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The City of Portland, Oregon

Nick Fish (In Memoriam)

City of Portland Commissioner

phone: 503-823-3589


1221 S.W. 4th, Room 240, Portland, OR 97204



Announcing Portland's Next Creative Laureate

January 16, 2018

This morning, Commissioner Fish introduced Subashini “Suba” Ganesan as the City’s next Creative Laureate.

Suba is a leader in the regional arts community, an educator, a performer, and a non-profit founder. An immigrant from Singapore, one of Suba’s goals as Creative Laureate is to celebrate diverse artists and art styles.

The Creative Laureate, established in 2012, serves as the official ambassador for the broader creative community in Portland. The Laureate participates in community education, advocacy, and public events including speaking engagements, workshops, and ceremonial functions.

Creative Laureate Press Release

Commissioner Fish, January 16, 2018


Keeping Portland’s Creative Economy Strong

January 9, 2018

This morning, City Council held a work session to discuss a set of recommendations by Commissioner Fish to protect and expand affordable arts spaces. You can read the proposal here.

For the past two years, Nick and his team have been convening meetings with key community stakeholders and studying best practices from sister cities like Seattle, San Francisco, Denver, and Austin.

As we know, Portland is experiencing rapid growth and a housing crisis. This in turn threatens to displace artists and arts organizations.

Portland has long been a creative hub, with artists and makers of every type finding a niche here. But unless we are intentional about preserving our creative economy, we risk losing what makes Portland special.

Thanks to the many community leaders, local artists and arts organizations, neighborhood groups, property owners and developers who gave us feedback and helped to shape these recommendations.

A Plan for Preserving and Expanding Affordable Arts Space in Portland

Commissioner Fish with Mayor Wheeler and Commissioner Eudaly


As Rents Rise, City Seeks Ways to Save Arts Scene

Jim Redden in the Portland Tribune


Can City Council Help Save Portland’s Endangered Arts Spaces?

Fiona McCann in Portland Monthly


City Council Considers How to Keep Artists in Portland

Claire Duffy in the Portland Business Journal


Portland City Council to Consider Preserving Space for Art

April Baer in OPB News

Could You Be Portland’s Next Creative Laureate?

November 1, 2017

The City of Portland is seeking candidates to serve as our next Creative Laureate.

The Creative Laureate, established in 2012 by former Mayor Sam Adams, serves as the official ambassador for the broader creative community in Portland, Oregon.

Photographer Julie Keefe, the City’s first Creative Laureate, has served our community with distinction.

Portland’s Creative Laureate can be from any creative industry. This includes painters; potters; dancers; musicians; authors; poets; filmmakers; artists working in spoken word, mixed media, or digital media; crafters or makers; or anyone who feels they represent the broader creative community and can meet the basic expectations below.

The Laureate will be expected to actively participate in a select number of public events, including public speaking engagements, workshops, and displays or presentations of their own artistic work, as well as regular interactions with the media. The duties of this position call for a balance between advocacy, education, and ceremonial functions. The ideal candidate should be a self-starter, with excellent time management and good professional judgement.

The Creative Laureate is considered a public official, and will be expected to represent the City accordingly, adhering to public records laws and other community expectations. The position is unpaid, but will receive a $5,000 stipend for the two-year commitment to compensate for any direct costs associated with official duties.

The Laureate reports directly to the City’s Arts Commissioner, meeting at regular intervals with the Commissioner or the Commissioner’s staff. The term of service is two years, and the position is not eligible for reappointment.

The Creative Laureate will be expected to participate in the selection process for his or her successor.

Candidates will be selected based on the following criteria:

   • Record of high quality work.

   • Connection to the broader arts community.

   • Willingness to serve a full term.

   • Commitment to meet the expectations and time requirements of this volunteer position.

   • A personal commitment to equity and expanding access to the arts.

Applications will be accepted starting November 1, 2017 through December 15, 2017.

The Creative Laureate will be selected and announced in mid-January 2018.

Apply Now!

In no more than 1-2 pages, please answer each of the following questions:

   • Why do you want to be the City of Portland’s Creative Laureate?

   • What qualifications do you have that would make you a successful Creative Laureate?

   • What do you hope to accomplish during your time as the Creative Laureate?

Please submit applications to no later than 5:00pm on Friday, December 15, 2017, and attach a resume or CV.

Commissioner Fish Statement on Oregon Supreme Court Affirming Portland Arts Tax is Constitutional

September 21, 2017

Read the State Supreme Court’s media release and full opinion here.

This morning, the Oregon Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the Court of Appeals in Wittemyer v. City of Portland (Supreme Court Case No. S064205) and held that the Arts Education and Access Fund, commonly known as the Arts Tax, is not a prohibited “poll or head tax” under the Oregon constitution.

“We are gratified that the Supreme Court has affirmed the judgments of the Court of Appeals and the trial court,” said City Attorney Tracy Reeve, “and held that the Arts Income Tax is fully constitutional.”

The court’s decision concludes more than four years of litigation over this issue, during which the legality of the tax has been upheld at every level.

“Today’s decision is a big win for Portland’s kids,” said Commissioner Nick Fish. “Thanks to the ruling of the Oregon Supreme Court, over 30,000 Portland children will continue to have arts education in school.”

“Voters overwhelmingly approved the Arts Tax in 2012, recognizing art as fundamental to a child’s education,” Fish noted. “As of today, the legal question about this tax is settled.”


November 2012: Voters approve ballot measure 26-146. This measure imposes a $35 annual tax on every Portland resident over the age of 18.

March 2013: City Council amended the Arts Tax language, creating an exemption for individuals who earn under $1,000 per year.

That same month, Professor Jack Bogdanski filed a lawsuit in Oregon Tax Court against the City of Portland, arguing that this tax constituted a “poll tax”.

Also in March 2013, Mr. George Wittemyer filed a lawsuit in the Oregon Circuit Court.

June 2013, the Oregon Tax Court dismissed Mr. Bogdanski’s lawsuit due to a lack of jurisdiction.

July 2013, the Oregon Circuit Court ruled against Mr. Wittemyer’s law suit, ruling that the Arts Tax does not violate the Oregon constitution, and is not a “poll tax”.

August 2013, Mr. Wittemyer appealed his lawsuit to the Oregon Court of Appeals.

June 2016, the Oregon Court of Appeals affirmed the lower court’s ruling that the Arts Tax is not a “poll tax”, and rules in favor of the City of Portland.

July 2016, Mr. Wittemyer appealed his lawsuit to the Oregon Supreme Court.

March 2017, the Oregon Supreme Court heard oral arguments Wittemyer v City of Portland at Lewis & Clark’s School Law School.

September 2017, the Oregon Supreme Court ruled against Mr. Wittemyer, affirming the lower court’s rulings that the Arts Tax is not a “poll tax” and is constitutional.


Commissioner Fish Statement on Oregon Supreme Court Affirming Portland Arts Tax is Constitutional

Commissioner Nick Fish


With Legal Challenge Over, What's Next For Portland's Arts Tax?

April Baer in OPB


Oregon Supreme Court Upholds Portland’s Arts Tax

Rachel Monahan in Willamette Week


Portland arts tax is legal, Oregon high court rules

KGW News


State's highest court rules for city in art tax legal fight

Nick Budnick from Portland Tribune


Oregon Supreme Court rules Portland arts tax is legal



The Portland Arts Tax is Legal, State Supreme Court Finds

Dirk VanderHart in the Portland Mercury


Portland arts tax is legal, Oregon Supreme Court rules

Jessica Floum in The Oregonian


Oregon Supreme Court Upholds Portland Arts Tax

Pat Boyle in KXL News