The Salem Project strives to make the arts accessible to low-income Oregonians
About eight years ago, Michael Mann heard about a new program in Portland: Art for All.
This was a new partnership between the city and local arts and culture programs and music organizations that offered $5 tickets to classical music performances to low-income residents. A total of 1,410 discounted tickets were sold in the first six months of the program.
Mann thought that was the kind of program Salem could also benefit from.
In 2013, Salem for All launched a website providing low-income residents with discounted tickets to theater, dance and music performances, as well as some classes. In a weekly newsletter and at salemforall.orghe also shares information about free opportunities in Salem and throughout the state.
Negotiated discounted admissions are available to all Oregonians with Oregon Trail cards. The state distributes the cards to those eligible for programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and TANF Cash Benefits. More than 22,000 homes in Marion County enjoy the benefits of the Oregon Trail. Statewide, one in six Oregonians use the SNAP food assistance program.
Participating organizations are listed on the organization’s website. To obtain a discounted ticket, eligible individuals can present their Oregon Trail Card at the box office or wherever tickets are sold and request at least two tickets. Some organizations offer more.
The goal is to foster a community where everyone can participate in the fun things happening in the community, Mann said.
“Salem for All is about helping people grow,” he said, saying watching a play, listening to a concert or visiting an art gallery all provide opportunities to grow and participate in the community. .
Mann said he is excited about the growth of the program over the years and the expansion of the coalition of participating organizations. The growth represents numerous calls to various arts organizations to invite them to partner with Salem for All.
Salem for All connects people with resources and privileges in Salem and channels their resources to the underserved population, Mann said.
“The underserved deserve peace and joy in their lives,” he said.
When Salem for All turned one year old in 2014, the website averaged about 15 visits per day. Last month there were days with up to 50 visitors.
The organization now has more than 100 partners, Mann said, including the Salem Musician Alliance, KMUZ, Keizer Homegrown Theater, Marion County Master Gardener Association, Travel Salem and the Oregon Symphony Association in Salem.
“As we see, this helps so many people who might visit a doctor’s office or a small coffee shop,” Mann wrote in an update. “Helping 50 people a day improve their lives is very satisfying for us.”
He expects the number to continue to grow as new programs are added and Salem for All partners attempt to bounce back from COVID-19 restrictions.
Salem for All remains a part-time job for Mann. He currently lives on a farm in Shaw but is deeply dedicated to the project.
Mann grew up in Salem, attending St. Joseph’s Catholic School in Salem, Serra Catholic High School, and McNary High School before attending Lewis and Clark College in Portland.
Salem for All members are currently working to raise awareness of the program. They are also working on partnerships with organizations such as Union Gospel Mission to provide more opportunities for homeless people in the city.