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Mary Oberst, First Lady of Oregon
Published: 03 June 2009

There was a story recently on the news about a historian who was studying old photographs from World War II battles.  What was she looking for?  African American faces.  She knew that thousands of African American soldiers had fought on the front lines of some of the war's toughest battles, in places like Okinawa and Iwo Jima in the Pacific. 
And yet the soldiers depicted in Hollywood movies about World War II have been almost exclusively White (Spike Lee's Miracle at St. Anna being a notable exception).  Photography is just one of many art forms – and museum exhibits of historic photographs just one of many cultural venues – that can tell the African American story.  That is why funding for art and culture is so important.
Here's another example from closer to home. . .
Did you see the recent art exhibit at the Interstate Firehouse Cultural Center? The exhibit of Judith Yelvington's drawings and photographs highlights the history of Portland's dance halls, many of them owned by and catering to African American Portlanders.
This exhibit offers a perfect way to tell you about CHAMP, which stands for "Culture, History, Arts, Movies, and Preservation." The Governor included about $5 million in his proposed budget to support arts, culture, and history—and the jobs that go with them. We hope that our legislature agrees with the Governor's proposed funding.
Here's more information:
Portland—and Oregon generally—is renowned for its "creative economy." Almost 25,000 Oregon jobs are tied to the arts and arts-related businesses. The nonprofit arts sector accounts for more than $250 million in annual spending. We don't want to lose these jobs anymore than we want to lose manufacturing jobs. Art and culture are not frills to be discarded when the economy is hurting.
Art and culture includes everything from architects to clothing designers to film crews to booking agents. When you think of the exhibit at the IFCC, remember that it's drawings and photographs, by an Oregon artist, exhibited in a re-purposed historic building, and it teaches about one small but important slice of our history. Art and culture touches almost everything!
Art and culture are growing sectors of our economy – and critical to the Oregon brand that attracts and retains businesses and educated young people. And arts and culture are critical to education. Study upon study shows that a child's exposure to art and culture improves the child's test scores. Public funding of art and culture also fills some of the arts-education gaps that K-12 schools face. For example, did you know that 86 percent of museums serve children?
And, like the exhibit at the IFCC, art and culture offer low-cost, high value learning and entertainment opportunities for Oregon families during this recession. Art and culture raise hopes and remind Oregonians that there is no better place to live than here.
In 2007, the legislature funded CHAMP and reversed years of divestment in art and culture.  The proposed funding for 2009-2011:
Increases cultural tourism at museums and heritage sites.
Makes art and culture more widely available in rural communities and in our schools.
Keeps artists working while training cultural entrepreneurs to grow their businesses.
Builds public/private partnerships that preserve downtown and neighborhood businesses and strengthen local economies. 
The CHAMP funding package is an excellent investment with excellent returns for all Oregonians. Please ask your legislator to remember to funds CHAMP during this legislative session. To find your legislator, visit www.leg.state.or.us/findlegsltr.

Mary Oberst is the First Lady of Oregon.

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