Announcing two new calls for public art; more support for artists

In response to the impact on artists of COVID-19, the Regional Arts & Culture Council (RACC) announces two calls for new public art; an initiative to further emerging visual artists making work in Oregon and Southwest Washington and a direct purchase of artwork for the Visual Chronicle of Portland. Eligible artists may apply to either or both opportunities.

Consistent with RACC’s equity framework, the selection panels will prioritize submissions from artists not already well represented in the Portable Works Public Art Collection including Black and Indigenous artists, and artists of color.

The Visual Chronicle of Portland – a collection of works on paper that portray artists’ perceptions of what makes the city of Portland, Oregon unique. The budget for new acquisitions is $15,000. To serve as many artists as possible, individual pieces must be priced no more than $1,000. Funding is from the City of Portland.

Submission Closing: Wednesday, May 27, 2020 at 5 p.m. PST.

Support Beam – intended to strengthen artists towards the production of new work over a period of three to six months. The overall budget for this initiative is $70,000. Selected artists will receive between $3,000 and $5,000. Funding is from Multnomah County’s Percent for Art Program.

Submission Closing: Wednesday, June 3, 2020 at 5 p.m. PST.

Details about the new calls for public art.


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: https://oregoncf.org/grants-and-scholarships/grants/oregon-arts-and-culture-recovery-program.

New RACC Emergency Fund for Artists and Creative Workers

Initial fund provides more than $120,000 in small grants for individuals

Thousands of individual artists and creative workers have already lost contracts, gigs, and teaching work as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Performance cancellations, closures and physical distancing requirements are having a devastating impact on greater Portland’s creative community. In Multnomah County alone, more than 900 individual artists responding to a recent survey estimated over $9 million in lost income March through May, 2020.

In the face of this unprecedented crisis, the Regional Arts & Culture Council April 2, 2020 announced a new fund to provide some financial relief to Portland area creative professionals and the region’s cultural workforce. RACC’s Emergency Fund for Artists and Creative Workers, offers financial assistance to cover lost income to artists experiencing economic hardship.

New donations to the fund will be distributed directly to individual artists and creative workers in need along with more than $120,000 in unrestricted funding RACC has redirected from other programs. Applications to the emergency fund open on April 2, 2020 and should be submitted online no later than 5 p.m. Monday, April 13, 2020 for initial consideration. As new funds are donated and identified, RACC will award additional funds.

“Our artist community has lost much but it remains rich with diversity of skills, resources and creativity,” said RACC Executive Director, Madison Cario.  “That’s why it’s essential that in the short-term RACC look at all available resources, ramp up partnerships, and raise money. We will be looking to the arts community to innovate with us to create longer-term solutions and creative ideas that will support our resilience and recovery.”

RACC’s Emergency Fund for Artists and Creative Workers supports individuals who have experienced a financial loss due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The fund is open to artists at all levels of their careers, in a broad variety of disciplines. Applicants will be asked to share evidence of their artistic practice, household income, and financial loss in the application. RACC will make awards up to $500 in order to support as many individual artists as possible, prioritizing those without access to other COVID-19 relief funds.

“It’s not just individual artists who are losing out as a result of the pandemic; the whole region risks losing much of our artistic wealth and with it the contributions of individual creators who inspire and uplift us, and who can help our spirits heal from this disaster,” stated Linda McGeady, RACC Board Chair.  “RACC is being nimble and creative, and staff is working hard to get dollars out the door as quickly as possible.”

The picture of the impact of COVID-19 on the arts community came into sharp focus last week as RACC released results from a statewide survey. The survey collected estimated losses from individuals and arts organizations during March, April and May. Statewide, losses were reported at more than $56 million for artists and arts organizations in just a three-month period. The survey did not include a response from the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, which has subsequently announced it will delay reopening of its 2020 season until September and laid off a majority of staff.

Many artists responding to the survey offered examples of how restrictions on group sizes, public gatherings and requirements for physical distancing during this health crisis are affecting their income and their community.

