We took a moment to sit down with our Board of Directors President and the executive director for Artist Repertory Theatre, JS May, to talk about a successful legislative session, what’s ahead, and our new logo.
About JS – he|him
JS (John Stuart) May is a seasoned fundraising and communications professional and has worked with a wide range of local, regional, national and international nonprofit organizations. Since 2018, JS has been the executive director for Artist Repertory Theatre, Portland’s oldest professional theatre. He currently serves as president of the Cultural Advocacy Coalition of Oregon and a board member of Cycle Oregon. JS is an avid yogi, cyclist, and reader.
Q: Tell us how it’s going serving as CACO’s board president, while directing a dynamic organization like ART.
A: Throughout COVID, I have been living with the opening lines from Charles Dickens’, The Tale of Two Cities…It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. I can point to extraordinary successes for both the Coalition and ART, and yet, I also have to acknowledge the devastating impact of the pandemic, both in lives lost, and in the challenges faced by cultural organizations across the state.
Q: What have you learned about cultural advocacy this past year?
A: That it takes every organization and every individual’s involvement. We had great successes this year – the slate of capital projects that were funded was the largest ever, by almost a factor of two. The Oregon legislature generously provided $100 million in operational funding for cultural nonprofits – more than any other state in the country. These stunning outcomes would not have happened without the active day-to-day involvement of Coalition members across the state, supported by our extraordinary board, senior advisor, and lobbyist.
Q: What is CACO doing to become a more equitable and inclusive advocacy organization?
A: The killing of George Floyd along with many other BIPOC people, elevated the urgency for the Coalition to fight against the persistence of systematic racism. Safety and justice are a right for everyone. We recognize the critical role arts and culture play in our local and national conversation and we are committed to the work of becoming an antiracist organization. This is a journey, and we are working to end racial inequities in our organization and culture.
Q: CACO recently rebranded, what was the motivation to create a new look?
A: Given the success of the past year, it was also time to create a more contemporary look and feel to represent our present and future. The Coalition’s membership of more than 350 organizations are located in all areas of the state and represent dancers, theaters, artists, museums, libraries, historical societies, orchestras, radio stations, etc. I could go on. We needed a look that worked for this diverse group and would be recognizable to policy leaders at the local, state, and federal levels. Adding Oregon to our name also clarified where we are from.
Q: What’s ahead for the Coalition in the coming months and year?
A: There is great opportunity ahead for the Coalition to make even more of an impact for our members. Given the successes of the last year that were tied to federal funding for arts and culture, CACO will be more active working with Oregon’s federal delegation. Our amazing lobbyist for many years, Paul Cosgrove, is retiring and we can’t thank him enough for his life-long commitment to Oregon’s arts and cultural institutions. This change creates opportunity and we have hired a new firm, Oxley and Associates. The Coalition is also exploring adding a 501c3 to its current 501c4 structure to better attract private philanthropy to advance our mission, and soon we will be ramping up the capital funding process for the next biennium.