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Creativity United: Arts Central brings the region's art groups together with the Cultural Advocacy Partnership 

Sure, this region might be better known for its mountains and recreational opportunities, but there has for some time also been a strong contingent of art and culture to be found in Central Oregon.

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Sure, this region might be better known for its mountains and recreational opportunities, but there has for some time also been a strong contingent of art and culture to be found in Central Oregon. Now, the scores of artistic and cultural groups in the area will have a louder voice and a bevy of other resources thanks to a new collaborative group developed by Arts Central, our regional cultural council.

The Cultural Advocacy Partnership (CAP) was announced at an Arts Central event last week and presently includes 20 member groups (all of which pay a $100 annual membership fee). It includes some well-known nonprofit and for-profit cultural institutions like BendFilm, the Les Schwab Amphitheater and the Tower Theatre Foundation, but is hoping to bring even more groups into the fold as it progresses. According to Arts Central Executive Director Cate O'Hagan, CAP will allow different cultural groups to work together to enhance the area's reputation as a place for culture while also helping fund the member groups. Essentially, the partnership aims to increase the community's interest in the arts, making them once again a priority. This can be done, she says, through collaboration.

"Unlike other areas in the state, the organizations operate in silos. Everyone is hunkered down and working hard, but not converging. Here, after 15 years in the making, that is happening," says O'Hagan.

Another aspect of CAP is to get art and culture recognized as a draw and an economic resource in our often recreational-focused tourism industry. Art Central's development and marketing manager, John Negrau, points out that culture is hardly a cottage industry in Central Oregon. He says the annual expense budget of all 20 participating organizations comes to a total of more than $18 million, most of which is used in our local economy.

The local governments in the tri-county area do not presently fund the arts, O'Hagan says, but something like CAP could help move more money into the hands of local nonprofits and their artists. The program is already working on a program through which they would take some of Arts Central's grant funds and "re-grant" them to CAP's member groups. CAP would also be open to bringing in sponsoring members to donate to the advocacy partnership's cause.

There are other possibilities for the collaborative organization, including speaking as the voice of arts in Central Oregon and perhaps even dabble in political advocacy.

"There never has been a candidate forum [in Central Oregon] where the candidates were lined up and asked questions about arts and culture," says O'Hagan.

Most importantly, though, she says that CAP is a sign of an arts community that's taking a more proactive approach.

"We're creating a unified voice. We're shifting from whining to acting," she jokes.

For a full list of the Cultural Advocacy Partnership and more information on the group, visit artscentral.org.

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