Salem, Ore. – 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.

Since the crisis began, nonprofit cultural organizations across the state have cancelled thousands of performances, events and activities – including key fundraising events – and most have closed their doors to the public. 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 (Source: Americans for the Arts). Organizations in in the Portland area alone are estimating losses of $45.8 million by the end of May (Source: Regional Arts and Cultural Council).

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 program.

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.

The Oregon Cultural Trust 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.


About the Oregon Cultural Trust

Created in 2001 by the Oregon Legislature, the Oregon Cultural Trust is a testament to how much Oregonians value culture. No other state provides a 100 percent tax credit to inspire cultural giving. As uniquely Oregonian as public beaches and the bottle bill, the Oregon Cultural Trust was designed as an ongoing funding engine for arts and culture across the state. Oregonians fund the Cultural Trust. We, in turn, fund the artists, potters, poets, acrobats and dreamers who define our famous quality of life.

In 2019 Oregonians gave $4.5 million to the Cultural Trust. Sixty percent of that went straight back to the field. The remaining 40 percent helped grow our permanent fund. Our three grant programs fund our five Statewide Partners, 45 County and Tribal Coalitions and 1,450+ qualified cultural nonprofits through competitive Cultural Development Grants.

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