Today is Tax Day, the date by which you should have held your nose, swallowed your pride, and filed your tax return with the federal government—knowing full well that far too much of your taxes will fund the military, and far too little of them will fund education, housing, transportation, et cetera.
But on a more local level, there is one transaction you can make today that you might actually feel good about: paying the Portland Arts Tax.
Passed by Portland voters in 2012, the sometimes-maligned Portland Arts Tax asks each city resident to pony up a flat $35 on or before April 15 every year. That money is then distributed to local arts nonprofits and school districts by the Regional Arts & Culture Council (RACC). Since its inception, it has raised $63 million.
In the Mercury’s recent spring arts issue, news editor Alex Zielinski found that, until recently, RACC’s method for doling out those funds tended to favor the already large and powerful Portland art institutions. Per Alex’s reporting:
“RACC currently calculates the amount of grant funding an organization receives based on that applicant’s budget size. It’s no surprise, then, that over the past decade, a whopping 57 percent of RACC’s total grant dollars have been distributed among the city’s five largest arts nonprofits: Portland Art Museum, the Oregon Symphony, Oregon Ballet Theatre, Portland Opera, and Portland Center Stage.”
But starting in 2020, that funding process is going to be turned on its head. In addition to looking at an organization’s budget, RACC will also take into account its demonstrated commitment to serving underrepresented communities. Smaller, more diverse arts organizations could see a big bump in RACC funding—and local art behemoths, like the Portland Art Museum, could see an estimated 59 percent drop in RACC dollars.
Here’s what that means for you: The $35 you pay on your arts tax today could be spent to help an arts organization that serves, hires, and promotes the work of people of color, or the LGBTQ community, or people with disabilities—basically, anyone besides the old white guys that fancy art galleries still tend to favor.
If you live within Portland city limits, you can pay your arts tax here.