News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Legislature to consider relief for arts

Arts organizations across the state — including those in Sisters — have been heavily impacted by the shutdown in place to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Nonprofit cultural organizations in Sisters across the state have canceled performances, events and activities — including key fundraising events — and most have closed their doors to the public.

In response to communication from the Oregon Cultural Trust, its Statewide Partners and arts and cultural organizations across the state, Governor Kate Brown directed the agency to explore opportunities to identify relief funding to address the devastating impact the COVID-19 health crisis is having on Oregon’s arts and cultural community.

As of March 24, 423 Oregon cultural organizations had already reported financial losses to-date of $8,611,881 with data still being collected from more than 1,000 organizations. The loss of projected earned income, lifeblood for most cultural organizations, has already resulted in significant layoffs and furloughs, with many more to come if relief doesn’t arrive soon. Many organizations are already facing bankruptcy and permanent closure.

In addition, cancellations of events and programming, as well as school closures, have adversely affected hundreds of artists and cultural workers whose livelihoods depend on income from teaching, performing and participating in cultural activities.

Following consultation with the Governor’s Office, Business Oregon and its Statewide Partners, including sister agency the Oregon Arts Commission, the Cultural Trust Board of Directors held an emergency meeting on Saturday, March 21, and unanimously voted to use up to $10 million of its $29 million permanent fund to create an emergency relief funding


Because the current Cultural Trust statute does not contain a provision for emergency relief funding, the program requires approval by the Oregon Legislature. A concept for consideration by the Legislature is being developed and will be presented during an anticipated special session within the next few weeks. The Cultural Trust will convene a committee of stakeholders to fully and quickly develop and implement an emergency funding program that is equitable and easy to use to expedite funding.

In a news release, The Oregon Cultural Trust stated that the Trust’s “permanent fund was created by the Legislature to protect Oregon’s cultural organizations for future generations. That future is currently at dire risk.

“The Cultural Trust Board of Directors respects and honors the commitment that thousands of Trust donors have made with their contributions to the permanent fund. It is the Board’s sincere hope that donors will respect that, at this unprecedented time in Oregon history, the funds will be used exactly as they were intended: To protect the future of Oregon culture.”


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