developed and has endured until the summer of 2023.
On July 21, 2023 Commissioner Dan Ryan announced that the City of Portland would be changing it’s 28 year long relationship with RACC by not renewing the sole-source arts leadership contract for the services such as grantmaking, percent for art management, sculpture maintenance, advocacy and workshops we provide to the arts community. The plan is to move funding previously housed at RACC to the City Arts Program in the newly created Office of Arts of Culture.
Since the City’s decision and announcement, we have been out in the community, listening and responding to your comments and concerns. Below are our responses to what we are hearing most frequently. This material will remain alive and we will be updating this page as we continue to listen and respond to you.
Please keep the questions and comments coming!
We believe it’s a mistake for the future of arts and cultural growth in Portland. Our community loses its voice when arts funding decisions are taken inside government agencies. The community should continue its role in making decisions independent from politics and government.
It’s important for everyone to understand what Portland and the region will lose without RACC’s strong service and values based approach to programming:
- Service-Centered Facilitation - RACC programs are designed and administered by a team of experienced professionals who possess an in-depth understanding of the arts ecosystem and local community. Many RACC Team members are artistically active in the community. Applicants and review panelists have provided feedback that our systems are approachable and user-friendly.
- Administrative Adaptability - RACC provides ongoing opportunities for applicants and award recipients to receive support before, during, and after they submit proposals. RACC processes remain fluid and are often adjusted to better support the community in response to feedback received after each grant cycle, project or program concludes.
- Values-Focused Programming - RACC uses its Core Values to guide the development and methodology of its programs to serve and uplift the public: Accessibility, Advocacy, Equity, Diversity, Community, and Innovation.
- Inclusion - RACC’s nimble funding structure provides stable, predictable financial support to General Operating Support Partner Organizations, along with opportunities to apply for additional funds or enter the program. This helps organizations plan their programming, envision ways to promote the public’s engagement with arts, and focus on bringing community members into their spaces.
- Access - RACC’s approach to grantmaking shifted when we began administering the Arts Education and Access Fund (AEAF - Arts Tax), which coincided with internal efforts to become a more equitable funder. This shared value of Access—in all its forms and expressions—has anchored RACC’s work to this day.
- Efficiency - RACC has the systems in place to do all the work we are currently doing and more! One need look no further than our work during the COVID-19 pandemic. We led and participated in many federally funded programs to bring approximately $16 million into the community – all while continuing to run our own programs, including emergency support for individual artists and venues.
- Transparency – RACC manages public processes – where community is invited to be the decision makers - for the tax dollars we are entrusted to put out the door. We center the community review process in the design of all of our programs.
When did RACC learn about changes to the relationship with the City of Portland and the new Office of Arts and Culture?
- In April 2023, the City of Portland notified RACC that it was starting its own Office of Arts and Culture and that there would be a significant funding reduction to RACC.
- On July 21, 2023, RACC found out from Commissioner Dan Ryan that funding for RACC’s contract would cease as of July 30, 2024. In its place, the City is offering a yet-to-be-defined request for proposal process overseen by the City Arts Program.
RACC will continue its 28+ year history as a non-profit supporter of the regional Arts and Culture sector! We will leverage our non-profit status to raise funding that will allow us to support our current mission. We will continue operations past the city's ending of the sole source contract as we have strong relationships with our other public partners and we have a dedicated fundraising team.
We will pursue RFP's as they are offered by the City Arts Program and align with our values. The specific programs that we offer will be partially dependent on our success in the RFP process and in the fundraising process. Please stay tuned for updates!
As well as not renewing the contract with RACC, The City of Portland exited the Intergovernmental agreement which created RACC. The Intergovernmental Agreement has been in effect since January 15, 1995. A jurisdiction can cease to be a part of the Agreement with sixty (60) days notice to the RACC Executive Director as stated in the Agreement.
Does RACC have funding for this year’s grant programs? Can artists and arts organizations still apply to RACC?
