Third Thursday

The Thursday before Memorial Day was a busy one for RACC. We've been following up on Wednesday Night's open house at the John Ross Penthouse, where guests received a comprehensive progress report on The Right Brain Initiative. The grants and public art departments are busy as ever. And we've been putting the finishing touches on an aggressive campaign plan for Work for Art in 2009-10.

Carol R. Smith -- not the same as PPS Supe Carol Smith -- chairs The Right Brain Initiative and delivers here the Progress Report on the arts education activities that were performed in the spring of 2009.

At noon, I (along with co-Shockers Mighty Toy Cannon and CynSeattle) attended a meeting of the Cultural and Performing Arts Group, which Barry Johnson covers here.

At 5:00, I strolled down to Bar XV on SW Second and Ash where there was a light but enthusiastic turnout for the monthly Art Spark networking event, this time featuring Reid Decker of Portland Saturday Market. Reid showed some beautiful photos of the market's grand re-opening, now out from underneath the Burnside bridge and stretching its wings in Waterfront Park proper. Here, artists set up shop beneath a beautiful cantilevered canopy, and tap in to electricity, natural gas, and other amenities easily as they have been build into the infrastructure of the herringbone-patterned cobblestone ground.

Reid mentioned that the market's master plan, even back in the 1970s, had always called for locating here, which I did not know before, and artists spoke about the jury process, fees, and other pertinent info of presenting their work every Saturday and Sunday. Shout out to Shock reader and prolific blogger in his own right, TheBuzzByBrian.

After Reid's comments, and a margarita drink and a margarita pizza, I dashed over the Portland City Council Budget Hearing at Mt. Tabor Middle School, which was just getting underway by the time I arrived at 6:30. The Creative Advocacy Network had worked to pack the house, and many artists did show up (more than 20 by my count) albeit somewhat begrudgingly I suspect. I can't say I was looking forward to it either; it was a beautiful evening outside and by all indications this budget, which was proposed by Mayor Sam Adams last month and includes noteworthy increases in arts funding despite significant budget cutbacks in other government programs, is positioned to be approved by the City Council 5-zip. Thus, less urgency to spend a lovely evening listening to two hours of citizen testimony on every public program imaginable.

However. I must say. Those who attended heard some remarkably poignant remarks from about 50 citizens that night, each being given two minutes to say their piece. The arts had a strong showing, with great commentary from Jon Ulsh of OBT, Adienne Flagg of the IFCC, Sarah Dougher of p:ear, Olga Sanchez of Miracle Theater, and Cary Clarke of PDX Pop Now. Also in the house: fantastic advocates for Central City Concern, Outside In, and other community programs centered around affordable housing and retired citizens. Read more from The Oregonian.

At the evening, commissioners Leonard, Fritz and Fish each commented on the extraordinary feel-good tone of the evening. For these citizens to take the time to give their thoughts on the Mayor's proposed budget -- in most cases expressing their gratitude that the Mayor found a way to include the program they care about so passionately -- was actually somewhat life-affirming in a way. You know that Amanda Fritz has been to many-a hearing like this (formerly on the citizen side of the microphone) and she said she had never been part of such a well-run budget process with such compassionate and articulate citizen testimony. I must also credit Mayor Sam, who is really great with the public in these situations. He thanked each and every citizen for their time and passion, more like Potter in this regard than Katz ... she was a barking bulldog in these budget hearings of years ago. Yeah, some of the people rambled on long after the two-minute buzzer went off, and there were a few strange moments (what was the sassy thing that that ten-year old said to Council?) but it really was a great civics lesson and a true community event.

Clearly this budget, including the proposed funding increase for the arts, is SO going to be approved next week. It is a budget that reflects our values as a community, and the entire City Council and almost every citizen who participated in the process is pretty proud of it. What an amazing thing to have such a feel-good budget considering we're still the the throes of the worst recession since the Great Depression.


cynseattle said...

I'm so glad to have also attended this meeting, CJ. I managed to grab a seat with the sun on my back, so almost like being outside. To hear the variety of stories told as people gave examples of what the city's funding can accomplish was heartening; it's too easy in these times of cutbacks to be a little cavalier, and assume that we'll somehow "get by" and still provide for the neediest in our community. The folks saying thanks were also reminding us of the good things public dollars can accomplish.

And how refreshing, too, to get a sense of the maturity of cooperation that seems to have been the tone of budget planning at the council level. We have a functional group in place: each is certainly strong in their own ways and interests, but they seem to also manage to respect their differences while focusing on what the citizens need. More of that, please!

MightyToyCannon said...

Oh man, now I'm feeling guilty for sitting at home on Thursday night thinking, "Who wants to go listen to a bunch of other people talk about what they're interested in and want?"

Thank you for fighting the good fight.

Jessica said...

It seems so important to separate fact from fear where arts funding is concerned right now. What a great moment for people to say "we have a plan and it works."