Program manager put city arts, culture on track for growth -

Beth Ragel’s last day with the city of Milwaukie is Friday, June 27, and she admits she is sad to leave her position as program coordinator in the city manager’s department.

by: PHOTO BY: ELLEN SPITALERI - The project that outgoing Program Manager Beth Ragel is the most proud of is the sculpture garden outside Milwaukie's City Hall.But at the same time she is looking ahead to her new position as arts program manager for the city of Santa Cruz, Calif., and it’s not just because that city boasts 300 days of sunshine a year, or that her sister and parents live a short drive away in San Luis Obispo.

“Santa Cruz has a percentage-for-art program, and for every capital project, like a road or water project, 1 percent goes toward art. I will be managing those programs, liaising with arts organizations and starting new programs,” she said.

Ragel, who has worked for Milwaukie for nine years, has a degree in urban planning, and said she has a love for data and statistics, but over the years she has found that she and others are more touched by a concept.

“If you do a documentary or a play or a sculpture about say, homelessness, it speaks to more people. That is what I love about the arts, they really engage people in a way that's really different.”

In her job with the city, she has come to realize that “art is the intersection with civic engagement,” so it is no surprise that the city project Ragel is the most proud of is the sculpture garden outside Milwaukie’s City Hall.

“That was the first public art project in the city, and we have had nothing but positive feedback. I was afraid at first that people would feel we were altering the landscape too far, but we have not had a single complaint and people see that downtown is starting to revitalize,” Ragel said.

Innovative project

One of the projects in Santa Cruz that she is most looking forward to is the Recovery Facility Artist-in-Residence Program, to be located in what many people might still call the dump.

“It is based on the Recology artist-in-residence program in San Francisco. Artists will go to the facility and reclaim materials and make art, right at the site. People can tour and interact with the artists. So it will feature both art and education about consumption practices and waste,” Ragel said.

Because California is suffering from a drought, another program she is excited about revolves around water consumption.

“The water-visualization project shows the water consumption in the city, so public art will raise awareness about an issue and urge the community to conserve water,” Ragel said.

Mural program

Ragel said she will miss the staff at City Hall, especially City Manager Bill Monahan, who has been a “great mentor.” Monahan has been looking for work elsewhere after the City Council referred a city-manager residency requirement to the May ballot.

She also is sad to leave community members behind from the Milwaukie Rotary Club, or who are in ArtMob, the city’s arts committee, or who are involved with the arts at Milwaukie High School.

“Everywhere I go in Milwaukie I know somebody, and I’ve really grown to love so many people,” she said.

But she is pleased that the City Council approved the new mural program, and said that the Clackamas Arts Alliance will manage that program until someone is hired to take her place.

She said Dark Horse Comics has expressed interest in putting up a mural, and she hopes other business owners will offer their walls to muralists in the future.

Ragel added, “Arts and culture will be big drivers in Milwaukie in the next couple of years, and I encourage Milwaukie to keep running with that. I will be cheering them on from a distance, and I'll be excited to come back and see how much has changed.”

artMOB seeks transportation-themed sculptures

In anticipation of the new light-rail line opening in 2015, Milwaukie’s Arts Committee, known as “artMOB,” is seeking submissions for the third round of sculptures to be featured in the City Hall Sculpture Garden with the theme of “transportation.” Selected sculptures will be on display from September 2014 to August 2016. Deadline to apply is Aug. 8. For detailed requirements see /

The City Hall Sculpture Garden has six pedestals for displaying a rotating collection—half are new every year. All the pieces are on loan and are for sale.

The Milwaukie Arts Committee was formed in 2008 and adopted the name “artMOB” -which is an acronym for “Art—Milwaukie on Board.” To learn more about artMOB, visit

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