After 25 years, it’s time to review and renew

Clackamas County Arts Alliance is going through a transformation. “After 25 years of work in the county, we realized we needed to review the past and plan for the future,” said Kevin Yell, president of the board at CCAA. “The retirement of our founding executive director Cheryl Snow just over a year ago and her replacement resigning in November were also contributing factors.”

Clackamas County Arts Alliance board president Kevin Yell enjoys one of the galleries in a Clackamas County building. (PMG: Jonathan House)

Toward that end CCAA board members and members of the Advisory Council for Arts and Culture (ACAC), who are appointed by Clackamas County Commissioners, held a retreat at the beginning of February to determine next steps for both CCAA and ACAC.

“The retreat was structured and brilliantly led by Alice Norris,” said Yell. “We came away with a plan for the revitalization of the organization and practical next steps.” Norris took the group through a four-step agenda, which included an analysis of the current situation, a diagnosis of what needed to be changed, a determination of the unique role for CCAA and ACAC, and a prescription for improved health.

“With all the myriad arts and culture groups that have developed over the past 25 years, many that the Arts Alliance has often helped bring about, including several city arts councils and commissions, cooperative art galleries, developing public art opportunities, as well as the very significant growth in the number of individual artists of various disciplines living in Clackamas County, there are still four things that no other group does, nor is set up to do across the whole county,” Yell said. “These things are to convene, connect and advise communities and individuals across disciplines and/or geography and also to advocate for the arts and culture at neighborhood, city, regional, state and where possible, federal levels.

“These actions have been the work of the Arts Action Alliance since the beginning,” Yell said.“And they still direct the main work we are called to do today. For example, we have just acted as a consultant for the county’s Safe Routes to School poster competition, rolling out this month.”

He said CCAA is also in discussions with another school district in the county to bring the benefits of the Youth Arts for Change program to a new community, and are responding to requests for trainings and to facilitate larger conversations in areas that do not have their own arts councils or commissions.

“The challenge is that so much of our work is done behind the scenes,” Yell said. “We don’t have the name recognition for all the work we do. We need to shift to more modern methods of promoting our work so we can attract a more diverse and younger crowd. CCAA must reflect the diversity of the county’s residents. The world is changing and we need to change as well.”

Yell said the Artist Exhibit Program is still thriving, and for 2020 includes 17 galleries located in private and public spaces throughout the county, and involves 54 artists and two artist groups showing their work on a
rotating basis.

The Youth Arts for Change program, under the direction of Courtney Rainwater, is also thriving. The program aims to improve the lives of teens by:

  • Building positive relationships and teamwork
  • Boosting confidence, communication and creative thinking
  • Connecting with the community
  • Discovering hidden strengths and talents
  • Experiencing a safe setting to learn new skills and grow
  • Exploring creative outlets and career opportunities
  • Sharing what matters with an appreciative audience

“There is also a misconception that the Arts Alliance is focused only on visual arts,” said Yell. “We want to be sure we support a diverse selection of the arts – theater, dance, music, writing and digital art. Learning how to do striping on cars is culture. Our whole lives are called to be artistic.”

Yell said the retreat was an excellent gathering and that people came with questions and energy and that all who attended expressed an interest in continuing to be part of the transformation.

“Change is inevitable and we are ready for it,” concluded Yell.

To learn more about how you can get involved with CCAA visit


Article appeared in the Spring 2020 Clackamas County Cultural Guide

By Barb Randall
Pamplin Media Group

Share on Pinterest
Share with your friends