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Listen: Bend's Arts and Culture Scene with Cate O'Hagan 🎧

Cate O'Hagan is best known for serving as executive director of Arts Central for more than two decades. She shares insights on state and local arts funding and the tensions between authenticity and appealing to tourists.

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For this week’s “Bend Don’t Break” podcast we talk with Cate O’Hagan, a longtime champion of the arts in Central Oregon and the chair of the Deschutes Cultural Coalition. O’Hagan and her board helped decide how to allocate nearly $1 million that recently flowed into the county to support the arts from a fund the state set aside from the CARES Act.

ARTS CENTRAL
  • Arts Central
O’Hagan has had a long career in the arts, only taking a break for a short time to raise cattle outside of Madras. She’s an accomplished mix-media installation artist and cellist. Early in her career, she worked for the Oregon Symphony, Portland Art Museum and the Corcoran Museum in Washington, D.C. She is perhaps most well-known locally for serving as the executive director of Arts Central for 23 years.

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Throughout this conversation, O’Hagan describes the challenges and triumphs for the local arts scene and explores the reasons why the state traditionally has very little money to support cultural organizations in Oregon.

Here in Bend, Visit Bend started the Bend Cultural Tourism Fund a few years ago which redirects some room taxes towards arts organizations hosting events that attract people from outside the area. It’s been a boon for Bend, and helped various festivals and organizations thrive, while offering the local community the opportunity to engage with high-caliber events.

But does the region’s hyper focus on tourism have a detrimental effect on artistic authenticity in Bend? O’Hagan suggested that in the future, perhaps the state could allow for more flexibility with how communities put tourism taxes to work.

“Towns like this will always have a lot of landscape paintings,” she said. “Ceramics with mountains on them and things like that because that's what a
lot of people want to take away when they go home and a lot of those pieces are very affordable… If you go to other places like the beach, that's what you're going to see. But a lot of the more urban areas—Portland, Seattle, San Francisco, LA and on—you're going to have more alternatives to that… Maybe in the future, there could be a little more emphasis on using some of that money [tourism room taxes] to strategize a larger festival that is really high arts focused.”

O’Hagan also discussed her role as co-chair of the Deschutes Cultural Coalition, and how that organization helped to get money in the hands of many local nonprofits and businesses earlier this month that are still struggling from the fallout caused by the coronavirus.

Listen more from Cate O'Hagan on this week's episode of “Bend Don't Break,” hosted by the Source Weekly’s publisher Aaron Switzer. Every week, Switzer invites on a someone from the community with a new perspective on living through the COVID-19 pandemic including mental health professionals, economists, educators, artists, business people, local leaders and historians. Subscribe on iTunes, Soundcloud or wherever you get your podcasts.

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About The Author

Laurel Brauns

Laurel has toured the national coffeehouse circuit as a singer-songwriter and spent years buried in psychology books to earn her (in-progress) PhD. She was rescued from both artistic and academic obscurity by The Source Weekly where she loves telling stories about the people who make this community a better place...

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