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Making the Arts in Rural Oregon Their Business (from The pARTnership Movement)

Kathleen Chaves

Kathleen Chaves

In 2002, jobs were scarce in rural, isolated Baker City, OR, population 10,000. My husband and I decided to dedicate ourselves to growing our 20-year-old company, Chaves Consulting, Inc. from providing two jobs to creating 100 with a complete package of benefits.

At about the same time, another vision was being created by the Crossroads Arts board to have someone raise the almost two million dollars it would take to renovate Baker City’s historic 1909 Carnegie Library building to become their new home after spending much of its history without a permanent one. The Crossroads board asked if I would be the grant writer to raise the funding and manage the renovation project.

My husband, Richard, and my motivation for leading the project was based on the vision of how the arts could grow and make a huge difference in the lives of Baker’s children and families, as it had altered mine. I strongly believed that this project would provide children an avenue to express themselves and uplift them as it had done for me during my teenage years when I felt very disconnected and lost.

We believed that the arts could give children a voice who otherwise felt lonely and isolated. The arts saved my life and made me feel a part of something. I believed it could do the same in Baker. In addition, the renovated Carnegie building would give hundreds of adult Eastern Oregon artists an incredible space to share their gift.

In 2008, six years and $1.8 million later, Chaves Consulting and the Crossroads Arts board had realized their vision of creating a fully restored historic gem to be Crossroads Art Center’s permanent home. Crossroads Carnegie Art Center is a community art center that provides sales gallery, pottery studio, dance studio, classrooms, and a theater space in which people of all ages can show their art and receive ongoing art education.

Crossroads also hosts community events, lectures, programs, and traveling art shows. It is available for businesses to conduct retreats and meetings, and for weddings, graduation receptions…anything the community could envision.

Chaves Consulting, Inc.’s 30 employees continue to support Crossroads with sponsorships, donations, and the most valuable commodity—our time. Chaves creates and supports an employee environment that encourages participation in the arts. My husband and I do simple things like purchasing artist Terri Axness’ cards that depict Baker City’s beauty to send as business thank you notes.

Mary Tomlinson, our marketing director, and I lead a mentoring team for Crossroads Executive Director Ginger Savage. Chaves team members have folded newsletters, made displays for fundraising efforts, fixed the executive director’s broken computer (numerous times), and generally are there for Crossroads for projects large or small.

My husband, Richard, is currently advising Ginger on the selection of new membership software for the organization.

Ginger appreciates the help, saying, “For me as a nonprofit director, to be able to ask questions or get help at no charge from a business like Chaves is amazing! I get professional advice and it takes their amazing staff, in most cases, minutes to answer my questions. Chaves makes it a priority to help the arts!”

Chaves Consulting, Inc. received a 2012 BCA10 Award from the Americans for the Arts for leadership in the Carnegie restoration project and their long-term support of Crossroads and the arts in rural, geographically remote, high-poverty Eastern Oregon.

When thanking Americans for the Arts for the award, Richard said, “If every company did their part in their communities to support children and the arts, it would become the norm instead of the exception.”

This year Crossroads hosted “Persistence in Clay: Contemporary Ceramics in Montana” a national traveling exhibition of ceramics from the Missoula Art Museum. It was the organization’s first national traveling exhibition and they were able to leverage over $60,000 in grant funds to promote the show and make permanent improvements to the center.

In 2013, Crossroads Carnegie Art Center celebrates its 50th Anniversary as the oldest continuously operating community arts center in the state of Oregon.

Crossroads envisions celebrating by starting an artist relocation program and continuing to attract artists and traveling shows that will enrich the lives of children and adults in Eastern Oregon.

(This post is one in a weekly series highlighting The pARTnership Movement, Americans for the Arts’ campaign to reach business leaders with the message that partnering with the arts can build their competitive advantage. Visit our website to find out how both businesses and local arts agencies can get involved!)

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