Galleries seek city help

Portland’s art galleries ask for help from the city as they struggle in the downturn.

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After years of keeping their distance from politics, Portland’s art galleries are reaching out to the city for help as funds run low.

Don’t be fooled by the showy crowds flooding the city’s downtown and Pearl District galleries at First Thursday tonight.

Beneath the gloss of high art is the melodrama of gritty struggle. The city’s art galleries, like most small businesses, are desperately trying to survive the recession. Events reached a frantic pitch recently when the trade organization responsible for the monthly artwalk, the Portland Art Dealers Association, asked City Hall for money to help produce its lustrous marketing brochure mailed to more than 10,000 addresses nationwide.

The first-ever request by the city’s 12 most high-powered galleries for city funds represents the latest financial tussle for a local arts business or nonprofit in these dire times. But the outlook is limned with silver: It’s forced a once-timid group of art dealers into political action while also reaffirming the financial and intangible value of arts and culture groups.

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