The Right Brain Initiative


Imagine This! scholarship application deadline has been extended!

April 29th, 2016 by Rebecca

This could be you, if you win a scholarship to our Imagine This! symposium this June! Get your application in by Friday, May 20. Photo by Cecily Caceu.

We’re so pleased to offer 12 scholarships to Imagine This!, our 3-day creativity symposium for educators:

  • Two full scholarships for people of color
  • Ten partial scholarships, open to anyone with financial need

The deadline has been extended by a few days, so get those scholarships in by Friday, May 20! Download the application here.

Register Now for the 2016 Imagine This! Symposium

April 13th, 2016 by Chloe Hight


Hosted by the Portland Art Museum, our 2016 Imagine This! symposium is scheduled for Tuesday June 21st through Thursday June 23rd! The Right Brain Initiative invites educators, classroom teachers, arts teachers, principals, curriculum directors and teaching artists to participate in three days of active learning with local and national leaders in the arts. Through this year’s theme, “Giving Voice Through the Arts,” participants will explore how creative mediums give platform to those who typically aren’t heard. Our presenters, including keynote speakers Glenis Redmond and Jelly Helm, will help participants deepen their ability to integrate the arts into K-8 classrooms.

We are also pleased to announce that we are offering scholarship and graduate credit opportunities to attend this year’s symposium. 

**Register by April 30th to receive the early-bird discount!**

Thank you to Bank of America for serving as the Presenting Sponsor of Imagine This!


Glenis Redmond - Poet (Poetry as healer)

Glenis Redmond


Jelly Helm


2015 Imagine This! Symposium. Photos by Paul Fardig. 




This blog post was created by Chloe Hight, the Outreach Apprentice for The Right Brain Initiative. She is a practicing visual artist and a teaching artist in K-12 schools in Oregon, Washington, Vancouver, BC and Alaska. 

New teaching artists!

April 11th, 2016 by Rebecca


We are delighted to introduce eight of the newest members of our teaching artist team, now featured on our artist roster. These talented artists made it through a competitive application process, proving themselves to be experienced educators who are versed in integrating the arts with other subjects. Right Brain teaching artists work at Right Brain partner K-8 schools around the Portland area, collaborating with classroom teachers to make curriculum come to life through music, digital media, movement, visual art and much more. This work is part of our effort to help classroom teachers develop the skills to integrate creative thinking throughout their teaching on a daily basis.

Click on the name of each artist to see their full profile on our roster.

Midori Hirose
Midori is a multi-media artist who specializes in using approachable, multi-purpose visual art materials to help students create their own interpretations of an object and explore new stories. With natural connections to science, literacy and social studies, Midori invites students to the table to share their stories using visual representations as the medium.  Midori was recently honored to be one of 34 regional artists selected to participate in the Portland 2016 Biennial.

Nancy Judd
Nancy Judd uses recycled art and fashion as a means to encourage young people to see that there is no such thing as waste, only wasted resources. She believes fashion is a fun, positive and interactive lens to view issues related to resource use, climate change and the future of human habitation on earth.  Nancy’s elegant eco-fashions are exhibited in venues such as airports, museums, and shopping centers – one of her pieces, the Obamanos Coat, is part of the Smithsonian’s permanent collection.

Brian Kettler
Using elements of drama and storytelling, playwright Brian Kettler works with students to bring everyday school subjects to life. He believes that learning about acting and drama will help students in whatever life path they choose:  helping them to be more comfortable speaking in public, giving them permission to be silly, take risks and make big choices.  Brian says “As a theater educator, I am dedicated to sharing the tools of self-expression with populations who are new to writing or performing — because self-expression is a right, not a privilege.”

David Loitz
David Loitz is a multimedia artist and (almost) licensed classroom teacher who works with students to help bring their learning to life using a range of digital and dramatic arts including stop motion animation, photography, filmmaking, theater and acting. His philosophy is that media arts can enhance collaboration, deepen learning and inquiry, allow reflection, and express student voice.

Alisa McDonald
A licensed classroom teacher with a background in STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math), Alisa uses visual arts experiences to help students wonder, discover, experiment, and create. With a focus on celebrating diverse cultural traditions like mask-making and batik, Alisa takes inspiration from the environment and personal stories to create meaningful and collaborative arts experiences for students of all ages.

