More About Me

I was a high school junior who had struggled mightily in middle school, but found myself thriving of late, with very good grades, mostly because I had found my people and my place in a large, robust theater program. Our drama teacher, the late, great Carol Coburn, encouraged me to apply to be part of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s Summer Seminar for High School Juniors, a two-week immersion program at the country’s largest regional theater company in Ashland. I was one of only 65 students from across the country who had the privilege—and the resources—to participate. 

I was captivated by the Shakespeare and Ibsen and Arthur Miller and Athol Fugard and new playwrights I had never heard of before, but I was also looking for insights for what I might do after high school. I loved theater, but no way did I want to be an actor.

What I discovered in Ashland was an entire business—a multimillion-dollar, complex business!—that makes theatre happen. While the student program was focused on acting and directing and sets and costumes and lights, I asked the program director to introduce me to the marketing staff, and he also had me meet with the development staff? What do they do? 

I was hooked on theater management. I was hired back each summer for the next five years (my senior year of high school and throughout college) as a paid intern in OSF’s education, marketing, and development offices. Thanks again to my amazing drama teacher, I found the perfect bachelor’s program in my own back yard, at the University of Portland, where I learned about accounting and advertising and nonprofit law and HR in the theatre world. When I graduated, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival was establishing Portland Center Stage as an urban branch, and I was lucky to be hired as their first development associate. Several years and positions later, I became Director of Development.

My life and passion are all about those behind-the-scenes support systems that have to be in place for artists and audiences to experience the transformational power of art. After “taking a break” to try something new in the private sector and government work, I was thrilled to be recruited back to the arts when I became RACC’s Director of Community Engagement in 2002.

My 18 years at RACC were a wild and wonderful ride, and I am proud of my accomplishments expanding RACC’s impact over the years, and by extension supporting the larger arts community in the Portland metropolitan area.

Now, I am looking for new ways to support the sector and I am eager to apply my considerable knowledge and expertise, which includes:


Nationally recognized arts leadership

In 2015 I received the Michael Newton Award from Americans for the Arts, which recognizes leadership and innovation in fundraising, and in 2019 I was named the Arts Advocacy Captain for the State of Oregon.


Strong knowledge of the local arts community

I have shared insights and opinions with elected officials, community groups and conferencegoers.


Having fun with special events

I co-founded one of Portland's most beloved fundraising events, The Red Dress Party, and I enjoy putting together fun new ways for people to support the causes they care about.


Expanding public support for the arts

I love working with elected officials to create new opportunities for artists in our community. I co-authored Act for Art (PDF), a 2009 action plan for arts and culture that ultimately led to a new, voter-approved dedicated funding mechanism for arts education and access in Portland.  


Arts patron

There are so many great performances and exhibits to attend around town, and I am proud to financially support a wide variety of nonprofit organizations.


©2020 by Jeff Hawthorne