Hillsboro, Oregon, had a few distinguished guests drop in this week to visit The Vault Theater and Bag and Baggage Productions. This was quite an honor for our town. The stop was specifically for Congresswoman Suzzane Bonamici and Dr. Maria Rosario Jackson to see how local arts benefit from Federal funding as we all come out of the pandemic.
The Vault, which is one of the premier theater facilities in the Pacific NW, is home to the professional theatre company Bag and Baggage Productions. For years the theatre group wowed audiences with tremendous productions in The Vault Theater, which is located at 350 East Main Street in Downtown Hillsboro.
Tualatin Valley Creates describes the Vault as, “The Vault Theater & Event Space is home to Hillsboro’s only professional theatre company, Bag&Baggage Productions. Additionally, the theater hosts live music, stand-up comedy, and films. The theater may be rented for banquets, events, meetings, weddings, private film screenings, and more.
During the meeting with Dr. Jackson and Bonamici, Founding Artistic Director Scott Palmer made it clear to those in attendance that Bag and Baggage came within 3 months of disappearing as an organization. The Pandemic made it financially impossible for organizations like theirs to survive. One year without a live audience could have been managed, but 3 years have all but devastated the arts in so many American cities. Palmer was on the record that the Federal assistance they received made the difference between life and death.
Scott Palmer of Bag and Baggage speaks to the group in the lobby of The Vault. Congresswoman Bonamici (right) and Dr. Maria Rosario Jackson (left) listen intently to the organization’s history, the facility, and how the pandemic affected everyone. Photo Dirk Knudsen
“Bag and Baggage received a bump in funding from the Regional Arts and Culture Council due to RACC getting additional support from the NEA during the pandemic,” said Palmer emphasizing that this was so huge.
Also, the City of Hillsboro has provided a crucial sponsorship from day one, providing loans and funding so that Bag and Baggage would have The Vault as a home in such a central and wonderful location. In return, the people of Hillsboro and beyond get access to a big-time theatre group. This arrangement takes money to work and can only happen when the arts are given a value beyond one determined in pure dollars.
“The City of Hillsboro and B&B has a unique arrangement where the City will provide operating support to Bag & Baggage equivalent to 10% of their previous year’s operating budget, not to exceed $100,000 annually. I believe last year, the funding amounted to about $30,000,” added Palmer who reiterated the strong ties with Hillsboro, the Regional Arts and Culture Council, and the Federal groups as being life sustaining.
Left to right: TS McCormick, Managing Director of Bag&Baggage; Helen Daltoso, Director of Grants for the Regional Arts and Culture Council, Carol Tatch, Co-Executive Director of the Regional Arts and Culture Council, Scott Palmer, Founding Artistic Director of Bag&Baggage.
Also in attendance were City of Hillsboro staff from the Walters Cultural Arts Center up the street and City of Hillsboro Cultural Arts District Manager Bridie Harrington. So the Federal power of the National Endowment for the Arts, Congresswoman Bonamici, key Washington County staff, and City of Hillsboro staff were all in the house. It was a gathering of great importance where Dr. Rosario got to see and hear firsthand how the Federal government makes a huge difference at the community level. With the assistance of Senator Bonamici, who has proposed legislation to increase funding for the arts, more support will be forthcoming.
Speaking of art, Bag&Baggage is selling out their current play, The Last White Man, featuring supremely talented actor James Luster and others. The audience at this gathering was treated to Luster performing excerpts from the play. It was powerful and drove home the importance of Bag and Baggage and organizations like them to our communities. This new performance is the first live play to be featured since the pandemic hit and has the performers and The Vault they work within buzzing with life once more. Palmer directs the Bill Cain play, which is garnering great reviews. Here is the calendar and ticket link so that you can get out and enjoy live theater.
We asked Palmer what this important visit means to Bag&Baggage? What was the big takeaway?
The big takeaway? Bag&Baggage is back, in no small part because of federal, state, city and regional funding. While many other theatres the size of B&B folded during the pandemic, the funding B&B received not only allowed the company to survive, it helped put them in a strong position to thrive in the coming years.
Dr. Jackson is a very important person in the world of the arts and was very favorably impressed based on what she said and the smile on her face at the end of the event. Chair Jackson is currently on leave from Arizona State University, where she is a tenured Institute Professor at the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts.
Not far up the street, another Community theatre group, HART Theatre, is also featuring a new play. They, too, receive community and public support. We will cover HART in another article later this Fall.
The Hillsboro Herald is a Community paper written by local citizens. Our purpose is to tell the stories of our town, the citizens, our government, and the rich culture we enjoy in a way no one else can or will. Welcome to the Peoples Paper!