Oregon Nonprofit Eyes $10 Million Relief Fund for the Arts

The state legislature is poised to channel the money to arts and cultural groups at risk from the crisis.

Using a state-backed nonprofit, the Oregon state legislature is considering a $10 million relief fund for the arts and cultural community devastated by the coronavirus pandemic. 

Last month, board members at the Oregon Cultural Trust convened in an emergency meeting and unanimously voted to use roughly one-third of its $29 million permanent fund to create the separate trust. If approved, the permanent fund would be reduced to $19 million. 

“The Oregon Cultural Trust permanent fund was created by the legislature to protect Oregon’s cultural organizations for future generations,” Chuck Sams, chair of the board at the Cultural Trust, wrote in a newsletter. “That future is currently at dire risk.” 

The program, which requires approval from the state legislature, is set to be reviewed in a special session in the next couple weeks. Meanwhile, a committee of stakeholders of the trust is developing ways to expedite funding. 

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The measure comes as hundreds of artists, performers, and other creatives in the state have been laid off or furloughed from the COVID-19 fallout. Other cultural groups are expected to close their doors permanently from the crisis. 

About $8.6 million in financial losses were reported last month from 1,000 state cultural organizations, according to the Americans for the Arts. By the end of next month, that figure is projected to jump to $45.8 million in Portland alone. 

The Cultural Trust funds five statewide partners, as well as dozens of county and tribal coalitions and roughly 1,500 nonprofits in the state. Last year, $4.5 million was donated to the trust, most of which went to support arts organizations. The other 40% grows the permanent fund.   

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