Like many who have come before me, I write to urge further thinking about affordable housing and how to keep the lifestyle in Portland sustainable while growth and development are booming. But this time, with special regards for the arts.

As an arts administrator, I’m glowing with pride about the recent National Endowment for the Arts data (and great piece by Press Herald Staff Writer Bob Keyes: “Portland’s a star among U.S. cities in turnout for performing arts,” Feb. 8) that places Portland as second in the nation as a leader in adult arts attendance.

We really do experience such a fabulous quality of life here in terms of things to do, with such a curious community and thriving nightlife. So excitingly, it seems the tides have finally turned to celebrate Portland’s arts sector, acclaim that is long overdue. With the feature piece last month in Rolling Stone celebrating our “wildly ambitious” music scene to this NEA data that show that Portland has arts attendance on the level of major metropolitan areas, our micro-urban oasis of 65,000 is also feeling the stresses of its scale.

If we are to celebrate the arts and turn out to enjoy it, audience members need to become patrons of art nonprofits so that their structures can be sustainable and staff paid a living wage. And if the city wants the arts as part of its identity, finding a long-term solution for protected and rent-controlled artist housing is crucial. Cities like Minneapolis-St. Paul, Miami and New York have been or are trying to be on the front lines of meeting this need in order to keep their cultural capital close. All of the data show that artists are a major engine of a thriving local economy. Why not treat them as the asset to the broader city that they are?

Meanwhile, that brings me back to the sector that I was admittedly jealous was getting all of the Portland attention on the national scale (but surely deserves it beyond measure): the food sector. And while affordable artist living programs are niche and important, the food sector dominates our city, and the employees who make that sector go deserve affordable-housing options just as much as artists do. Therefore, further conversation of rent control and curtailing temporary short-term rentals have to start happening so we can keep the food, arts, ideas and experiences we admire here, and our quality of life will continue to thrive together. Let’s not become a city of haves and have-nots.

With deep love for Portland and all of its brave artists …

 


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