Brian Booth Writer’s Fund

Fund honors the memory of UO alumnus and longtime patron of the arts

By UO Student Lili Wagner

The Brian Booth Writer’s Fund is an
endowment that will honor the legacy of
Oregon patron of the arts Brian Booth and
fund Pacific Northwest writers for years to
come. (Photo courtesy of literary-arts.org.)

Brian Booth graduated from the University of Oregon in 1956 with a degree from the College of Arts and Sciences. He went on to pursue a degree in law before returning to the Portland area, where he practiced and lived until his death in 2012. Described as an Oregon Renaissance Man, Booth was an avid patron of the arts, and what he called “All things Oregon.” To honor his life and legacy, Literary Arts, a Portland-based non-profit organization that Booth made an incredible contribution to by creating the Oregon Book Awards & Fellowships—now a program of the organization—created the Brian Booth Writer’s Fund in his honor.

“What’s amazing,” said Literary Arts Executive Director Andrew Proctor, “is that I would run into him at hipster readings where he would be the only non-tattooed guy in the room. On his lunch hour he would go to the Tug Boat Tavern where no one was older than thirty, and he would listen to the emerging writers read their work. He wasn’t stuck in a particular time period.”

Throughout his life Booth helped build some of the state’s most important cultural institutions, including Literary Arts’ Oregon Book Awards and Fellowships program, which helps support Pacific Northwest writers and develop Oregon’s literary tradition. The program has honored 500 Oregon writers and independent publishers to date, and Literary Arts gave $59,000 to Oregon writers and publishers last year alone.

The Brian Booth Writer’s Fund will help fund the Oregon Book Awards and Fellowships program. Proctor explained, “The fund is unique nationally because most endowments come from one wealthy individual, but this is a community effort. We accept donations anywhere from $10 to $10,000. It’s a unique way to build a fund like this, and a way to honor someone deeply committed to Oregon literature.”

The fundraising efforts have been successful so far, as the organization has raised $1.29 million toward its initial $2 million goal for the endowment. In addition to raising funds, the effort has also raised awareness and consciousness of the Oregon literary community.

“Oregon punches above its weight in terms of its literary strength,” Proctor said. “For having such a small population, Oregon really is a mecca for artists.”

Literary Arts and the Oregon Book Awards and Fellowships have worked with contemporary classic and emerging artists, including Ursula K. Le Guin, Raymond Carver, and Cheryl Strayed, author of one of 2012’s most popular memoirs Wild, which was recently turned into the a feature film. Thanks to the legacy of Brian Booth, preserved in the Brian Booth Writer’s Fund, the Oregon Book Awards and Fellowships will continue to aid Pacific Northwest writers and develop the state’s rich literary tradition.