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Oregon’s Best-kept Secret – How the Cultural Trust Protects Our Quality of Life

Help Us Double the Love for Oregon Culture

Presented by Oregon Cultural Trust December 6, 2018

A scene from August Wilson Red Door Project’s “Hands Up: 7 Playwrights, 7 Testaments.” The group received one of the Cultural Trust’s largest FY2019 grants, $42,232, to support “Hands Up”, the new show “Cop Out”, and a third play that incorporates parts of each in order to promote understanding and healing in community and police relations. While “Hands Up” is specifically about the black experience, “Cop Out” (which is focused on the police experience) and the yet-to-be-developed third play seek to expand their lens beyond these two hotspots in order to recognize that the responsibility to reach towards healing lies with all of us.


Run a list of Oregon’s top attributes and, along with the great outdoors, audacious beer and green living, you’ll find our famous quality of life. Hiding in plain sight, however, would be Oregon’s best-kept secret for protecting our famous quality of life – the Oregon Cultural Trust.

As uniquely Oregonian as public beaches and the bottle bill, the Oregon Cultural Trust was established in 2001 to support our art, heritage, history and humanities – which together define our cultural character. Through the state of Oregon’s cultural tax credit, the Cultural Trust empowers Oregonians to double the impact of their cultural giving at no additional cost to them.

Before and after pictures of The Old Church concert hall in Portland, which received a $37,826 FY2018 Cultural Trust grant for a preservation-critical exterior painting of the historic building in honor of its 50th anniversary.

Here’s how it works: Make a donation to one or more of Oregon’s 1,400+ cultural nonprofits that matter to you and your family, then make a matching gift to the Cultural Trust by Dec. 31. You get 100 percent of the Cultural Trust donation back when you file your state taxes – by claiming the cultural tax credit* – and the state legislature sets that amount aside to fund Oregon culture.

That’s right, the state of Oregon funds our music, our libraries, our museums and our monuments, but only when you demonstrate how important they are to you. Since 2002, generous donors have helped the Cultural Trust award $25 million in grants to cultural nonprofits while building a permanent cultural fund of close to $30 million.

(left to right) Brittany Bellizeare, Heather Velazquez and Andrea Vernae rehearse "three girls never learnt the way home" at JAW 2018: A Playwright’s Festival. Photo by Kate Szrom/courtesy of Portland Center Stage at The Armory. JAW 2019 will be supported by a $38,771 FY2019 Cultural Trust grant.

In 2017 alone, gifts to the Cultural Trust totaled close to $5 million. Working with statewide and regional partners, the Trust redistributed more than $3 million of that amount in 2018 grants and funding. That funding supported more than 450 projects in every one of our 36 counties with the help of cultural coalitions and our federally recognized tribes.

But only a small fraction of cultural donors currently take advantage of the cultural tax credit. The Cultural Trust operates with a limited marketing budget and a very small staff. We rely on word of mouth – yours – to help get the word out.

The Cultural Trust, working with consulting firm ECONorthwest, recently published a 10-year impact study. The report concludes that the cultural tax credit program provides a stable and accessible funding source for culture in Oregon. Through grantmaking, the Trust’s “remarkable” geographic reach provides higher per capita amounts of funding to the state’s rural counties. The report also emphasizes the Trust’s “tremendous potential to continue to grow contributions and expand impacts.”

Restore Oregon received a $29,571 FY2019 Cultural Trust grant to support the "Re-TURN the Jantzen Beach Carousel" project to begin restoration of the historic carousel’s ponies.

We need your help to realize that potential.

Oregonians want the creative spark and community wellbeing that a vibrant cultural scene brings to their lives. They want to know that after a hard day of work they can recharge by visiting their local library, seeing a play or enjoying a craft beer in a restored historic lodge. Above all, they understand that investments in culture cross all boundaries and bring us together.

Total your cultural donations, give a matching amount to the Cultural Trust and claim your cultural tax credit on your state taxes. This is a secret we are trusting you won’t keep to yourself!

A volunteer audiobook reading coach works with a student at The Shadow Project. Their $14,628 FY2019 Cultural Trust grant supports coaching for children who do not read the traditional way.

See a full list of FY2019 Oregon Cultural Trust grants.

Visit the Cultural Trust website to learn more.

*Up to $500 for an individual, $1,000 for couple filing jointly and $2,500 for Class C corporations.