New Arts Build Communities Report Highlights Projects with Positive Impact on Oregon – Education, Economy, Engagement


A new report from the Oregon Arts Commission, released on April 25, 2013, highlights the results of the Commission’s investments in arts and community development during 2012.  Its Arts Build Communities (ABC) grants have supported the arts in every aspect of community development and engagement for the last 17 years.

“The arts are a powerful tool for bringing people together and bridging differences, transforming the ways children learn, energizing communities and celebrating the things that matter to us,” said Christine D’Arcy, executive director of the Arts Commission. “The Arts Build Communities grants help thousands of Oregonians make a difference in their own back yards.”

In 2012, with funds from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Commission awarded $112,000 to 24 Arts Build Communities projects that directly benefited over 25,000 Oregonians.

Each project offered a creative response to a particular community need, many of them targeting youth. Activity occurred in all corners of Oregon, from Wallowa County to Bonanza, from Southeast Portland to the Illinois Valley.

  • In Hood River and Odell, students and teachers joined forces with area orchard owners and their migrant workers and families to document the collective nature of their work in the fruit industry.
  • In Philomath and Sweet Home, artists brought a fresh perspective to downtowns and created new work for display in empty storefronts, a partnership with local economic development leaders.
  • In Central Oregon, when a coalition of environmental, arts and community groups came together to clean up Whychus Creek, Sisters Middle School students pitched in and produced an arts-based conservation field guide.
  • In adult care facilities in Clackamas County, actors used comedy to enrich day to day living for seniors with Alzheimer’s and dementia and for their caregivers.
  • In Beaverton, Ten Tiny Dances were performed at the Beaverton Farmer’s Market. Ranging from traditional (Native American, belly dance, ancient Nepalese) to contemporary dance, each choreographer created her or his piece to fit a 4 x 4 foot stage and less than 10-minute time frame, with each dancer or ensemble confined to those boundaries.

The Oregon Arts Commission created the Arts Build Communities program in 1996, using federal funds from the National Endowment for the Arts to better connect the arts with issues important to Oregonians: downtown revitalization, small business development, community and folk traditions, and projects engaging youth. The program provides annual grants of $3000-$7000 to competitive organizations in rural and urban underserved communities.

“These projects succeeded because community members gave generously of their time, energy, money and expertise,” said Brian Wagner, the Arts Commission’s Community Development Coordinator, noting that over 870 artists and nearly 1,000 volunteers played important roles in project planning and implementation.  Grant funds were matched by more than $311,000 in support from foundations, businesses, civic agencies and individuals. Local companies and individuals also made in-kind contributions totaling $146,000.  Altogether, the projects reflected more than $570,000 in spending, much of it in salaries paid to Oregon artists.

The report chronicles the impact of ABC funding to the following:

Arts Action Alliance of Clackamas County/Youth Art for Change                   Oregon City

Arts Central/Whychus Creek Field Study Project                                                   Sisters

Beaverton Arts Commission/Ten Tiny Dances                                                       Beaverton

Bonanza Community Association/Artist Residencies                                          Bonanza

Corvallis Arts Center/Art in Rural Storefronts                                                         Philomath/Sweet Home

Curious Comedy Theater/New Memories                                                                Oregon City

Fishtrap Inc/The Big Read                                                                                              Enterprise

Gorge Grown Food Network/Sustainable Farming through Art                       Hood River

Linfield College/Pacific Dory Fleet Project                                                                McMinnville/Pacific City

Literary Arts/Oregon Book Award Authors Tour                                                   Portland

Mid Valley Elementary School/Harvesting Our Stories                                        Odell

Miracle Theatre Group/Theatre and Arts Residency                                             Corvallis

My Story/Exquisite Kids, Family Portrait Day                                                         Portland

Oregon Cultural Access/Annual Disability Pride Art/Culture Festival           Portland

Oregon Writing Project/Slamboo Student Slam Poetry                                         Portland/St. Helens

Peter Britt Gardens Music & Arts Festival/Jazz Appreciation Month              Medford

Portland Taiko/People of the Drum                                                                            Portland

Riverbend Live!                                                                                                                 Winston

Rogue Valley Chorale/Spring Sing                                                                              Medford

Salem Art Association/Project Space                                                                          Salem

Salem Chamber Orchestra/Play Me, I’m Yours                                                       Salem

Sherwood Cultural Arts Commission/Summer Musical                                     Sherwood

Well Arts/Beautiful Minds                                                                                             Portland

Write Around Portland/Writing Workshops                                                           Portland

The Oregon Arts Commission provides leadership, funding and arts programs through its grants, special initiatives and services. Nine commissioners, appointed by the Governor, determine arts needs and establish policies for public support of the arts. The Arts Commission became part of Business Oregon (formerly Oregon Economic and Community Development Department) in 1993, in recognition of the expanding role the arts play in the broader social, economic and educational arenas of Oregon communities. In 2003, the Oregon legislature moved the operations of the Oregon Cultural Trust to the Arts Commission, streamlining operations and making use of the Commission’s expertise in grantmaking, arts and cultural information and community cultural development.

The Arts Commission is supported with general funds appropriated by the Oregon legislature and with federal funds from the National Endowment for the Arts as well as funds from the Oregon Cultural Trust.  More information about the Oregon Arts Commission is available online at:


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