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2020-2021 Annual Report

Keeping Connected: Year in Review 

Pandemic life continued to influence the Museum and the Northwest Film Center’s fiscal year ending June 30, 2021. A great deal of effort, enthusiasm and engagement through 2020-2021 has allowed the Museum and the Northwest Film Center to stay connected with the community and with art. Members have played a vital role in supporting the many ways that the Museum and the Northwest Film Center have continued to be a source of art, inspiration, and connection throughout these pandemic times. 

Exhibitions and programs

Faced with growing uncertainty in the early days of the pandemic, the Museum worked with exhibition partners and lenders across the globe to extend or postpone more than 15 exhibitions ranging from single-artist projects to blockbuster exhibitions. When restrictions finally lifted, visitors were thrilled to experience Ansel Adams in Our Time. The familiarity of his work paired with different perspectives was exactly what was needed to reconnect with each other. 

The Museum and the Northwest Film Center also took advantage of typically mild Portland weather to offer experiences outside, including projection mapping exhibitions in partnership with the Mobile Projection Unit, and reenergizing the Drive-In format by presenting the Cinema Unbound Awards outside, along with more traditional offerings. Partnering with The Numberz FM and the City of Portland, the Park Block in front of the Museum was activated as a neighborhood gathering place, offering music, art, and community. 

In all: 

  • 10 exhibitions
  • 60 streaming feature films and 40 shorts
  • 52 outdoor drive-in feature films and 5 shorts
  • 30 Northwest Film Center virtual programs and classes 
  • 41 number of virtual programs
  • 8 number in-person programs and pop-ups

Partnerships, Youth, and Educators

Community Partnerships, along with youth and educator programs have continued to thrive, despite, and because of the challenges presented by the pandemic and the continued uncertainty. As previously reported in this magazine and in other channels, The Numberz FM is making an even greater impact on this institution and in our community than when they first took up residence, broadcasting from the galleries. After a summer of programming and activating the pop-up Madison St. Plaza, The Numberz FM team launched the AUX/MUTE Gallery on the fourth floor of the Main Building. The Gallery is an endeavor designed to reduce the barrier for BIPOC practicing artists to be represented within an institution of high art. 

With students back in the classroom and yet resources still stretched thin for many schools, the Museum continues to partner and collaborate with educators to ensure that access to art and exhibitions remains possible.

Youth and Educator Program Highlights

  • The Poster Project—A set of posters that are created each year featuring works across the permanent collections that are available free of charge to educators in Oregon and Washington. Funded by PGE Foundation.
  • Educator Unconference: Memory and Public Space—an exploration of questions around how we use public space to remember.
  • See Me. iAm. HEAR: A Creative Activation of Youth Voices of Color—a collaboration with the City of Portland’s “Supporting Community Healing with Art” initiative and other partners that transformed the Madison Street Pop-up Plaza into a vibrant creative space activated by and for youth. Featured partners included: The, I AM M.O.R.E., IPRC, and NAYA Many Nations Academy. 
  • Postcards to Earth: PPS HeART of Portland Exhibition and Showcase 2021—the Museum celebrated the work of Portland Public Schools students and teachers with an Ansel Adams-inspired installation in the Museum gift store windows. 

Finance and Fundraising

During the year ended June 30, 2021, the Museum’s finances were again dominated by the global pandemic, for the second year in a row. During the last period of state imposed closure, the Museum was successful in securing a second round of Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) funding that again made it possible to pay staff who were not working for a further two months. Once restrictions were lifted, attendance steadily increased and staff were brought back to work. 

Out of the three years that have been impacted by COVID-19, the Museum will have been closed for nine of those 36 months, and operating with significant capacity restrictions for another 12 months. Leaving just 15 months out of three years when the Museum and the Northwest Film Center could operate normally. The financial impact of this is calculated to be a loss of earned income of around $9 million over the three years. Government relief programs will make up  $7.7 million of this—leaving a shortfall of $1.3 million to be covered by reserves.

Because of this support, and diligent focus on managing expenses over the last 19 months, the Museum ended the year with a positive cash position.

Fundraising highlights

Museum and Northwest Film Center supporters stepped up in a big way over these past 24 months. Highlights of this support include: 

  • Sixty-six percent of all gifts were given without restrictions, which allowed flexibility to adapt and provide programs and exhibitions in new ways while also supporting the arts ecosystem, with initiatives like the Artist Fund.
  • Donors and members gave at all levels, and last fiscal year, more gifts were received by more donors from more parts of the community than ever. 
  • The Museum and the Northwest Film Center received significant relief funding this past year from the state and federal government, preventing drastic cuts to staff and programs during closure, and providing for a smooth reopening. 
  • Significant support came from The Regional Arts & Culture Council, Oregon Cultural Trust, Oregon Arts Commission, and Cultural Advocacy Coalition of Oregon.

Equity Update

The past year has seen the Museum and the Northwest Film Center continue to move racial equity work forward. From exhibitions to programs and partnerships, welcoming conversations about equity and racial justice issues and uplifting the BIPOC community remain priorities. 

Knowing that COVID-19 continues to have a disproportionate impact on our communities of color, it was an honor to be able to share a message of resistance and hope from renowned artist, Portland native, and Museum board member Carrie Mae Weems. Beyond what is visible to the public, the Museum actively reassesses internal policies, creates new initiatives and learning opportunities, and strives to support BIPOC staff.