Portland Arts, Cultural Alliance absorbed by city-created authority

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PORTLAND — A 25-year-old arts organization responsible for putting on First Friday Art Walk and other arts and cultural events has decided to become a subsidiary of a non-profit organization created by the city.

Portland Arts and Cultural Alliance will continue to have its own governing board and to provide arts and creative programming in the city. However, any major decisions by that board will have to be approved by Creative Portland. The Creative Portland Corp. was established in 2008 to capitalize on and grow the city’s creative economy.

Creative Portland’s 13-member board includes local artists and business owners and real estate professionals, along with City Councilor Dave Marshall (an artist) and city Economic Development Director Greg Mitchell. The board also has overlap with the PACA board.

While PACA has been the city’s official arts agency since 1987, it wavered in activity during the late 90s and early 2000s. In recent years, however, the alliance has been reborn, taking over First Friday and hiring a part-time director. With the creation of Creative Portland, the city decided to shift funding it had been giving to PACA to the new organization. The city also encouraged PACA to join Creative Portland.

Creative Portland will now be responsible for funding PACA.

Alice Kornhauser, PACA president, said her organization will continue to focus on programming, including the recently added free trolley service available downtown during art walk.

Creative Portland will concentrate on marketing the Arts District and the creative economy.

Kornhauser, who is also on the Creative Portland board, said there is some overlap between Creative Portland’s mission and what other organizations are already doing.

“The council made it clear they didn’t want CPC doing what others are doing,” she said.

“We’ll promote Portland as a cultural destination and attract creative individuals,” Marshall said. He said part of Creative Portland’s mission will be to create more arts space downtown, including live/work space.

And although some of Portland’s arts scene in the past several years has moved away from the “Arts District” to areas with cheaper rents, like East Bayside, the East End and even Westbrook, Marshall said Creative Portland will concentrate on the Arts District, at least initially.

“Part of the CPC scope is to focus citywide,” said Marshall. A tax increment finance district was created along Congress Street in the Arts District to eventually fund Creative Portland. The organization got about $30,000 in funding this year, Marshall said, and has been successful in raising about $12,000 through grants.

Kornhauser said her group will continue to facilitate the city’s Public Arts Commission, too. PACA director Cathy Valenza is leaving soon, and PACA will look for a new part-time director. Marshall said that could be a shared position with Creative Portland, which is also interested in hiring a director.

Another organization expected to work with Creative Portland is the Downtown Portland District, which supports the business community and puts on events including Live at Five concerts in the summer and holiday shopping events.

Jan Beitzer, the executive director of the PDD, said that while Creative Portland’s mission is very different than hers, she expects the groups will communicate regularly and provide links to each others websites and events.

Beitzer said she approached Creative Portland about taking over creating the annual Arts Guide, a list of galleries and artists in the city.

Creative Portland declined to do so this year, but Beitzer said they did show interest.

Earlier this month, Creative Portland launched its website, LiveWorkPortland.org. The site includes profiles of creative professionals in the city, events taking place and a blog. It also has information about living and working in Portland, similar to information available on the city’s website but with more focus on the creative economy.

The site markets Portland as a small but creative city, as a foodie destination and as a great place to raise children.

Kate Bucklin can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or kbucklin@theforecaster.net