  • A self- employed visual artist explained, “My galleries are ALL closed – including a major solo show – and my classes are ALL cancelled. I have stopped submitting to future shows. My solo and two-person shows this summer are in limbo. My income is sporadic by nature so I can’t tell you what would have sold had the galleries remained open.”
  • A Saturday Market vendor shared how they rely on tourism to support and sustain their revenue, which currently is reduced to nothing.
  • A local animator, currently employed on a stop-motion feature film being made in Portland, described how their team typically works as a large crew, in close proximity. Initially shut down for two weeks, the film – and team – is on hiatus indefinitely.
  • A musician who makes their income by composing and producing music described how they also own and operate a recording studio, which is now shuttered. “My income not only helps provide food for my family, but also helps keep the lights on at the studio.”

More emergency relief measures for artists and arts organizations are in the works. RACC is currently reviewing all projects and programs as potential relief funds, as well as any new sources anticipated in next fiscal year, starting July 1, 2020. Information about new opportunities will be shared with the community as they are confirmed by RACC staff, board members and funding partners in the coming weeks.

More information about RACC’s Emergency Fund for Individual Artists can be found here: https://artsimpactfund.racc.org/covid-19/

Para solicitar asistencia para la aplicación en un idioma que no sea inglés, envíe un correo electrónico a: grants@racc.org


Oregon Artists and Arts Organizations report $56M lost revenue

Survey results forecast 3-month financial impact of COVID-19 on arts & culture community

Portland, Ore – Across the world, life has changed dramatically as the impact of the coronavirus pandemic continues to unfold. The picture of that impact on the arts community came into sharp focus this week as the Regional Arts & Culture Council (RACC) tallied results from a statewide survey conducted last week.

The Oregon COVID-19 Impact Survey is an effort to measure estimated losses during March, April and May 2020 on individuals working in the arts as well as arts organizations. Reported losses include revenues from lost contracts, shows and teaching work that have all been cancelled in order to comply with restrictions on group sizes, gatherings and requirements for social distancing during this health crisis.

RACC, the nonprofit arts council for the tri-county area including Clackamas, Multnomah, and Washington counties, collected more than 1,200 responses from individuals and more than 260 arts organizations across 25 counties. Multnomah County-based artists provided the bulk of the data with more than 900 respondents reporting a total of $46 million in losses for the single quarter. Initial analysis of the data show impacts increasing month over month. RACC intends to share the data to support efforts at the state, federal and local levels and to lead advocacy efforts and guide resource collection and distribution for individuals and organizations.

“Thank you to the people who took the time to respond to the survey,” said Madison Cario, RACC Executive Director. “They have collectively confirmed that many individuals and organizations working in arts and culture lack sufficient infrastructure and resources to sustain continued financial and social disruptions.” The information is well-documented in the field, Cario added, “The survey data empowers advocates and funders with specific financial details of what is currently being lost as we work towards solutions.”

As part of the response to COVID-19, RACC is relaxing funding restrictions in order to get dollars out the door faster, and partnering with other grant makers to deepen impact. “We are grateful to have the Oregon Community Foundation and the Miller Foundation at the table with the shared goal of relief for the arts community, said Cario.  “This relief is intended as breathing room so we can be creative about possible pivots and planning adaptations for the long haul.”

RACC updates – staff working remotely and resources

As the country and world respond to coronavirus and the COVID-19 situation, RACC would like to share some information and resources.

First and foremost, RACC is invested in the health and well-being of the artists, arts organizations, and our communities. Please follow all directions and recommendations from your local and state authorities as well as entities such as the CDC and WHO.

Additionally, for information specific to artists and arts organizations, please refer to ArtsReady, the Performing Arts Readiness project, and the National Coalition for Arts Preparedness and Emergency Response. These resources are available with best-practices, updated information, and resources specifically for the arts community. Locally, please also see this new opportunity for emergency funding for artists.

