1990 Finalist
City of Newport, Oregon
Innovations in American Government Awards
Innovations in American Government Awards

Many cities utilize tax increment financing to revitalize decaying neighborhoods, especially those which share the characteristics of Newport, Oregon, which has the highest rates per capita of alcoholism, suicide, single parent families, and at-risk students in the state. Newport decided to take an alternative route to addressing these problems by building the Newport Performing Arts Center. Through this effort, Newport and its designated arts agency, the Oregon Coast Council for the Arts, made a commitment to construct a catalyst for renewing self-esteem, direction, hope, and fun, for its 8,700 residents.

The Newport Performing Arts Center has been specifically designed for multiple uses at an affordable rate of operation and access. Audience space was consciously sacrificed to accommodate teaching and production support spaces. The operational policies give priority to local artists, who are not charged for use of rehearsal, costume, or scene shop spaces. Use rates are 15 percent of ticket sales to a maximum of $250, an incredibly low price, but one that means companies can invest in improved productions. Local artists are also given priority in scheduling. Costs are kept to a minimum by utilizing volunteers for backstage janitorial. Funding includes an endowment whose annual interest income is re-granted to artists for programs at the center rather than allocated for operational expenses.

Working with 12 social service agencies, several municipalities in the county, and the Lincoln County School District, the Family Arts Agenda seeks to integrate stressed populations in active community life through the arts, and to reactivate individual creativity, strengthen families, and break down the barriers that traditionally close people off from being part of a cultural facility. Family Arts Agenda clients are brought to the Newport Performing Arts Center to interact with local artists who run a variety of arts-related programming including Saturday morning crafts, journalist and storytelling workshops geared towards teen parents, and music, songwriting, and voice lessons. An extended day program offered at the Performing Arts Center provides hot meals both for children and their parents, and makes available subsidized or free tickets for early evening theatrical performances.

The Newport Performing Arts Center and Family Arts Agenda judges success by evaluating the popularity of programming (as determined by audience size) as well as the extent to which the arts have been fostered within the community. Ticket sales and ticket requests are both measures because not all attendance is paid. Sales for the 1988-1989 program year was $131,000; for first half of 1989-1990 it reached $110,000, with fiscal year-end (August) projections at $225,000. Free or subsidized attendance for the same periods respectively: 1,050 and 2565. Prior to the center's opening ticket sales for all arts events were less than $50,000; free attendance not more than 500.

Growth in arts as a community resource is measured by stability of existing organizations, numbers of members and their level of support, increase in work opportunities for artists, and inclusion of artists in non-arts activities, i.e. planning committees appointed by city or civic organizations. In 1988 there were seven active performing arts organizations; in 1989, 13. All are healthy, operating with volunteer boards and active memberships. Four companies now pay performers; three have paid producing staff. OCCA's growth shows membership support dollars for 1988 at $14,108; and for 1989 at $21,504.