"Conversations With Funders" To Be Held Statewide in March, April

What do Newport, Hillsboro, Oregon City, Eugene, Bend, Burns, The Dalles, Echo and LaGrande have in common?

Yes, they are all in Oregon… And they will all be visited by the Cultural Trust and partners Oregon Heritage, Oregon Arts Commission and Oregon Humanities this spring!

This group of statewide culture-focused organizations began touring the state with a workshop entitled “Conversations With Funders: Arts, Heritage and Humanities,” on March 6, with a session in Newport. There, the funders shared briefly about their programs; they then broke into groups with local cultural organizations to discuss ways they could add value to the activities of Oregon coast-based nonprofits and individuals.

The partners will be in Hillsboro and Oregon City March 17, serving the Portland Metro Area; Eugene March 19, serving the Willamette Valley and Southern Oregon; Bend April 9, serving Central Oregon; Burns April 10, serving Southeastern Oregon; The Dalles April 15, serving the Gorge; Echo April 15 serving the Eastern Gorge and Northeastern Oregon, and La Grande April 16, serving Northeastern and Central Eastern Oregon. Cultural

Trust Manager, Kimberly Howard said she hopes the introductions and small group breakout sessions will be, “a broad discussion of how our organizations can intersect with each community in a way that has significance. We hope people will make new connections in their conversations.”

After adjourning, the funding organizations will have clipboards available, on which potential applicants may sign up to receive additional information about a particular program.

The Cultural Trust will also be scheduling one on one phone consultations with serious applicants in the months leading up to the May 15, 2014, 5pm deadline. The group of cultural partners traveled the state together in 2012, meeting with applicants, but they did their grant workshops by webinar in 2013. Said Howard, “These workshops are a great chance for funders and cultural nonprofits to meet, face to face. This ends up being the most effective way of providing technical assistance and being present to listen for the best possible results.”

To register for this free gathering with funders, click here.

-Meryl Lipman, Trust Communications Manager

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The conversations begin with 17 arts, heritage and humanities nonprofit representatives. When asked to share their big ideas, Tillamook County Coalition Chair, Sue Gabriel said, "I'd like to see a program that translates science in an artistic way. I see a collaboration with the Watershed folks, Sitka Center for Art & Ecology, Neskowin Chamber Orchestra, the Newport Visual Arts Center, a local composer, a local poet and a historian."

The Oregon Coast Council for the Arts wants to share "America's Music" with youth in the area by creating a jazz education program for the schools. Lauren Craven from Friends of Yaquina Lighthouses wants to see an annual Founders Day event that celebrates the maritime history and Native American heritage of the area. Other big ideas ranged from The Drake Project collaborating with the Community Development Center and Newport Celtic Festival cultivating local master teachers in Celtic language, pipes and dance.

A representative from Newport Samaritan Hospitals talked about ongoing arts + healing programs. Caroline Brooks from Sitka Center for Arts & Ecology said she'd love be able to remove financial barriers to participation in Sitka programs. And Niki Price from Lincoln County Cultural Center would love to see development centers for nonprofits, modeled on the Small Business Development model with coaching and mentoring offered.

Representatives from Oregon Arts Commission, Oregon Heritage Programs and Oregon Humanities along with the Oregon Cultural Trust were excited to hear about these ways in which what we do can add value to what the cultural nonprofits are doing to enrich our lives everyday.

Last week we headed to Hillsboro, Oregon City and Eugene to continue the "Conversations with Funders: Arts, Heritage, Humanities".  The big idea out of Hillsboro was a match.com for cultural organizations - because, as participants noted, "as statewide funders you know all the players."

Hillsboro participants asked for help connecting to players they don't already know, organizations that may be doing the same kinds of programs, that might be having a similar issue around board development, or that is in need of marketing and development ideas for similar size organizations. They said, "wouldn't it be cool if there was a resource, one place, where they could go to connect with other cultural organizations around similar themes, issues and programs?"   Hmm...

In Hillsboro participants from as far away as Tillamook, Columbia, and even, Clatsop County, came together with folks from Washington County to talk about technical assistance around transitions and organizational growth.  

Later in the day, after great Thai food in downtown Hillsboro, we headed to Oregon City.  The County has a campus of buildings where the Clackamas County Cultural Coalition arranged for meeting space, a flip chart and introductions.  In Oregon City, two conversations happened side by side. Big idea emerging from these two conversations - volunteer management training for cultural nonprofits.  Participants called for help in bringing unlikely partners to the table - Chambers and Tourism and Main Street managers.  Finally, a number of heritage organizations gave kudos to Oregon Heritage for the MentorCorp Program which provides peer to peer mentoring; this year's focus has been on collections management.  

