OSF raised $484,000 at in-person gala celebration on Saturday

Students honor Ty Defoe with native ceremonial blanket. Joe Sofranko photo/OSF
October 5, 2022

Fundraising to continue, as nonprofit anticipates budget shortfall in the ‘millions’

By Holly Dillemuth, Ashland.news

As part of its annual gala weekend celebration, Oregon Shakespeare Festival met its fundraising goal and then some on Saturday, raising $484,000 in its first in-person fundraiser held at Ashland Hills Hotel Grand Ballroom.

Themed “Onward, OSF,” the event drew more than 100 people in person and about 150 people online. The initial fundraising goal was $475,000. The event has been held only online in recent years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. OSF actors Meme Garcia and William Thomas Hodgson hosted the event.

Meme Garcia and William Thomas Hodgson, OSF actors and hosts of the 2022 Gala. Joe Sofranko photo/OSF

“I felt like an organization of this size has to have a way to celebrate and honor the people who donate to keep it going,” OSF Artistic Director Nataki Garrett told Ashland.news. “It’s a way to sort of celebrate the means by which an organization continues to flourish.”

OSF also honored Grammy Award-winner Ty Defoe, an interdisciplinary artist from the Oneida and Ojibwe nations. Defoe is known for his works across the issues of gender, social justice, and environmentalism as an actor, playwright, composer, choreographer, eagle dancer and hoop dancer, one of the oldest native dances. He also serves as the Movement Director for Mother Road and Manahatta, and a commissioned transmedia artist for OSF’s QuillsFest.

“Ty is an expansive performance-maker,” Garrett said, “who also composes and choreographs, an enigmatic actor who has lit up Broadway stages, a powerful community-builder deeply connected to the uplifting of native theater, and an astute consultant for equity through his organization Indigenous Direction. Ty is the epitome of what I mean when I say, ‘Center the artist.’”

Fundraising efforts will continue for OSF, as the nonprofit prepares for a budget shortfall in the “millions” this year, according to Diane Yu, chair of the OSF Board of Directors.

The OSF budget ranges between $38 million and $42 million, and Garrett agreed in a separate interview that a shortfall this year is “guaranteed.”

“We’re growing out of this crisis, we’re trying to figure out a pathway forward,” Garrett said. “My goal here is to create a sustainable organization that I can guarantee that OSF will be here in 85 years for a group of people that I will never meet because I won’t be here, but they’re going to do something amazing and tremendous with the legacy that we leave behind and we all have a responsibility right now to make sure that OSF is sustainable.

“We’re working with our foundational funders, that’s why we went back to Capitol Hill to look at some of the resources that the current administration is offering to see how to create clearer pathways,” she added.

Yu anticipates numbers related to the shortfall will be available in November as the season wraps up.

“It’s daunting,” Yu said. “We’re looking for millions of dollars and we’re looking for ways to keep our terrific theater production as strong as is possible.

“All this will take time, so patience is truly a virtue here,” she added.

Before Garrett and Schmitz joined OSF, Yu said the nonprofit experienced a budget shortfall.

“Wildfires hit with a vengeance starting in 2017 when we had to cancel 27 plays,” Yu said. “We were starting a recovery plan to get out of that and then the pandemic hit.

“It’s going to take us years to get out of it, but we have good leaders, we have strong thinkers, we have board support for taking steps to minimize anticipatable losses and to try to deal with the contingencies that we couldn’t anticipate and yet strike us anyways,” she added.

Yu remains optimistic about the future of OSF under its current leadership.

“We have great ambitions to make OSF a household name in more than just these environs,” Yu said.

Reach Ashland.news reporter Holly Dillemuth at hollyd@ashland.news.

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Bert Etling

Bert Etling

Bert Etling is the executive editor of Ashland.news. Email him at betling@ashland.news.
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