Virus victim: Silverton Arts Association reaches out to community for help

July 2020 Posted in Arts, Culture & History, Community

By Steve Ritchie

The COVID-19 pandemic has claimed over 110,000 American lives, ravaged the US economy and plunged budgets of governmental entities into the deep red, all in just over three months.

It turns out that nonprofit organizations are not immune to the virus either.

Among the local organizations suffering from COVID-19’s impact is the Silverton Arts Association, which has had to cancel its popular Fine Arts Festival in August due to the State of Oregon’s safety guidelines. The loss of the festival puts the association’s programs in peril, along with its very survival in the worst case scenario.

August 2020 would have seen the 20th edition of the Fine Arts Festival, which in 2019 featured 93 artist vendors, ten music groups and performers, and six food vendors. The festival attracted approximately 5,000 attendees and generated $22,000 in net revenue for the association. The profit from the festival goes into the association’s operating budget to support programs throughout the year.

SAA board members are taking action to lessen the impact and help ensure that the organization stays afloat until the 2021 festival can be held.

Board member Harold Wood said operating expenses have been reduced, noting, “We’re trying to stop the bleeding, which we’ve done as much as we can. We’re starting to write (for) grants.”

Joe Craig, a long-time SAA member and board member, says it’s important to make the case that the Silverton Fine Arts Festival contributes to Silverton’s economy.

“Many people come from out of town to attend the festival and most of the artists are from out of town,” Craig said.

“We have a festival sponsor – Republic Services – which has offered to donate $5,000 to help with next year’s budget and to encourage others to donate as well. We’ve got something to build on and show people, yes, these are tough times but we have people who believe in the Arts Association.”

The Silverton Arts Association was formed in 1963 and, since its founding, has been a resource for artists of all ages.

Craig said that it creates a “community of artists and provides a safe, supportive environment for art.”

The SAA also brings art and art education into the community and the schools. Over 3,800 young people were served through the association’s artists-in-education programs and onsite programs and events. The “Kids Show” and “Teen Show” art exhibitions at the association’s Borland Gallery are organized in coordination with the schools, and remain popular with young, budding artists.

“The Teen Show is the most vital thing we do next to the fine arts festival,” Wood said. “Kids are excited about their drawings and paintings. We get some really good work from these high school students and they really are ecstatic – it’s just a delight.”

Craig said the artists-in-education program is helping to meet a major gap in schools.

“None of the [Silver Falls School District] elementary schools have art programs,” Craig said. “We have through a grant and festival support been able to provide artists and art supplies to the other schools. The artists are not on staff, but go into each school on a regular basis for a month or two.”

The SAA also has a program that starts developing a love for the visual arts at an even earlier age. The Park House Preschool introduces the children to color, line, space and other design concepts of visual art. The enrollment at Park House is limited to 12, and there is usually a wait list.

Both Craig and Wood say continuing the fine arts festival is a high priority, noting that it is a win-win for the association and the community.

Contributions to the Silverton Arts Association can be made through its GoFundMe account, which has a link on People can also sign for memberships on the Store button on the website.

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