WESTAF Update Notes #74 | February 2013

From Anthony Radich, Executive Director

This is the 74th in a continuing series of updates about the work of the Western States Arts Federation.

WESTAF Introduces YouJudgeIt.org™
The WESTAF technology team and project administrators have been working to rebuild and expand some key WESTAF technology offerings. Major improvements are underway to the heavily used arts sites ZAPPlication.org®, CallForEntry.org™, and GO:GrantsOnline.org™. While working on improvements to these projects, the technology staff has also been developing a new site called YouJudgeIt.org™. YouJudgeIt is designed especially for the smallest arts organization, the thriftiest church group, and the most under-resourced community fair. The site was built to be much simpler than WESTAF’s more advanced sites and is affordably priced to introduce a whole new group of users to online-adjudication technology developed and administered by WESTAF for the benefit of the arts. The site is currently in testing and is expected to be available in April.

Public Art Archive™ Senior Advisory Committee Convenes in Denver
The members of WESTAF’s Senior Advisory Committee for the Public Art Archive project met January 10-11, 2013, in Denver. Agenda items included: a) a presentation and discussion of the capabilities and limitations of Wikipedia and other crowdsourcing sites to accommodate public art; b) a presentation of the latest developments in cataloging and classification systems for public art and the future development of the Archive to serve the specific needs of the field in this area; c) a discussion of the criteria to be used to evaluate strategic partnerships proposed by social media entrepreneurs; d) a discussion about ways to work with governmental bodies to collect information about public art; and e) a discussion of ways to invite the public to help document public art processes in a sophisticated and comprehensive way.

WESTAF Leadership and Advocacy Meeting
WESTAF trustees and a small group of state arts leaders will convene February 27-March 1, 2013, in Washington, D.C.. The purposes of the meeting are to engage in briefings regarding the status and future prospects for federal arts support, to meet with members of Congress and their staffs, and to join the WESTAF trustees in a discussion of ways to generate more state-government support for the work of state arts agencies. This meeting follows up on a December 2011 WESTAF meeting in Washington to which WESTAF brought 55 arts advocates from across the West for a similar purpose. The 2013 meeting will be slightly condensed and include a different mix of participants. The condensing was undertaken to avoid duplication of the efforts of NASAA, which hosted a major meeting for state arts agency chairs and executive directors in Washington, D.C. last October.

Portland’s New Arts Education Access Fund
The attachment to this edition of Update Notes contains a description of a new voter-approved fund to support arts education in the schools. WESTAF presents a summary of the effort because it represents a major advance for arts education advocates, and we want to spread the word that, even in these days of limited expectations about what the public sector can and should do for the arts, the public continues to have an interest in supporting the arts!

Creative Advocacy Network Achieves Breakthrough Victory with Income Tax Measure

Arts Education and Access Fund becomes first dedicated public fund for the arts

On November 6, 2012, voters in Portland, Oregon, passed a landmark $35 per-taxpayer income tax to restore arts teachers to every local elementary school and fund the arts citywide. The measure will raise a total of $12.2 million in annual net revenue with approximately 69% funding arts teachers and arts education coordination and the remaining 31% funding nonprofit arts organizations and grants to increase arts access for Portland residents. The Arts Education and Access Fund was years in the making and is the first local public fund to make targeted investments in both K-12 arts education and community-based arts organizations through a voter-approved income tax. Here’s how they did it.

For decades, arts leaders and elected officials worked to improve Portland’s creative capacity with the understanding that arts, culture, and creativity shape neighborhoods, improve the education system, boost economic development, and enhance livability. In 2008, Portland mayor-elect Sam Adams invited elected officials from each of the three counties that make up the Portland Metropolitan Region to join him in convening more than 1,500 community members for a region-wide discussion on the future of the arts. Together, they developed a Creative Action Plan for Portland called Act for Art, and central to that plan was the establishment of a new dedicated funding stream for arts and arts education. The Creative Advocacy Network (CAN) was established as an independent 501(c)3 organization to develop and advocate for this proposed new public fund for the arts. In 2009, CAN’s work began.


With an annual budget of under $300,000; a staff of 2-3; and funding from the city of Portland, arts patrons and member organizations, CAN’s sole mission was to establish a dedicated public fund for the arts to increase access to arts and culture for every resident, make free arts and music experiences available to every school-age child in classrooms and communities, and strengthen the highest quality arts organizations to allow Portland to reach its true creative and cultural potential. To achieve this goal, it had to build an investment plan that met the needs of the region’s diverse arts, education, civic and business interests, identify a funding source that would raise enough money annually, inspire voter support during the worst recession of our generation, navigate a path to the ballot through signature gathering or the right local government partnership, and build a movement of support strong enough to carry it to victory.

What began as an effort rooted firmly in the nonprofit arts community, shaped by a focus on strategic grantmaking, evolved dramatically when CAN began to look more closely at the steep decline of arts and music teachers in area schools. Shocked that 11,596 Portland children attend schools that do not have any art, dance, drama, or music instruction, CAN went public with Portland’s arts education crisis and began a conversation with Portland’s six school superintendents brokered by Mayor Sam Adams. Together, they developed a plan to restore arts education to every Portland elementary school by funding teachers and community-based arts education programs. This promise became the core of Portland’s groundbreaking Arts Education and Access Fund.

Public interest and outrage heightened when on April 2, 2012, the U.S. Department of
 Education
 released its
first study of
arts education
in more than
10 years and clearly showcased how far behind Portland had fallen. Only 18% of Portland elementary schools provide art instruction compared to 83% nationally, and just 58% of Portland elementary schools provide music instruction compared to 94% nationally. While twenty-eight percent of all Portland schools provide no arts instruction of any kind–no music, drama, dance, or visual arts. This is compared to just 3% of schools nationally.


By June 27, 2012, when Mayor Sam Adams led Portland City Council in referring CAN’s proposed new public fund for the arts to the November, 2012, ballot, it had successfully forged an innovative new three-way partnership between the city, Portland’s six school districts, and the nonprofit arts community–with 10,000 supporters signed on, 68 member organizations on board, 5,000 volunteer hours logged, and 76% support for the ballot measure in early polling.

When campaign time came, CAN formed a 501(c)4 sister organization to lobby for the ballot measure and launched the Schools & Arts Together campaign to get out the yes vote for what had become Ballot Measure 26-146. After a heated campaign, during which nearly every notable news source opposed the so-called “arts tax” and two other proposed money measures for school construction and permanent library funding divided the vote, the Arts Education and Access Fund passed with a triumphant 62% of the vote.

Portland’s new $35 income tax for income-earning adult residents of Portland (and exempting any taxpayer under the federal poverty limit) will be due annually beginning in April, 2013. When the school year begins next fall, nearly 70 elementary school arts teachers will be sustainably funded, every elementary school student in Portland’s six school districts will be guaranteed an arts education and arts supplies, and programs and field trips will be made available for all school-age children through grant funding to Portland’s schools and nonprofits. In addition, Portland’s nonprofit arts organizations will have the public support they need to bring the arts to life for every Portland resident, providing free arts experiences, reaching underserved communities, and developing imaginative community-based arts experiences for children all while continuing to shape its neighborhoods, fuel its economy, educate its children and bring the region together. In Portland, $35 goes a long way.

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