RACC says limitations on some venues hurts local organizations

The Portland area could use more performing arts facilities, a recent study by the Regional Arts and Culture Council concluded. “We really wanted to measure the inventory and see what we had and identify holes in the inventory, whether they be geographic or certain types,” says Jeff Hawthorne, RACC director of community affairs. “We had been hearing from arts organizations about the dearth of venues, which we found was true.” The study found that there is a sufficient demand for a new, central, high-quality large venue of 1,800 to 2,000 seats and several flexible high-tech performance spaces of 500 to 600 seats. The region’s large-seating inventory includes the Rose Garden (20,000) and Memorial Coliseum (14,000), Theater of the Clouds (6,000), Washington County Fair Amphitheater (3,000), Keller Auditorium (3,000), Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall (2,700), Crystal Ballroom (1,500), Peter Stott Center (1,200), Kridel Ballroom (1,000) and Newmark Theater (880). Some venues have limited availability. For example, the Schnitz is home to the Oregon Symphony. The Keller is used for touring Broadway shows and rock concerts. Both are expensive to rent, when available. The Crystal Ballroom is fine space for live music. A new performing arts facility in the 2,000-seat range could accommodate Oregon Ballet Theatre and Portland Opera “and it would free up the Keller Auditorium to make even more money at for-profit rates,” Hawthorne says. RACC works with 150 smaller companies, which could benefit from other new, smaller (500 to 600 seats) facilities. “What we heard from consultants, who have expertise in other areas, is they told us anecdotally that Portland has fewer traditional performance facilities (than other cities),” Hawthorne adds. Then again, “the way consumers are using the arts and culture is changing. People are less likely to go to the larger, palace performing arts center. That’s not saying we couldn’t use more halls to meet larger arts needs.” Hawthorne says the Hillsboro/ Beaverton area and Southeast Portland would be ideal areas for new performing arts centers. “The lack of proper facilities is impeding the evolution of some arts organizations,” according to the study. “Although many small and mid-sized groups are using unconventional spaces (including churches, community centers, private businesses and homes) in creative ways, few of these facilities have ideal acoustics and production amenities, and some have accessibility concerns.” RACC plans to work with HulaHub ( on a searchable database of facilities later this summer. Webb Management Systems Inc. of New York did the study with support from Portland’s Boora Architects Inc. The full study is available at the RACC website,

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