Prepared and delivered by Roy Kaufmann, Board Member
January 23, 2018
Good afternoon, Commissioners. Thank you for giving us this opportunity to update you on the vital community-building efforts of the Cultural Coalition of Washington County. My name is Roy Kaufmann and I’m a member of the board of the Cultural Coalition. I intend to spend a few minutes telling you about why I asked to serve on the Coalition’s board, and inform you about the real and measurable benefits of this funding to the people and businesses of this great county.
First, I am admittedly not a “native Oregonian,” much less a descendant of Oregonians. Rather, like more and more of our neighbors and friends, I’m what I call an “OBC” – an Oregonian By Choice. I chose to come to Oregon a dozen years ago, with a job offer in hand that made the move feasible, and with a 3-month old baby daughter in tow. Now that ‘baby girl’ is a precocious and curious sixth grader, and an older sister to two younger brothers – or younger ‘bothers’ as she lovingly refers to them – all three of whom attend Beaverton Public Schools. That’s my family – two Oregonians by Choice, one nearly native Oregonian, two Oregon natives, and a bossy little corgi from Washington State.
But I’m not just an Oregonian By Choice, I’m also an American By Choice, an ABC, if you will. An immigrant. I was born in Israel, grew up for a time in South Africa, and moved to the United States in elementary school. I became a naturalized citizen around college, got involved in politics, learned what it meant to be an American. I was fortunate to get a great education and am fortunate now to have a job that I find rewarding and interesting and even, dare I say, fun. I couldn’t have imagined the life I have now, and I couldn’t be more grateful for it, all the same. It’s from that place of gratitude that I sought out an opportunity to give back, to be a citizen of this community in the truest sense of the word. I’ve been a member of the board of the Cultural Coalition of Washington County for one year. And in that one year, I’ve already tasted a sampling of the great work that the Coalition does in supporting arts and culture in our constantly-evolving county. In just the past year, the Cultural Coalition has awarded over $60,000 in grants to 38 organizations that run the gamut – from youth arts programming to culturally-specific events, from first-time grantees to organizations that have served Washington County’s families and residents for years.
These are all small grants, none more than $2,000, if my memory serves. But to the local arts groups, most of which are volunteer-driven and all of which are non-profits, those dollars matter and they get unbelievable mileage out of that money.
When we talk about arts and culture funding, we usually get hung up on the measurable things – how many people saw a play, how many instruments a local band purchased. I get it. Metrics and analytics are all the rage. And that’s not entirely bad. We all want to know that our investments are being used wisely.
However, I ask each of you to consider the intangible, too. How did someone’s thinking change after watching a play? How did a parent feel after getting to see their child perform on stage? What new conversations took place because Washington County neighbors left their couches for a night and sat, shoulder to shoulder, with fellow neighbors to cheer on an aspiring dancer, or singer, or painter?
Washington County is changing and growing. I believe Washington County will become the cultural and economic center of Oregon within a decade. And I want my kids to grow up in a community that proudly invests in the full diversity of voices and experiences present in this great part of America.
At the same time, I’m deeply troubled by the tone and substance of our public discourse. It is not a controversial statement to say that we seem to be living in polarized times and in increasingly silo-ed communities. Social media is connecting people with similar interests, which is a boon for people who’ve felt isolated. But it is also reinforcing people’s existing biases and frequently untested assumptions. People listen to news outlets that confirm their beliefs, rather than challenge them. While Oregon has long bucked these divisive national trends, it’s not clear the Oregon Way can
survive the siege forever.
That’s why I believe so strongly in the work that the Cultural Coalition does. When it is becoming more and more fashionable to cast our differences as problems, art and culture remind us that our differences are to be celebrated. Music, food, dance, literature, costume, language – these are bridges in a season of walls. I’m proud of the CCWC and the incredible diversity of backgrounds and points of view its board members represent, I’m grateful to Eva for all her incredible work and leadership, and hopeful that a reliable and dedicated source of arts funding will continue to serve
everyone in our community.