New “Arts Equity” grants available

After a three-year pilot program to expand access to arts and culture in the city of Portland, RACC is launching a new Arts Equity Grant program, funded by Multnomah County and the City of Portland’s voter-approved Arts Education & Access Fund or “arts tax.”

“This new program is similar to the ‘Expanding Cultural Access’ grants that RACC has funded for the last three years, but now the online application and reporting process is similar to other RACC grants – and we have a larger budget,” explained RACC grants officer Helen Daltoso. A total of $100,000 will be awarded in May of 2016, with grants ranging from $1,000 to $7,000 each, but interested organizations need to submit a letter of interest online by February 24 at 5:00 pm.

RACC’s Arts Equity Grants are aimed at groups that are “under-represented”—for lack of a better term—and include communities of color, immigrants, refugees, underserved neighborhoods, persons with disabilities, LGBTQ communities and other under-represented people. These grants are open to nonprofit organizations in the City of Portland and Multnomah County.

There are a number of memorable projects that were funded by RACC’s Expanding Cultural Access grant program in 2015, which all serve as good examples of the mission of the new Arts Equity Grant for 2016.

The Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization (IRCO) prepared a public showing of elder artists from diverse ethnic backgrounds and cultures, many of them having encountered not only trauma and terror of dislocation from their homes, but also the intercultural and intertribal strife within their homelands and in refugee camps.

Latino Art Now conducted quarterly dialogues/pláticas entitled “Conversations with Latino Artists: Building Visions.” The topics for discussion were: The Contemporary Latino Art Experience; Culture, Mestizaje/Hybridity, and Representation; Intellectual Traditions and Artistic Contributions; Strategies to Democratize the Arts. The group also accompanied the pláticas with four video installations documenting artists and the ways in which their work highlighted the plática topics.

Micro Enterprise Services of Oregon (MESO) put on a multi-cultural market featuring 40 community artists selling their wares and talents as a special feature for its “East Meets West” fundraiser. The sensational “East Meets West” event included Night Flight Aerial Arts, Kalabharathi School of Dance, acrobatic troupe Kazum, Mathias Galley African Dance and Parkrose High School dancers.

The Miracle Theatre Group hosted LAX/IdeaAL (Latino Artists eXchange/Intercambiode Artistas Latinos) a conference for about 90 artists of all disciplines, featuring workshops on professional development, cross-discipline arts, collaborative mural working and more. Discussions and instructions were presented bilingually in English and Spanish.

The Native American Youth and Family Center sponsored a marketplace for Native American artisans. Pre-event workshops focused on artistic design, business concepts, motivation and staying in tune with one’s Native American culture. Native artist Lillian Pitt spoke about shifting her work as a hairdresser to a career in sculpture and visual arts and the plenty of challenges she’s faced in her long and distinguished career. Pitt was joined in the workshops by Louie Gong, a young Native artist who works with paint and sneakers.

VOZ Workers’ Rights Education Project held free, bimonthly art workshops for day laborers and Latino artists. The evening workshops were split between visual art techniques (such as screen-printing, welding, and masonry) and marketing skills (website building, resume writing and craft fair participation). Many of the Portland area’s day laborers are skilled craftsmen. The workshops helped them to enhance their creative skills, network with other professional and aspiring artists, and expand their potential sources of income.

Colored Pencils Art and Culture Council’s mission is to nourish psychological wellbeing and to overcome racism, sexism, and other forms of discrimination through art and cultural diversity. Its family-focused events, like the one RACC sponsored, bring together immigrant, refugee and other communities to share each other’s music, dance and food. One participant enthused, “I felt it was such a treat to be able to experience such diverse cultures from places I may never travel to in my lifetime.”

Rogue Pack will present “Bob #middleschool #tweensandteens” in two public performances this month at the Sellwood Playhouse, 901 S.E. Ninth Ave, on Friday and Saturday, January 29-30, 7:00 pm to 8:00 pm. Rogue Pack middle school students are writing stories and collaborating with theatre professionals like executive director Ann Singer and Nelda Reyes, the director of the upcoming “Contigo Pan y Cebolla” at Portland’s Milagro Theater. “Supporting their creativity gives them the confidence to be more successful at school and in life,” Singer said.  Of the metro area youth involved in Rogue Pack, 75% are kids of color and many are also LGBTQ.

As with RACC’s Expanding Cultural Access grants in the past, the new Arts Equity Grants are designed to help RACC expand its cultural reach, and to ensure more diversity among organizations that receive RACC funding.  These efforts are bolstered by the City of Portland’s Arts Education and Access Fund, which voters approved in 2012. This dedicated funding stream ensures that every K-5 public school student in the City of Portland has an art or music teacher; provides general operating support for 47 Portland-based arts organizations; and sets aside money specifically for increasing the community’s access to arts and culture.

Information about the first round of Arts Equity Grants is online at Proposed projects must take place between July 1, 2016 and June 30, 2017. The deadline to submit a letter of interest online isFebruary 24 at 5:00 pm.

RACC will host free information sessions to help potential applicants understand the process and guidelines for Arts Equity Grants. Dates and locations will be announced on in early January.