In Memoriam

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Bill Bulick ’74

March 15, 2018, in Portland, Oregon, of Parkinson’s disease.

Bill was a master at shaping cultural potential and used the arts to build livable and vital communities.

He came to Portland to attend Reed, where he met his wife, Carol McIntosh ’75, and then went to the University of Chicago. He began working as a studio potter and folk musician. After returning to Portland from a two-year adventure playing music and working in Europe, he became an owner in Artichoke Music, a folk music center and instrument shop. This provided a platform for bringing folk music from all over the world to the city, and he founded the World Music Festival.

Bill was named the first program director for Pioneer Courthouse Square and brought thousands of performances to Portland’s living room. Then switching gears, he moved from the folk music niche into arts administration. His calm demeanor, sense of fairness, and determination were a perfect fit for this role, and he quickly became a crucial figure at the old Metropolitan Arts Commission, the arts bureau that supported the operating budgets of major organizations such as the Portland Opera and the Oregon Symphony, and oversaw the purchase and maintenance of public art works. By 1989, he had become executive director and oversaw the bureau’s transition into the Regional Arts and Culture Council (RACC), the primary way the Portland metro government supports art in the tri-county area. During his tenure, the agency quadrupled in size to a budget of more than $4 million, with a full-time staff of more than 20, launching programs that were praised and imitated nationally.

“A thriving arts scene is essential to the vitality, livability, and prosperity of our communities,” Bill said, delineating his business philosophy. “Public and private investment in the arts pays huge dividends because the arts help us to revitalize our neighborhoods and downtown, educate and inspire our youth, celebrate our diverse heritages, animate our public spaces, and attract business investment and jobs.”

He built RACC into a model arts agency, and when he left the agency and became an independent consultant, he used this model to transform other cities, like Austin and Minneapolis, into crucibles for arts and culture. Bill was inclusive in the way he approached arts planning within a community; he wanted everyone to get their fingers in the dirt or get involved in community music. As a principal in Creative Planning, Inc., he worked on master plans for Austin, Minneapolis, the Canada Council for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts, Partners for Livable Communities, the Washington State Arts Commission, the Ohio Arts Council and many others.

After his diagnosis of Parkinson’s and retirement, he became a chi gong teacher. Working to transform subtle energy into health was a further refinement of his work on earth. He leaves his wife, Carol McIntosh, and daughters, Eva and Bita.

Appeared in Reed magazine: September 2018

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