Really not since Barnett Newman (right) has anyone been nutty enough to run on an arts platform as a candidate for major office (Newman ran for NYC Mayor in 1933 with a complex and somewhat serious pro-art, pro-outdoor cafe stance; this was in the days before irony and arched eyebrows) but tonight Sam Adams not only knew more about the business of art in Portland than the 300 assembled and enthused arts admins at the Gerding Theatre, but he knew most of the names of those assembled.

(If you have an e-copy of “On the Need for Political Action by Men of Culture” please send it here: we’re shopping for manifestos again.)

After an hour or so of statistics culled from the recently released Arts & Economic Prosperity III: The Economic Impact of Nonprofit Arts and Culture Organizations and Their Audiences and a billion dollar wish list from a wide-ranging brainstorming session, Sam announced, as it says on the web site, “We want to grow the capacity of this collective force of creativity to make Portland an even better place to live, a stronger competitor in the global marketplace and an incubator of innovation. Want to help?”

Click the link and sign up at CreativeCapacity.org. Things can happen if we all boogie down to City Hall at the same moment with the same talking points.

Download the PowerPoint presentation Sam showed (3.5 MB). Parts are obscure (you should have been there) but the punchline is on page 14.

Two points – both from Sam. 1. As an advocacy community, the arts are a mess. We have 111 nonprofit arts organizations, each in competition for dollars and headspace. If we organize we can capitalize. A nice thought. Here’s the exercise. Point to a leader. No! Just one! With 111 organizations we have more chefs than diners. Consider working with others. 2. Imagine a “creative community” beyond your liberal arts imagination, to include the chef at Sahagun or the webmaster at BlueOregon, or as was passed around, a unique and fantastical piece of temperature resistant steel from NW Pipe. With more “creatives” we have more constituency. Again easy to add the numbers, hard to organize.

The proof is in the pudding. Despite the classic Portland bonhomie there are not and won’t be sufficient dollars to provide “buildings with character” as someone from Portland Baroque Orchestra asked for, or even reasonable health insurance, another wish which drew loud applause and no civic solution.

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