Building on the theme of making connections, on Wednesday in Eugene, participants asked for help with 3rd party endorsement, for greater exposure for culture statewide.  Phrases like "bind us all together" and "building awareness of the vibrant cultural landscape" were shared alongside technical terms like sales training, social media training and measuring effectiveness.  

We ended the day by reminding each other that we need to meet our community where they are; the work we do is about what the community needs in terms of art, heritage and humanities.  Our jobs as funders is to, at the end of the day, add value to the work of Oregon's cultural nonprofits. 

More to come. . . April, we hit the road for Bend, Burns, Echo, La Grande and The Dalles.

It has been great to see people connect with others in their own communities. More cards were passing among them than took ours! Also, I'll make a pitch for the Oregon Humanities grant program. When we talked about need, I heard lots of issues come up - artists making a living from their work, communities trapped in past economic models, vandalism of historic places. All of these are ripe for community engagement and Oregon Humanities knows how to do it. Cultural organizations can be the catalysts to help communities face issues and address them!

My favorite part of these workshops are the follow ups--people I've sat down with in person who pick up the phone or send an email. Sometimes, they are invitations to return to the community to learn more, sometimes it's a great idea that has percolated as a result of our conversations and sometimes it's a connection to another person with an equally great idea. It makes all the time on the road and the catch-up upon return to the office absolutely worth it!

Thanks for mentioning Oregon Humanities' grant program, Kuri - I too heard a lot of ideas last week that seemed ripe for community conversations. I so enjoyed hearing what Washington County, Columbia County, Clackamas County, and Lane County folks are working on right now, and where different organizations' work intersects. I was also inspired to see just how much great work is happening in the arts and culture sector in Oregon, and how much of it is happening because of dedicated volunteers of all ages.

Reflecting back on the road trip, I'm remembering our overnight trips to Burns, stopping in Bend, and to La Grande, stopping in Echo and Pendleton.

High points of both trips were the people. In Bend participants shared excitement about the new tourism grant passed by citizen vote that will bring an additional $200,000 to arts + culture in the city of Bend. We heard about the challenges of free programming, making competition with multiple events an added challenge to competing with the recreation world of Central Oregon.

We also heard about the success of theatre in Bend, with three theatre companies filling houses on a regular basis. Sisters Quilt Show is in a great transitional time and Nature of Words is poised to begin some excellent collaborations. All of this was shared in the lovely library room at the Des Chutes County Historical Society.

The community of Burns opened their doors the evening before our "Conversations with Funders" with a dinner in the home of Kate Marsh, hosted by the Harney County Cultural Coalition. The community then shared individual artists stories, Burns Paiute initiatives for youth, the continued work on the Oral Histories project in the library's Western History Room.

Main Street projects were big topics in Burns, as were the historic cemetery and the feasibility study for the future performing arts center. We ended our morning with a closing drum circle by students from the Burns Paiute Tribe.

In The Dalles we also heard the value of youth programming, and supporting small communities through arts education and life-long learning. They made a lot of connections in their conversations including community members learning that a Book Mobile (one of the big ideas shared) was already in existence at the public library.

Cultural Tourism was also a big topic in The Dalles.

Later in Echo we talked with the City of Echo manager, a coalition chair from Morrow County and a representative from the Confederated Tribes of Umatilla Cultural Coalition about documenting our history, about private investment in community cultural development and how volunteers are extremely important to the success of the county and tribal cultural coalitions.

Later we experienced first hand a successful Main Street project, as City Manager, Diane Berry gave us a guided tour of downtown Echo, stopping in at the local winery, Sno Road, tasting room and event space, to see the great preservation project in action.

After visiting the Pendleton Center for the Arts, to provide some economic impact - purchasing arts and crafts by local artisans - we had dinner on Main Street in Pendleton before stopping for the evening.

The next morning in La Grande we were welcomed by the largest crowd since Burns. The participants that traveled the furthest coming from Nyssa in Malheur County. We enjoyed lively discussions in our small groups that ranged from capacity building through sharing resources to ideas on how to help spread the good news of the Cultural Tax credit.

These outreach trips continue to be a valuable way to reach out to Oregonians around grant-making.

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