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Home > State > Executive > Oregon Arts Commission > Agency History

Oregon Arts Commission: Agency History

The State Lands Building in Salem houses the central offices of the Oregon Arts Commission. (Oregon State Archives Photo)

The State Lands Building in Salem houses the central offices of the Oregon Arts Commission. (Oregon State Archives Photo)

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Written 2000

The Oregon Arts Commission is a State agency established by the legislature in 1967. The Commission receives joint funding from the state and the Federal National Endowment for the Arts. The Commission is governed by nine commissioners appointed by the Governor. The Commissioners determine goals and policies, and review grant applications submitted by art programs across the state. In 1993 the Oregon Arts Commission became a division of the Oregon Economic Development Department.


Prior to establishment of the Arts Commission, there were two grass-root attempts to organize the arts in Oregon. In 1955 the Oregon Chapter of the American Association of University Women conducted a survey of cultural resources in the state. Their attempts to legislatively enact an arts commission failed.


In 1964 the Arts in Oregon Project was formed to organize individuals interest in supporting and advancing the arts in Oregon. The Arts in Oregon Project was vital to the successful passage of legislation creating the Arts Commission. Many individuals involved in the Arts in Oregon Project also served on the Governor's Planning Council for Arts and Humanities established by Governor Hatfield in 1965. The Governor's Planning Council conducted nine statewide hearings to determine the status and needs of the Oregon arts community. These findings were used to help the Council draft legislation to establish the Oregon Arts Commission. The legislation was signed into law on May 26, 1967 by Governor Tom McCall.


The Oregon Arts Commission continues to function with the primary role of issuing project grants to private non-profit arts organizations. The Commission is also involved in the Oregon Folk Arts Program. The agency issues a quarterly publication, The Oregon Gallery Guide, and a listing of performing arts presenters, The Oregon Sponsor Guide.