Believe in Wonder Publishing: Brian and Josie Parker
Brian Parker is a children’s book author/illustrator and his publishing group, Believe in Wonder, is a family enterprise run jointly with his wife Josie. While working with students to communicate personal ideas on paper, they aim to promote imagination, inspiration and positive thinking in students. This multi-media art form will help students to develop their own unique voice and to tell their personal stories.

Luciana Proano
As a Peruvian dancer and artist, Luciana works with students to learn about cultural heritage through movement and creativity. Whether it’s exploring geometric patterns through dance, history subjects expressed through the body, or rhythm in connection with math, Luciana works with students to input their own self-expression into a traditional form or subject. Available to teach in Spanish-immersion classrooms!

Darlene Solomon Rogers
Darlene, aka Blacque Butterfly, is a renowned poet, spoken word artist, singer/songwriter, and motivational speaker with deep native Oregonian roots.  Individually and collectively, Darlene’s students have the opportunity to exchange stories, traditions, and history, to connect to the past and current social justice events.  Her goal as a teaching artist is to create intercultural awareness and understanding through theater, music and storytelling:  “I love to see students share what they learned with friends and family as we are all woven into the same story”.


Right Brain partner schools work with a total of nearly 50 individual artists and arts organizations. See our full artist roster here.

Want to be part of our teaching artist roster? We’ll have more information this summer about our application for the 2016-17 school year. To receive all the latest updates, please join our email list.

Right Brain Teacher Profiles – Benjamin Fong and Gabriel Gonzalez

March 21st, 2016 by Kelsey Gray

We’re pleased to share another story of teacher experience with The Right Brain Initiative. Learn about the animating impact Right Brain has had upon teachers Benjamin Fong and Gabriel Gonzalez, as well as the powerful ways the two have seen the program make meaningful change in their students’ lives and learning.

fong and gonzalez profile

Benjamin Fong and Gabriel Gonzalez are on a mission. They work at WL Henry, a fiercely proud English/Spanish bilingual school where 100% of students are on the free and reduced lunch program. They are committed to doing whatever it takes to get all their students learning, feeling supported and excited about coming to school.

Several years ago, the two teachers, both lifelong musicians, began inspiring one another to bring music to their kids. “The kids at this school are second language learners of English and Spanish, so it’s great for them to practice language through music,” Benjamin said.

fong quote

When the school became a Right Brain partner, they attended workshops and learned how to add movement to the music, and reach all their students, regardless of language capacity. “Right Brain opened my eyes to tapping into some other mediums,” Gabriel said. “I felt like a fool that we weren’t pushing the boundaries more.”

In Spring 2015, the teachers worked with Right Brain teaching artist Bobby Abrahamson, who has a background in using photography to give voice to those who aren’t typically heard. Students created portraits with accompanying text that connected their personal experiences to literature and history. Many of them reflected upon the fear and frustration that comes with having family members who are undocumented, and what they would do to fight the injustices of society. “In the future, I hope my family gets paid equally as other people,” wrote one 5th grader.



Student work from a WL Henry residency with Right Brain teaching artist Bobby Abrahamson. Translation: “I have a fear of being separated from my family.”

Bobby printed every one of these powerful portraits on banners that they debuted in the Hillsboro Civic Center Plaza. This process allowed Benjamin and Gabriel to help kids find their voices in an artistic medium they couldn’t tackle alone. And it enabled them to share their students’ perspectives, and celebrate the richness of their school, with all of Hillsboro.

Gabriel concludes: “All teachers should get a taste of bringing this into the classroom. The rewards are invaluable.”

This year’s progress report is filled with stories of our impact upon teachers and schools, and this is one in a series we’re posting on the Right Brain blog! Read more about the transformative and personal impact we’re having upon teachers and within schools in our latest progress report. Download the full progress report here!

Our summer symposium kicks off June 21.

January 29th, 2016 by Rebecca


Save the date! It’s been confirmed that our next Imagine This! symposium is scheduled for June 21-23, 2016 at the Portland Art Museum. We’ll post updates on speakers and sessions as they become available.

Join our email list to receive alerts delivered directly to your inbox.

To learn more about this program, please check out these links:


Be part of our three-day hands-on learning experience for educators this June! Photo by Cecily Caceu.

Year-End Fundraising a Success!

January 7th, 2016 by Kelsey Gray


Happy New Year! We’ve had a smashing holiday season here at Right Brain and want to share our gratitude for all the support we received during our year-end giving campaign. Between the Willamette Week’s annual Give!Guide and our own online donation portal, individual donors raised us $20,269, equipping Right Brain with the funds to serve four more schools in the coming year! 

