Portland’s Arts Education & Access Fund
Testifying to the Impact of Access
Last month at City Hall, two of Portland’s most inspiring arts leaders testified before City Council about the powerful impact that Portland’s new Arts Education & Access Fund will have for Portland residents when qualified non-profit arts organizations receive an increase in annual funding.
Once Arts Education & Access Fund dollars are distributed to Portland’s six school districts – allowing them to hire certified elementary arts teachers for every public Portland elementary school – the remaining funds will be distributed to the Regional Arts & Culture Council to be administered as grants to non-profit arts organizations and programs that increase access to the arts.
Both the Portland Youth Philharmonic (PYP) and the PHAME Academy currently qualify for RACC operating support grants and are likely to benefit from the Arts Education & Access Fund in the coming year. The powerful testimonials and important work of PYP and PHAME highlight the extraordinary benefits of Portland’s new Arts Education & Access Fund beyond our public school classrooms. Following are excerpts from the City Council testimony of Executive Directors Kevin A. Lefohn and Stephen Marc Beaudoin.
PHAME Academy Executive Director Stephen Marc Beaudoin testifies before Portland City Council, March 27, 2013:
I am the Executive Director of the PHAME Academy and we are Portland’s fine and performing arts academy for young and older adults with developmental disabilities. We were also the 2011 City of Portland Making a Difference Award Winner.
The Arts Education & Access Fund supports PHAME and many other critically important arts education and access programs across the city. At PHAME, the “Arts Tax” will do a world of good for community members like PHAME student Anne Marie Plass.
“(Public funding for non-profit community arts organizations) gives me access to things that I can only get at PHAME.” explains Anne Marie. “It has given me a lot of confidence and the ability to be myself and to be challenged to do more things that I never thought that I would be able to do.”
Stephen continues. “Me too….This is a tax about people. This is about real people and real Portland neighborhoods and real programs and services that are delivered to underserved communities. This is not some luxury sedan benefiting only a few. It benefits everyone in Portland. I have faith that Portland City Council will protect and defend and continuously improve this critical new source of funding, but not for me or my benefit. For Anne Marie and other students of PHAME, kids studying music after school at Ethos in north portland, students in southeast Portland and Portland public schools, for the communities of color who see and share their stories on stage at Milagro and Portland Playhouse and many other places — they are the real beneficiaries of the Arts Education & Access Fund and they are relying on you to defend this Fund and to make it better.
Portland Youth Philharmonic Executive Director Kevin A. Lefohn testifies before Portland City Council, March 27, 2013:
I’m a violinist, music educator, and I have the honor of serving as the Executive Director of this country’s first youth orchestra, Portland youth philharmonic. PYP serves 300 musicians in our community and they come from over 100 different schools. We leverage the talent of these musicians. By doing so we touch 30,000 people in our community each year. We change lives, not only those of the talents we nurture but everyday Portlanders whose hearts their talents touch.
Our signature outreach program is a series of free children’s concerts. We invite 3-8 graders to experience a performance in the Arlene Schnitzer Concert hall. Over the past two years, we’ve seen a 47% increase, a skyrocketing increase in attendance. This year alone, we have “sold out” these four concerts. We have surpassed 10,000 kids coming into our city’s jewel and they come from over 150 schools in our community. Clearly, there is an interest in arts education in our public school sector. Clearly, there is a need for ease of access.
What will be possible for PYP with this additional art tax funding, what would it take to double our attendance? Bring our musicians and conducting staff directly into the schools to further break down any barriers that exist for access to arts? We change lives. Not only those whose talents that we touch, but the every day Portlanders whose hearts their talents nurture. The tax is good for our community. Because as of November, we are now on the brink of fully restoring arts education in our community. It will help arts organizations serve our community even better.
In the words of Andrea Moon, a PYP alumna, “PYP is not just about the music to me. It is about the bridging of human relationships through music.”
Mayor Hales, Commissioners, and Citizens of this wonderful community we call Portland, together we change lives, not only those whose talents we nurture, but those whose hearts their talents touch.