For those of you who are currently operating with grants funded by RACC, we are responsive to individual concerns and necessary changes to the originally-proposed activities. Should you need to modify your grant, please contact your program officer to discuss options. More information for grantees can be found here. Starting today, March 13, RACC staff will be working remotely.

We also want to make you aware of campaigns to include artists and the nonprofit arts community in any federal relief funds that are made available. There are currently campaigns being conducted through both The Performing Arts Alliance as well as the American Alliance for Museums. We recommend reading about these campaigns and, should you feel strongly about the causes, informing your legislators. In addition, RACC will also be working closely with local and regional governments, service organizations, and individuals, as well as local funders and businesses, to develop an emergency fund to support artists and arts organizations through these difficult times.

We recognize the impact that this virus and the necessary reactions may cause. Artists, technicians, administrators, and everyone involved in the arts community are facing an unprecedented situation as events get canceled or postponed. Ultimately, we believe that the arts are about bringing people together. We share emotions and ideas. These connections strengthen us. Looking forward, as we work our way collectively through this pandemic, we are hopeful that the artists, arts organizations, and everyone who make up our arts community will come together and be stronger for it.

Here are some additional ways we can help our community:

Check on older neighbors, colleagues and friends with a call or text – older people seem to be particularly vulnerable to contracting coronavirus, according to health officials – but also are likely staying home and not allowing visitors as a precaution.

Safely drop off food – particularly to anyone who is under quarantine or isolating from others due to their risk factors. Let folks know you’ll be dropping something by – and leave it at the door or on the porch.

Donate money – lots of organizations including food banks, social services groups and others offer direct help to people in need and may be one of the first places people turn if they are hurt economically by the virus.

Fight discrimination and stigma – fear and anxiety can lead to social stigma when people associate an infectious disease, such as COVID-19, with a population or nationality, even though not everyone in that population or from that region is specifically at risk for the disease (for example, Chinese-Americans and other Asian-Americans living in the United States). Stigma hurts everyone by creating more fear or anger but we can fight this type of discrimination and help others by providing social support.

Regional Arts & Culture Council sets course for new decade


>>Reorganization will focus resources and programs on artists and underserved communities

PORTLAND, ORE – The Regional Arts & Culture Council (RACC) today announced organization-wide changes to reflect a new vision and priorities. Under the new vision, RACC will continue its core grantmaking programs, public art projects and arts education while expanding its advocacy and fundraising programs with a deeper focus on reaching underserved communities. As part of the changes RACC will eliminate 5 positions that are currently vacant, lay off an additional 15 employees, and hire 15 new positions to support RACC’s new focus areas.

The rollout comes after a year of planning led by RACC’s executive director, Madison Cario, and with the support of the board of directors. Additionally, the proposed changes are responsive to the City of Portland’s audit of RACC in 2018 and the city’s current budget priorities. The changes are effective immediately.

“We take this transition very seriously and deeply appreciate the work of RACC employees, especially those leaving the organization. These changes respond to what we are seeing and hearing from our community, and position RACC to better serve our region today and in the future,” said RACC board chair Linda McGeady.

“When RACC connects artists with resources, opportunities and each other, our communities become stronger. We have a vision of establishing RACC as a champion for arts and culture locally, regionally, and nationally,” stated the City of Portland’s Arts Commissioner, Chloe Eudaly. “The organizational changes proposed by RACC will help us all better achieve that vision.”

Additional details about the restructure include:

• Enhancing public awareness and engaging community members in culture, creativity and the arts through strategic investments and partnerships
• Creating an advocacy team to make the case to the public and partners about the value of arts education and the city’s Arts Education and Access Fund
• Increasing engagement in public art projects and collections, grantmaking and other publicly-funded arts programs and investments managed by RACC
• Demonstrating how the arts build livable communities by connecting to politics, education, economics, development, planning, and civic engagement
• Strengthening relationships with regional elected officials and policymakers at all governmental levels
• Advancing racial equity, diversity, inclusion and access both within the organization and in our work with community partners
• Better measuring and demonstrating the benefits to residents of investments in public art, arts education, arts and culture organizations and individual artists
• Applying best practices from around the country to measure public participation in and perception of the arts as a means of gauging effectiveness and making improvements.

