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What is RACC?
The Regional Arts and Culture Council (RACC) is an independent, nonpartisan administrator of grants and awards to arts organizations and artists in the Portland metro area. The City of Portland, Multnomah, Washington, and Clackamas counties, and Metro provide the funding through an intergovernmental agreement (IGA) signed in 1995. RACC also fulfills contracts outside of the IGA.
RACC oversees and manages the process of equitably spreading this money throughout the arts communities in the Portland Metro area to ensure everyone can experience and enjoy our amazing artists and arts organizations that call Portland home.
RACC works at the local, state, and national levels to build awareness, support, and resources for arts and culture in the Portland metro area. RACC holds forums to promote the importance of arts and culture and produces research to help illustrate the impact.
RACC is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, allowing it to apply for and use additional federal dollars to support and connect the Portland metro area arts communities.
All our work reflects the voices of the community – by the community.
Part I: Response to the City’s planned contract cancellation
What is happening with RACC’s contract with the City of Portland, and when did RACC learn of the City Arts Program?
In April 2023, the City of Portland notified RACC that it was starting its own City Arts Program and that there would be a significant funding reduction to RACC. RACC was not made aware of this prior to the public announcement for the City Council vote. Subsequently, on July 21, 2023, RACC found out from Com. 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.
What’s RACC’s reaction to the contract cancellation?
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. These are community values. The community should continue its role in making decisions free from partisan politics.
What will happen if RACC’s contract isn’t renewed? Will RACC close?
It’s important for everyone to understand what Portland will lose without RACC – both community control and historically underserved communities’ voices.
- RACC has streamlined the community-led funding process for the arts and culture community over the last 28 years, and it has added an equity lens with community representation and overview – something now threatened by this planned change.
- Funding, transparency, and efficiencies will be lost – as will the opportunities for many diverse artists to be funded, and to have their voices lifted. A prime example of this is the action RACC took during the COVID-19 pandemic. RACC received three National Endowment for the Arts grants, including a two-year $500,000 grant with matching funds from counties.
- RACC also conducts a workplace giving program that introduces thousands of employees and their employers to local cultural and arts organizations and generates contributions for them.
The Portland community could lose all of this!
How can supporters of RACC help?
- Write to the City Council and the City Arts Program office. Tell them what YOU think! Find letter templates on RACC’s Advocacy page.
- Sign up for SMS messages.
- 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 for our Community Engagement Series, happening now at various community spaces around the region.
- Engage on our social media platforms! We will offer other ways to get involved.
How can we reach you?
Contact RACC if you would like to help or make a suggestion that will help us continue to support our communities. We are here for you.
Part II: Response to the City of Portland’s claims about RACC
Is it true, RACC hasn’t provided the City of Portland with financial statements?
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 in April saying the information had been delivered and no further information was needed. Yet, more than four months later, this allegation is still being repeated by city leaders.
Darion Jones and Jeff Hawthorne from the City say they’ve 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 these supposed 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).
Darion Jones and Jeff Hawthorne have said in news interviews 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 for all of our partners is 17.5 percent of the total budget. That includes management, overhead, and fundraising expenses. With just the City of Portland, our overhead rate is 12.5 percent.
At least 82 percent is spent on programs and services. The national standard for nonprofit overhead rates is that costs remain at 25% or less. RACC’s rates for administrative costs indicate that RACC adds value and leverage for our partners.
Darion Jones 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.
In 2021, Commissioner Carmen Rubio reduced oversight of the arts and education access fund with the school districts. Commissioner Ryan alleges that was because RACC was not delivering to the school districts.
False. We actually increased our engagement starting in 2020 from engaging with two districts to ensuring all SIX school districts were activated for the required reporting and discovered ways we could support them. The schools had never been as engaged prior to our work with them.