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Learn how to make creativity pay

COURTESY FORBIDDEN KNOWLEDGE/KAI HAYASHI - Noah Kleiman can see the future for artists in Portland and says they need to learn the skills needed to make more money to stay here. That's why he's organizing the 2015 Secret Knowledge Conference for Nov. 14 at the Juniper Hotel.Many in Portland’s creative community are being especially hard hit by rent increases and the conversion of cheap studios into upscale apartments and stores. Those affected include painters, sculptors, musicians, dancers and poets.

“Portland used to be the kind of town where you could pay your bills with a part-time job and spend the rest of your time making art, but not anymore,” says Noah Kleiman, founder of a nonprofit organization called Secret Knowledge, which aims to make artists more self-sufficient.

Kleiman has seen many artists pushed to the edges of the city, into neighboring towns, or even out of state by rising rents and the loss of their studios. He knows the Portland City Council is responding to the crisis by promising to build more affordable housing. But he also knows that can take years to accomplish.

So he has another idea — teaching artists the business skills necessary to earn a living from their creative talents.

“A lot of artists have a hard time putting a fair price on their work. They think, ‘How can I ask someone to pay for what I enjoy doing?’ But people are willing to pay to enjoy that, too, and there are other business skills that go along with that,” he says.

Kleiman is organizing the first Secret Knowledge Conference, aimed at teaching artists business skills, on Saturday, Nov. 14, at the Juniper Hotel, 800 E. Burnside St. He has lined up a number of successful artists, creative retailers and business consultants to speak on panels throughout the day. Topics to be covered include music licensing, video production, working with store and gallery owners, taxes, financial planning, crowdfunding for creative projects, and pricing and selling art.

“All of the presentations are designed to offer practical advice. All are predicated on the premise that creative people can be business people, too,” he says.

Kleiman has been involved in the local arts scene for more than a decade. He started out by opening the Old Library Studio in the Hollywood neighborhood to teach music production skills to young people.

“Our mission was to empower young people through music and technology,” he says.

Since then Kleiman has met and kept in touch with many Portland artists, and has watched in growing dismay as increasing rents and building conversions have upended their worlds.

“There was one building near the Lloyd District where many artists have lived over the years. Then one day the building sold and they all got no-fault evictions. Some moved miles away to find something they could afford. Others left the state entirely,” he says.

Helping artists stay in Portland is not only good for them, it’s good for the city, he says. “It’s a brave choice to do something with your time on this earth that’s both personally fulfilling and fulfilling to your fellow man. This is an important group of people for our area, and they are struggling.”

Council boosts afforable housing

While more and more artists and other Portlanders get dislocated due to Portland’s housing crisis, the City Council is taking unprecedented steps to increase the amount of affordable housing in Portland. Among other things:

• Mayor Charlie Hales is expected to ask all General Fund agencies except the Portland Housing Bureau to propose 5 percent cuts in next year’s budgets to free up more money for affordable housing.

• The council considered giving an additional $10 million for affordable housing to the housing bureau this week.

• The council last week agreed to increase the percentage of urban renewal funds set aside for affordable housing from 30 to 45 percent. That is projected to increase the total by $67 million over 10 years.

• The council last week authorized a “nexus” study to support the adoption of a “linkage fee” on new development. If that goes into effect as expected next July, that could raise $5 million to $20 million or more each year in new affordable housing funds, based on other cities’ experiences.

• The housing bureau recently announced it has $61.6 million in local and federal funds for affordable housing project proposals, expected to produce more than 600 new affordable units.

• The housing bureau and Bureau of Planning & Sustainability have proposed changes to the city’s density bonus program that could provide up to $10 million a year for affordable housing. Developers would get to build an additional three stories, in some cases, if they include some affordable housing or pay a fee to the city.

• The council and Multnomah County Commission recently changed the Multiple-Unit Limited Tax Exemption Program, which provides property tax abatements to affordable housing developers.

• The council previously added $20 million to the Interstate Corridor Urban Renewal Area for additional affordable housing as part of the N/NE Neighborhood Housing Strategy.

• The council recently required landlords to give tenants a 90-day notice for no-cause evictions and rent increases more than 5 percent over a 12-month period.

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