“To achieve this vision, RACC needs to become more fiscally sustainable, diversify our funding sources and streamline our organization,” stated Cario, who took the helm of RACC one year ago following an 18-month national search. They added, “I’m excited to see what we can do when we focus on incubating new ideas, innovating the role of an arts council in today’s world. I am inspired by our staff and board’s commitment to ensuring the arts are accessible to everyone in our community.” The detailed plan was presented this week by Cario to community partners, city officials, board members and staff outlining the changes and reasons. Changes include:

• Shoring up or eliminating unsustainable cost centers – including sunsetting RACC’s workplace giving program
• Moving management of The Right Brain Initiative, an arts integration program, to RACC’s long-time partner Young Audiences of Oregon & SW Washington, a nonprofit organization
• Creating a dedicated development team at RACC with clear fundraising goals to help increase and diversify revenue
• Better leveraging public dollars to secure new national and local funding
• Reorganizing staff positions to align with organizational changes, simplifying work groups and reporting relationships.

RACC’s year-end report was released in December, highlighting accomplishments in 2019 and celebrating the artists, arts workers and arts educators who make our community stronger. RACC will present its next “State of the Arts” report to the Portland City Council on February 27 at 2:00 p.m.

For more information, contact Heather Nelson Kent at hnkent@racc.org or by phone 503-823-5426 or mobile 503-860-6145.


The Regional Arts & Culture Council is a local arts agency serving 1.8 million residents in the Portland, Oregon metro region including Clackamas, Multnomah and Washington counties. RACC provides grants and technical assistance for artists and nonprofit organizations, with more than 5,000 grants totaling $44 million in the past two decades. RACC also manages a widely-celebrated public art collection of more than 2,200 artworks for the City of Portland and Multnomah County; conducts employee giving campaigns that have raised more than $8.5 million for local arts organizations since 2007; organizes networking events, forums and workshops; and integrates the arts into the broader curriculum for K-8 students through The Right Brain Initiative, serving more than 27,000 students a year. Online at www.racc.org.

MEDIA CONTACT: Heather Nelson Kent, Communications Manager, hnkent@racc.org, 503.823.5426

Hank Willis Thomas and Intisar Abioto featured in a new public art project, In—Between

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December  16, 2019 

Portland, Ore – A new temporary public art project has been installed along the median strip on NE Holladay Street between the Oregon Convention Center and the new Hyatt Hotel and parking structure. As part of a new series called In—Between, the Regional Arts & Culture Council (RACC) invited Portland-based artist Intisar Abioto and Brooklyn-based artist Hank Willis Thomas to create ten banners, each 10 feet tall, featuring the artists’ words and images. The banners will appear on five posts along NE Holladay Street between Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and 1st Avenue through May 31. 

Funding comes from the city’s Percent-for-Art ordinance, which sets aside 2% of the construction costs for Prosper Portland’s new parking garage to create public art. Kimberly Branam, executive director of Prosper Portland, commented, “Art teaches us about ourselves and our community, and we are proud to play a role in honoring the history and culture of the neighborhood through this work.” 

 RACC assembled an artist selection panel composed of community members, artists and representatives from Prosper Portland, the Oregon Convention Center, and Mayer-Reed Landscape Architecture. The panel agreed that goals for the project should include bold artwork that connects to the area’s communities and reflects the general concepts of movement, change, adaptation – addressing a general statement of “where are we going.” 

With this pilot exhibition, the panel seized on an opportunity to feature both internationally acclaimed multi-disciplinary artist Hank Willis Thomas, whose first major retrospective is currently on view at the Portland Art Museum through January 12, and Portland-based artist and storyteller Intisar Abioto.  A Memphis native, Abioto moved to Portland nine years ago with her mother and sisters, and has since gained recognition for her photography and her blog, The Black Portlanders. The intention of her portrait work is to allow the complexity of people’s natures to unfold in the work.   

