Bend City Council To Appoint Arts Envoy

By April Baer (OPB)
Portland, Ore. April 19, 2018 1:15 p.m.

The Bend City Council is scheduled Thursday to accept a proclamation on the value of the arts.

The council will also create a new position to serve as an arts ambassador in Central Oregon.


The Arts and Cultural Alliance will accept applications for Bend's first creative laureate through May 15. Rene Mitchell of Scalehouse Contemporary Creative Center, who proposed the position, said the winning applicant will be tasked with education and advocacy work.

"We are looking for someone who represents the broader creative community," Mitchell said. "We are accepting applications from anyone, including writers, poets, designers, filmmakers, potters, painters, dancers, musicians, architects."

The selected representative will serve a two-year term, with a $5,000 stipend to cover expenses. The position was modeled after a similar office in Portland.

Mitchell said, like Portland laureates Julie Keefe and Subashini Ganesan, the Bend appointee will give talks, lead workshops and do outreach beyond traditional arts audiences.

"Sometimes, I feel, it can be polarizing," Mitchell said. "And people say, 'I'm not an artist', but everyone here has opinions, and they can certainly engage with art to share their opinions and make their voices louder."

The accompanying proclamation about the economic impact of the arts refers to data released last year in the arts and economic prosperity study. Spending related to arts events in Bend in 2015 totaled more than $24 million, with nearly $1.5 million generated for local government. The data was gathered by Americans for the Arts, with help from the local alliance.

"The numbers aren't an estimate," said the Alliance's chair, Kevin Barclay. "They're an accurate number, but they only represent 25 percent of the nonprofits" in town. "That's all we got responses for. We did consider projecting, but we didn't want our numbers to be wonky the following year. And this does not include for-profit arts and culture."

If economic impacts had been included from venues like McMenamins St. Francis School and Tin Pan Alley Theatre, Barclay said, the impact would have been even higher.

While the numbers are less exciting than the new arts ambassador, Barclay said, the data will be key to moving arts policy forward.

"With that information, we can tell people we're not all about beer and bikes," he said. "(It) opens up a lot of avenues for us to work with (the city) in the future around new arts and culture projects."

Mitchell adds she'd like to see the city move toward creating an arts district, or perhaps a feasibility study for a new performing arts center, possibly paired with a visual arts center.

“We all treasure the Tower Theatre,” Mitchell said, “and it seats 477 people. When we have events where we need to accommodate more, we go to our local high schools.”