Hillsboro Deserves Professional Theatre

It is a tradition, particularly on the opening night of a new show, for the Director to give a curtain speech. For the most part, these speeches are used for standard stuff like thanking sponsors, welcoming guests, announcing the new season, asking for millions of dollars in donations…you know the drill.

For Bag&Baggage, we have used these curtain speeches (which I or a nervous member of the board have done before every single show in the last 2 years!) to make a simple claim: that the residents of Hillsboro deserve access to high quality, affordable and professional theatre right here, where we live, in our own backyards.

Now, this may not seem at all like a controversial thing to say. But, for those of you who are natives of Hillsboro, you will understand that for a very long time, those of us in the Western part of the Metro-area thought of ourselves as not just “the suburbs” but not even really a part of the greater Portland area. I remember when I was in High School, my friends and I used to say we were “going into Portland” in the same way we would have said “I am travelling to London.” We were not a city. We weren’t even really a town. In fact, we would never have even considered that Hillsboro had cultural offerings or late night activities that would have been of interest to us. Never.

Burgerville, yes. Skateworld, yes. But theatre? Galleries? Live music? No freakin’ way.

But things are different now. Hillsboro, and the entiriety of Washington County, is growing up and growing fast. We aren’t just a town, we are a thriving community of families, corporations, small businesses, and artists. We have a mall, even, with a Macys! I mean, if that isn’t “arriving,” I don’t know what is…

Well, actually, I do know what I think it means when a place like Hillsboro becomes a real, thriving and truly independent community. Professional arts and culture.

Many of you may not know this, but Washington County is a major funder of the Arts. Just not here in Washington County. We are a donor county when it comes to the arts. Taxes from Washington County that go to support organizations like RACC (the regional arts and culture council) are far more often than not given (in the form of grants) to the largest arts organizations in Multnomah County. As a result, if we residents of Hillsboro want to get access to professional theatre, museums, art galleries or live music…well, we gotta drive 20 miles, pay $30 for parking, upwards of $65 per ticket, and drive home.

Not only do our taxes go to support professional arts in Portland, but so do our cultural tourism dollars. We are supporting an entire sub-economy of arts and culture every time we drive out of Hillsboro and into Portland. We deny our local businesses our money, our local artists and performers our support, and deny our kids and grandparents access to professional creative expression right here in our own backyards, where they live.

To be honest, it seems ridiculous to me that residents of Washington County are providing more money in support for the arts in Portland than we are for struggling, growing, ambitious arts organizations here in Hillsboro. It seems crazy to me that we are paying for parking, drinking wine and buying food from restuarants in Portland when we could be spending that money here, in our community, supporting our own economic development.

We believe that professional arts organizations like the Sequoia Gallery, the Glenn & Viola Cultural Arts Center, The Venetian Theatre, the Kingstad Center, and (yes) Bag&Baggage deserve the support of local government, of local tax dollars, and of local patronage. And we believe that a concerted effort on the part of our community, making our voices heard to Metro, RACC, the Washington County Commission, and to our neighbors can make a real difference.

All of us here at Bag&Baggage hope you agree, and hope you will show your support for professional arts and culture here in Hillsboro by coming to our shows, visiting the Sequoia gallery, attending a live music event at the Walters Center, or (better yet) making a donation to Bag&Baggage. We need your support, and we live here.

Scott Palmer, Artistic Director