On New Year’s Eve, we wrapped up our sixth and most successful campaign with the Give!Guide. This year, thanks to the 279 donors who gave through the guide, we were able to raise $17,440, plus an extra $1,000 for rallying the most givers under the age of 36 in our category. 


What do these numbers mean? In the coming school year, hundreds more students will be exposed to meaningful arts-integrated classroom experiences, and their teachers will be equipped with the game-changing tools of Right Brain’s professional development sessions. This is a huge deal! Right Brain sends a heartfelt thank you to all those who support us in any capacity – your investment in the Initiative has a lasting impact on kids in our community.


We also want to give a shout-out to the winner of our weekend in the wine country getaway, Alex Blue! Here’s a sweet pic of Alex and her daughter – thanks Alex! Hope your weekend away is one for the books.


Right Brain Teacher Profile – Megan Smith

December 30th, 2015 by Kelsey Gray

The following profile on Right Brain teacher Megan Smith is included in our new 2015 Progress Report, one of four teacher testimonials featured in this latest update on our work and achievements over the past year. Check out what Megan has to say about the eye-opening experience she’s had with Right Brain.

megan smith profile

1st grade teacher Megan Smith radiates with energy when she talks about her classroom. But her mood softens when she reflects upon her experience with arts education. She likens it to the black-and-white instruction one would usually associate with a math class. “I made mistakes,” she said. “In class I would be told, ‘A tree does not look like that…’ So I just said, ‘Nope, the arts are not for me.’ “

Megan admits that she didn’t see the value of Right Brain in the first couple of years her school partnered with the program. “I didn’t get it. I was like, ‘I don’t know how this is going to be useful and I just don’t have time.’”

Things began to shift in the spring of 2014, when Megan worked with Right Brain teaching artist Nikki Flinn of Acts of Wonder to integrate theatre with literacy. Students used principles of performance to dig deeper into the meaning and characters of classic fairy tales. By physically embodying the characters of these stories, she saw her students more engaged in the classroom than ever before, learning and making sense of the content in profound new ways.

Watching Nikki work, Megan experienced a radical shift. “What Nikki did in my classroom is literally the most amazing thing I have ever seen. It has totally changed my perspective on my own teaching,” she said. “I used to say, ‘The kids don’t have time for drama, they are supposed to be reading!’ Now I know that the more they play when they read, the more they read. I am now a believer in drama.”

Megan gained concrete tools from Nikki and a structure that allowed her to feel safe trying new things on her own in the classroom. “I would have not even known how to take that risk before Right Brain. Now I can say, ‘It’s not scary!’ If it doesn’t work, I can make a mistake in front of these kids and it’s totally cool, we will move past that.”

Ultimately, she was surprised that she was able to get the same results that Nikki did. And she was able to translate theatre to the students’ writing process. The kids embodied a character through theatre and they wrote from the perspective of that character with added depth.

Based on the success of these experiences, Megan totally re-envisioned the structure of her school year. She made plans to start with theatre. “The arts are not a distraction. They really aren’t. I have no idea how I have time for this, but I’ve made time for it because it actually works. It’s had a major impact. Major.”

megan smith quote

This year’s report is filled with stories of our impact upon teachers and schools, and Megan’s is one in a series we’re posting on the Right Brain blog! Read more about the transformative and personal impact we’re having upon teachers and within schools in our latest progress report, and find out more what Right Brain has been up to over the past year.

Download full Progress Report here!

Investing in Teachers: Gustavo Molina

December 21st, 2015 by Kelsey Gray


Gustavo Molina is another teacher featured in our 2015 Progress Report, just recently released! Read on to find out about Gustavo’s experience with arts integration in and the creative learning he sees growing in dynamic ways.

gustavo molina profile2

Gustavo Molina was raised and educated in Mexico City, he carries a distinct perspective about the role of creativity in education: “If you know about the culture of Mexico and the history of the Mayans and the Aztecs, they were artistic galore. Building and creating is stuck into our society. In Mexico, there is dancing, poetry, art, all the time in every school.”

Gustavo was trained to teach in Mexico. He later moved to Los Angeles and then Portland, where he found work at Beach, a bilingual K-8 public school in North Portland. He was surprised to discover that in the United States, reading and math are viewed as distinct subjects, isolated from each other and from the arts. “It was a shock for me,” he remarked. “Of course, we know that math and language arts are related to art; you cannot separate them.”

