South Portland’s Waterfront Park may suffer from the city’s current budget gap of $21.5 million.  For many years, the Oregon Symphony celebrated the end of the summer season with a huge, free concert at the park, including music, fireworks, and howitzers.  However, “the city’s arts funding arm is proposing to cut funding for the concert this year,” according to The Oregonian.

The city’s budget committee will vote on the mayor’s budget May, but in the meantime, the Regional Arts & Culture Council (RACC) has made their decision.  They have decided that the orchestra’s concert was not as important as other ways to preserve general support for the symphony and other arts organizations.  The concert usually costs $192,000, and the city just cannot afford it anymore.  David Stabler, of The Oregonian, laments, “The concert was a huge hit and helped the orchestra reach many people, especially kids, who probably don’t regularly hear the orchestra in the concert hall.”

Speaking for the Oregon Symphony, Jim Fullan says, “The concert is not something that the Symphony can afford to do on its own, as much as we would love to.  While we wait to learn of the actual City Council vote, we are exploring all options and would, of course, love to have a new sponsor step forward to save this unique community event.  But unless a white knight steps forward soon, there is a strong chance that the free Waterfront Concert will not take place this year because of the funding cuts made by the City and RACC.”

If you would like to participate in or comment on the mayor’s proposed budget before it is approved, you can do so on three separate occasions:  Thursday, May 16th from 6:30 to 8:30 pm at City Hall Council Chambers located at 1221 SW 4th Ave., Saturday, May 18th from 3:00 to 5:00 pm at Warner Pacific College located at 2219 SE 68th Ave., or Thursday, May 23rd from 6:30 to 8:30 pm at Jackson Middle School located at 10625 SW 35th Ave.

If the budget is approved by City Council, RACC will also suspend the under-utilized Opportunity Grants program for one year, which will save the city $200,000.  The Opportunity Grant Program “is designed to provide grants to Portland-based nonprofit arts and cultural organizations to help meet special opportunities or assist organizations with emergencies that arise during the year and that are not part of the applicant’s annual budget or regular programming,” according to the RACC website.  RACC will also be reducing project grants, saving $59,840; advocacy, development, and administration expenses, saving $17,923; and funding for murals and public art, which will save $15,848.

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