In December 2002, citizens of this state put their checkbooks where their hearts were and donated more than $1.6 million to the new Oregon Cultural Trust. The trust truly represents the latest in a long tradition of Oregon citizens taking direct action when it comes to crafting innovative solutions to issues of common concern Ñ from the bottle bill to the beach bill to vote by mail.
It is arguably one of the most positive results of the last legislative session. Citizens from throughout the state worked for nearly five years to design a program that promises to lift Oregon from the basement of state support for cultural resources and creates an endowment that will sustain those resources for the next generation.
While many Oregonians have given generously over the years to the nonprofit organizations that make up our rich and diverse cultural landscape, the Oregon Cultural Trust presents a new and exciting way to expand that support.
Because the trust includes a tax credit to reward and stimulate private giving to cultural nonprofits, individuals and businesses can support the trust and double their giving at essentially no cost.
And for 2002, it may not be too late Ñ businesses that haven't yet closed on their 2002 fiscal year may still be able to make a donation and have the amount count toward the 2002 total.
In 2003, donations to the trust will continue to be eligible for a 100 percent tax credit on Oregon income tax when a matching contribution has been made to one or more nonprofit cultural organizations. These organizations include local theaters and children's museums, art museums, opera, ballet, county historical societies and library foundations, American Indian dance troupes and forestry centers, to name a few.
While supporting arts and culture is not always considered synonymous with civic activism, in my mind it most certainly is. In effect, we are voting with our dollars to preserve the very heart of what makes this state such a great place to live and work. Without the joy, mystery, wonder and delight that our local cultural assets provide, all of our other institutions lose much of their meaning.
So please consider the Oregon Cultural Trust as you make contributions to your favorite cultural nonprofit organizations. (You can find out more about how to do this on the Web at www.culturaltrust.org or by calling 503-986-1530.)
A vote with your cultural dollars will continue to demonstrate to our state legislators that we all mean business when it comes to supporting arts and culture throughout Oregon. And, through the simple act of supporting the Oregon Cultural Trust, you become part of a legacy of stabilizing the arts for ourselves, our children and future generations.
Jordan D. Schnitzer is president of Harsch Investment Properties and a longtime supporter of civic projects and programs, particularly culture and the arts. He resides in Southwest Portland.