Right Brain and Beach became partners in 2009, and at first, some teachers weren’t sure what to make of it. But as teachers completed Right Brain workshops and collaborated with teaching artists, they became confident about trying new art forms. Through Right Brain, Beach teachers brought an incredible range of disciplines to the school—Ghanaian drumming, Latin dance, digital storytelling. They erected giant murals. “I definitely saw a change in my colleagues,” Gustavo said.

In time, momentum grew to a point that staff formed a coalition to advocate for creativity. “There was an alliance,” he said. “This core of teachers would say, ‘Hey, we need art. It’s an important part of our lives.’”

And what was the result of all this momentum? Teachers saw new things radiating from their students. Gustavo tells a story about one child who entered his class with low self-esteem. The student transferred to the school mid-year with poor Spanish skills; a challenge at this bilingual school. But once he began working with Oregon Ballet Theatre through Right Brain, his behavior began to shift. He went home and taught his little sister what he learned in school about dance. “He was an introvert when he came to my class. When he left, he was totally the opposite. He became more confident. Amazing, right?” Gustavo said. “I see a lot of the students now being more focused and vocal and active.”

Through Right Brain, Gustavo found new teaching tools, colleagues to collaborate with, and validation. “Right Brain gave me more strength to say, ‘You are on the right track. Don’t give up.”

gustavo molina quote2

This year’s Progress Report is filled with stories of our impact upon teachers and schools, and Gustavo’s is one in a series we’re posting on the Right Brain blog. Read more about the transformative impact we’re having upon teachers and schools by downloading the full progress report here!

Investing in Teachers: Karen Murphy

December 2nd, 2015 by Kelsey Gray

Our  2015 Progress Report has hit the streets, and it’s 
filled with stories of our impact upon teachers and schools.

In celebration of this work, we bring you an excerpt—a testimonial from North Plains Elementary School Principal Karen Murphy. Read on as Karen reflects upon the creativity she sees being brought to life through Right Brain.

karen murphy profile

North Plains, Oregon is a remote town more than 25 miles northwest of Portland. Karen Murphy is the energetic principal of the town’s elementary school. In addition to Karen’s work as an educator, she has been a singer with the Dickens Carolers for almost 20 years. “The arts are really a priority for me as a human being,” she says.

When she became principal at North Plains in 2013, she found there wasn’t as much art as she was accustomed to. “It saddened me greatly.”

Because of Karen’s stance on the arts, it’s likely no accident that the school district identified North Plains to partner with Right Brain. In the fall of 2014, three of Karen’s teachers began attending Right Brain professional development workshops. They then designed a residency with Korekara Taiko, a Japanese- American drumming group on the Right Brain artist roster.

This experience was a big deal for her entire school community and her eyes well up when she talks about it: “One child was so insistent that he be here for the Taiko recital, he delayed his family vacation plans so he could participate.”

But it didn’t end there. The teachers used this work as a springboard to create full units about the Japanese-American experience. Teachers who attended Right Brain trainings began integrating the arts at a higher level and inspired their colleagues to do so, as well.


karen murphy quote

Karen says the increased quality of instruction is palpable. As she makes visits throughout the building, she uses a rubric to assess the depth of the learning experiences she sees. She noticed that the only time her students achieved the highest level of thinking was when her staff were utilizing Right Brain or other arts strategies.

These days, North Plains has more arts programming throughout the school. One teacher started an after-school arts integration club. Other staff initiated a field trip to see a high school production of You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown. “Our children have never had experiences like this,” she said.

Right Brain has effectively given Karen a structure to help her turn North Plains Elementary into a building where creativity is part of the culture. “Right Brain is a catalyst. It gave us a purpose and a reason to be weaving the arts in.”

This is the first in a series of educator testimonials that we’ll be posting on the Right Brain blog. Check back in for more, and download our full report here.


Donate to Right Brain by December 11, and you could win a wine country package!

November 19th, 2015 by Rebecca


Last week, we announced the launch of our 2015 Give!Guide campaign, and the incredible prizes that the Willamette Week offers to donors.

Now, we want to let you know about a special incentive that we’ve arranged: If you donate $10 or more to The Right Brain Initiative by Friday, December 11th, you’ll be entered to win a weekend getaway in McMinnville’s wine country.

This package includes:

We can already see you relaxing with a glass of wine. But in order to win, you need to **GIVE NOW!**