Julia Dolan, the Minor White Curator of Photography at the Portland Art Museum, reviewed Thomas’s body of work with Abioto, who quickly gravitated to Thomas’s text-based series “I AM A MAN,” inspired by a 1968 Ernest C. Withers photograph showing a large group of protesters bearing the same message. Thomas’s series of paintings plays with the orientation and wording of the text (A Man I Am, I Be a Man, I Am Many, I Am The Man, etc.), ending with a painting that says, “I am. Amen.” Thomas states, “The greatest revelation should be that we are.”   

In responding to Thomas’s workAbioto stated that her goal was “to honor the lived history and origin of the I AM A MAN statement as expressed through the work and trials of those living through the 1968 Sanitation Worker’s Strike. It was also to illustrate with images the I AM statement as lived in and by Black people in diaspora today.” Abioto selected images from her vast archive that “communicate a deep and internally rooted sense of I AM emanating from the individuals themselves. I AM. WE ARE. These statements are timely, timeless, and true, regardless.” 

Future installations of In—Between will evolve in focus, but will continue to reflect the overall theme of “where are we going.”  This will be the first of a series of temporary installations.  For opportunities to apply for future installations, artists can follow racc.org on Facebook or Instagram, or sign up to receive public art opportunities in their inbox at racc.org/public-art/public-art-email-list/.  


The artworks by Intisar Abioto and Hank Willis Thomas are on display along NE Holladay Street, between Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue and 1st Avenue, through May 31. 









THE REGIONAL ARTS & CULTURE COUNCIL (RACC) provides grants for artists, nonprofit organizations and schools in Clackamas, Multnomah and Washington Counties; manages an internationally acclaimed public art program; raises money and awareness for the arts; convenes forums, networking events and other community gatherings; provides workshops and other forms of technical assistance for artists; and oversees a program to integrate arts and culture into the standard curriculum in public schools through The Right Brain Initiative. RACC values a diversity of artistic and cultural experiences and is working to build a community in which everyone can participate in culture, creativity and the arts. For more information visit racc.org. 

MEDIA CONTACT: Jeff Hawthorne, Director of Community Engagement, jhawthorne@racc.org, 503.823.5258.

Munta Mpwo paints new mural at Open Signal

The artwork is the sixth to be commissioned as part of the “Fresh Paint” temporary murals program, in partnership with the Regional Arts & Culture Council


Portland, Ore. — A new mural is going up on the exterior wall of Open Signal: Portland Community Media Center on NE Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard at Graham Street in Portland. Titled bboys make some noise, artist Munta Eric Mbungu Mpwo’s mural will remain on display through April 2020.

Originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mpwo is now based in Portland. He cites comic books, breakdancing and hip hop as their sources of inspiration.

“I’m a breakdancer and have been doing it for about 20 years,” Mpwo says. “I have connected with many different cultures and backgrounds through dance. To help motivate the next generation, I would like to dedicate [this mural] to all dancers to show what the power of dance can bring to the soul.”

This is the sixth temporary mural created in the last two and a half years as part of the Fresh Paint program, a partnership between Open Signal and the Regional Arts & Culture Council (RACC). The goal of the program is to provide emerging artists of color the opportunity to paint a mural in a high-traffic setting for the first time, helping artists learn new ways of creating art in public spaces, and to build their portfolio.

For a time-lapse video with the painting of the previous Fresh Paint mural—Let’s Talk by artists Maria Rodriguez, Bizar Gomez and Anke Gladnick—please visit https://youtu.be/Zfkv0hizF90. The next artist to be featured in this program will be Limei Lai in April 2020.


Artist Munta Mpwo started painting Open Signal’s new mural facing NE Martin Luther King Jr Blvd. on October 2, 2019. Painting is scheduled to resume on Saturday, October 5.