Arts Council offers encouragement, but not funds, for ‘Parkrose Triangle’

See why some were disappointed when the Regional Arts & Culture Council director gave discouraging news about helping secure public art for the new Parkrose landmark …

Regarding funding for public art in the Parkrose Triangle, Eloise Damrosch, Executive Director, Regional Arts & Culture Council (RACC), tells the group, “We don’t have money sitting around looking for opportunity.”

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Parkrose business people and neighbors have worked diligently over the past year to clean up the overgrown – and, frankly, unsightly – large traffic island where NE Sandy Boulevard crosses NE Killingsworth Street.

After days of back-breaking work, these volunteers transformed this plot of land into the beautifully landscaped “Parkrose Triangle”. And, they prepared a large, concrete pad on which they plan to mount a display of public art – such as a statue or sculpture – that would be changed out every year or so.

With this in mind, members of the Parkrose Business Association (PBA) welcomed Eloise Damrosch, Executive Director of the Regional Arts & Culture Council (RACC), to their general membership meeting not long ago.

Commission brings culture to greater Portland
Damrosch began by telling of the organization’s mission to “integrate arts and culture in all aspects of community life”.

The RACC, Damrosch added, was formed in 1995 when Multnomah County “transitioned” the Metropolitan Arts Commission into a not-for-profit organization. “Existing arts organizations asked that we not solicit money from their donors, so we came up with a unique funding plan.”

About that time, Damrosch said, Multnomah County passed the “1% for Art” plan, under which one percent of municipal capital building budgets had to be set aside for art.

Damrosch tells the group how the city and county commit at between 1.5% and 2% of every capital building project to public art.

Tax-supported art program
“The beauty of this plan is that it assures that art will be involved in every capital project built with public money,” Damrosch stated. “There is local input on the art projects; artists, citizens, and users of the building agree on the artwork.”

The downside, she conceded, is that RACC is primarily funded, and restricted, by the 1% mechanism. “The good news is that we’ve been able to bump that up. Multnomah County is 1.5% and the City of Portland has committed 2%. Our maintenance funding has grown, as well. We don’t want the [public] art to look awful; it needs to be maintained.”

Over the years, Damrosch added, the RACC and its funding model has achieved a degree of national recognition. “We consult around the country for communities who want to set up a program like ours.”

Additionally, the RACC’s “Work for Art” program encourages individual and corporate donations. “We realize that individuals care about arts and culture. They may not be used to writing a check to an art organization. This makes it easy, by working with workplace-giving programs, to encourage them to put aide $5 a month.”

Supports a variety of art programs
The RACC supports 35 art programs throughout the three-county area. “These include project grants and grants to schools’ artist-in-residency programs. We also offer smaller artist education grants.”

When times get tough, Damrosch emphasized, arts are the first to be cut from schools. “There are still arts programs, but it is inequitable. Kids in less affluent schools suffer the most from inequity. We want to bring arts education back, K-8, in all three counties.”

It looks as if the space created here on the Parkrose Triangle will go without art – unless Parkrose folks raise money to buy it. PBA photo

Art on the Parkrose Triangle
Turning to the local issue, public art on the Parkrose Triangle, Damrosch told asked, “You have a spot here in Parkrose for public area. What are the options? Do you have in mind that you would like a permanent art piece?”

Several members spoke up and said, “The plan is for a rotating display of art.”

Damrosch responded, “In Lake Oswego, every two years, the downtown business foundation changes out the artwork on the pedestals they’ve built.”

Damrosch says she doesn’t have encouraging words for the Parkrose Triangle art project for the PBA members.

Artists don’t favor plan
“The downside we hear from artists is that the chances it [their artwork] will be sold is remote, after has been on display. It is out of their control; they don’t know if it will be in good condition when it is returned to them,” Damrosch explained, adding that most artists say the honorarium they receive for “loaning” the artwork isn’t sufficient to cover having the work unavailable for sale, and having to install and remove it.

“We don’t have money sitting around looking for opportunity,” cautioned Damrosch. “We provide a service to help people go through a process to set up a program. We can help you with that. But, we may not be able to help cover the cost of finding art and installing it.”

For more information, see www.racc.org.

The PBA’s Member Moment spotlights NICKEL ADS’ Jeanie Alpert. “We put out about 1 Million papers up and down the I-5 corridor,” she says. “Locally, we are a sponsor of the new Parkrose Farmer’s Market. We have a sincere commitment to promote your business and community events.”

Special “field trip” meeting on March 20
Instead of their usual locale, the PBA members will be heading east this month, to Quality Inn & Suites at 9727 NE Sandy Blvd (97220).

Come see for yourself how a faith group took a run-down, seedy “no-tell motel” and turned it into a first-class lodging facility that has become the pride of the neighborhood.

The meeting on March 20 will be at 11:30 a.m. Because this is a catered event, they ask that your RSVP: marsha@copyexpresspdx.com — and let them know how many will be attending. Next month, they’ll be back at outer East Portland’s top dining spot, Steamers Restaurant and Lounge.

© 2008 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

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