Yes, to both of those questions. RACC is contractually obligated to complete its planned grantmaking for the City of Portland of approximately $6 million through June 30, 2024 - this includes:
- General Operating Support
- Reporting through three cycles
- Investment awards this winter/spring
- New partner process this spring
- Arts3C – Fall (currently in review) and Spring cycles.
The expiration of the RACC contract on June 30, 2024 will create a significant shift in RACC operations and administration which will impact all RACC grantees throughout the tri-county region. RACC will be working to make all grant payments prior to June 30, 2024 in order to facilitate closing the books on the City of Portland contract.
No – Any person or entity that has received funding from RACC will not have those funds taken away. As it stands right now, RACC will not be contracted to support the administration of any grant after June 30th. This means there will not be a RACC Team member to provide administrative support to you after that date. The City Arts Program is aware of this potential gap in support and service. If anything changes to alter this, you will be informed of who to contact.
We have heard concern from the community over who will provide support services for arts leaders and artists such as workshops, coaching, grantseeking, professional development and other resources to support the field outside of direct funding. It is our intention to maintain a level of service and resource in all these areas and more as we believe this is what has made us an unparalleled service provider in the arts since 1995.
What will happen with current Public Art processes that are currently underway or scheduled to get underway?
RACC will continue to provide Public Art management and maintenance services to the City through June 30, 2023 and hopefully beyond. Time will tell on the latter but we are committed to seeing that any transitions go smoothly. One of the hallmarks of RACC’s Public Art Program is that community members are always involved in the decision making process. We will do our best to keep the community informed.
We get this question often and we won’t speculate why the City of Portland is choosing to leave the Intergovernmental Agreement and create an office of Arts and Culture. The following are some answers to stated concerns about RACC as expressed by leadership of the City Arts Program, Commissioner Ryan and his staff:
The City says it has been waiting for RACC to answer questions about its finances since the December 2022 Portland City Council meeting and RACC has not complied. Is this true?
That is false. In fact, RACC received a statement from Darion Jones, Senior Policy Director of Arts and Culture from the Office of Commissioner Ryan, in April 2023 saying the information had been delivered and no further information was needed.
City employees say they have had a number of compliance issues with RACC. Can you explain what those are?
RACC meets with the City monthly and has a record of additional meetings requested. RACC has repeatedly asked for more information about the alleged compliance issues and continues to ask. We believe we are in full compliance with our contractual obligations to the City and our other partners (Metro and Clackamas, Washington and Multnomah Counties).
Is it true that by reducing the administrative costs of the Regional Arts and Culture Council, there will be more funds available to the community?
RACC is more efficient and faster in its operations than what can be duplicated by the government. Our administrative spending is consistent with best nonprofit practices: our overall administrative overhead rate as a non-profit is 17.5%. Administrative costs include management, overhead, and fundraising expenses and RACC's overhead rate for administering City of Portland dollars was 12.5% in the previous fiscal year.
Part of the large gap between the city's talking points and RACC's figures is that the city is not acknowledging that RACC processed $3.4 million in Arts Education and Access Fund (AEAF) support in FY ending in June 2022 and $5.6 million in FY ending June 2023 with NO additional payment to RACC for this grantmaking work. In fact, in the history of the AEAF, RACC has never been allowed to take an administrative fee for managing and distributing the funds. It will cost the city or another entity some money to continue this important work in the future.
General guidance for nonprofit organizations is to have administrative costs be less than 20% of the budget. RACC has always stayed within those guidelines. This means that year after year, RACC spends over 80% of its funds on programs and services.
The City claims that, of the $4 million that the City of Portland sent to RACC this year from the general operating fund, RACC spent more than $2 million on management and administrative expenses.
Those numbers are misleading. In reality, we received more than $7M from the City. Of that, just 12.5% went to administrative expenses.
- Write to the City Council and the City Arts Program office. Tell them what YOU think! Find letter templates on our Advocacy page and customize them to your experience.
- Ask to speak before City Council sessions. Community members are allotted three minutes before sessions to speak about their concerns.
- Engage in Open Dialogue. Communication is key during this pivotal time. Please join us at one of our Community Engagements!
- Engage on our social media platforms! We will offer other ways to get involved.