The Right Brain Initiative


Help us bring Brain Food to life! And claim a deck of creative activities for your very own.

October 29th, 2013 by Rebecca

At Right Brain, we maintain a bold vision of bright and adventurous classroom learning. We have a vision of educating a new generation of Oregonians who are engaged and curious and creative. Our Brain Food activities help us proliferate that vision beyond the 49 Portland area schools we currently serve. And if you’ve been following us, you know that we’ve been working with the Design for Good committee of AIGA Portland for nearly three years to bring Brain Food to life in a three-dimensional, tactile form.

Through a 50-card deck of activities available at local retailers and schools, we’ll provide families and educators with accessible tools to think in new ways, making connections between the arts and the rest of the world we live in. Imagine building an intricate museum exhibit or designing your own language, and all of the dynamic brain action and interdisciplinary learning that comes along with it. These decks are created primarily for use by kids, but we believe the activities are great creative prompts for people of all ages. And once these decks are complete and available for sale, they’ll provide a legitimate and ongoing funding stream for our program. Brain Food not only helps us share our vision, but these decks will contribute to the sustainability of our work in public schools.

As of today, all 50 activities are written and 10 local designers have donated their time to complete original illustrations. We even secured WCP Solutions to donate the paper for the decks. We just need you to help us cover the printing costs to bring this project to the world.

Contribute to our campaign by November 7! With a donation of just $25, we’ll send a Brain Food deck directly to your home just in time for the holidays, and an additional deck will be donated to an elementary school in the Portland metro area. You’ll also receive public recognition for your efforts and endless adoration from us.

It’s hard to express how meaningful it has been to work closely with the AIGA on this project. Their shared commitment to this cause has enabled us to take on an initiative we never could have mustered alone. It reflects a real model for how a non-profit and a professional association can partner to really make change.

Help us bring this project to life! We’ve come too far to lose it now.

Read more and contribute now!

Get a preview of the Brain Food activities and their delicious illustrations.

Read more about the value of this partnership in my entry at Americans for the Arts.

Right Brain on the small screen

October 3rd, 2013 by Elizabeth Midgorden

The Right Brain Initiative is going to be on the Ellen show. Well kind of. During the month of October, keep your eyes peeled for brand new 30-second ad during KGW programming, including Ellen and The Today Show showcasing the magical work we do at Right Brain.

We cannot say thank you enough to KGW and OnPoint Community Credit Union for selecting us to participate in their Stepping Up for Education Program. The opportunity to share our mission with the community is simply amazing.

Here are just a few of the times you can see Right Brain on your TV screen:

October 3, 8:53am: The Today Show
October 3, 4:13pm: KGW News at 4
October 4, 9:28am: The Today Show
October 4, 3:33pm: Ellen

Dine in (or craft, drink, bake, play in!) for Right Brain

October 1st, 2013 by Rebecca

Friends! Be inspired by the above campaign video and take advantage of an incredible—and incredibly fun—opportunity to advocate for The Right Brain Initiative. We are in the middle of Year Two of a three-year match challenge from the Maybelle Clark Macdonald Fund. That means we need to raise $25,000 by June 15, 2014 in amounts of $250 and above.

The easiest and most delightful way to contribute to this campaign is by participating in our  series of grassroots events. We’re on the hunt to make 20 of these events happen during this campaign, which are meant be customized to you and your guests. So far, the events have taken the form of dinner, brunch, wine tasting, ice cream social, rock show and craft party. What else can you dream up? Home brew party? Holiday cookie baking? Think about what your friends, family or colleagues like to do together and consider whether you could make a fundraiser out of it that would raise $250 to qualify for a match.

We’re hoping to set up six of these events before 2014. Consider joining us! 

This is what you will be responsible for:

  • Invite your friends
  • Provide the meal or activity
  • Collect at least $250 from the group (Usually this is at least $25 per person multiplied by 10 people; if you want to charge $10, that means you need 25 guests; $50 and you only need 5 guests.)

This is what we provide:

  • A Right Brain artist or staff member to help tell the story of our work
  • Wine and/or beer for your guests
  • Collateral about Right Brain to share with your guests
  • Supplies for collecting donations
  • Tips for making the event a success

Friends brunched for Right Brain earlier this year and raised over $300!

We make it really easy, and past experience tells us it is guaranteed to be a meaningful experience for you and your friends.  In fact, read more about the events that PSU students put together, read about the business event held at Merrill Lynch, or some of the other venues and party strategies folks employed to advocate on our behalf.

Get started! Contact Becky Miller at to schedule your date and for more information. 

Our newest partner schools

September 26th, 2013 by Elizabeth Midgorden

We are ecstatic to announce six new partner schools for the 2013-14 school year. With the addition of these new schools, The Right Brain Initiative now serves a total of 49 schools in six school districts. 


Right Brain welcomes the following new schools to its list of partners in 2013-14:

• Deep Creek Elementary (Gresham-Barlow School District)
• Hall Elementary (Gresham-Barlow School District)
• West Gresham Elementary (Gresham-Barlow School District)
• Bilquist Elementary (North Clackamas Schools)
• Duncan Elementary (North Clackamas Schools)
• Boise-Eliot K-8 School (Portland Public Schools)

More information about Right Brain’s newest partner schools can be found here and be sure to take a look at our other partner schools.

2013 progress report now available

September 12th, 2013 by Elizabeth Midgorden


In conjunction with National Arts in Education Week, we are releasing our latest progress report, which highlights the achievements of The Right Brain Initiative and its fifth year serving Portland students.  We saw incredible growth as Right Brain increased its reach by 45 percent to serve a total of 44 schools. Read on to discover more from our newest progress report.


In partnership with Jackson and Quatama Elementary Schools in Hillsboro, we’ve added an “A” to the educational initiative known as STEM (science, technology, engineering and math).  In collaboration with Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici, STEAM served as a pilot program to allow students to connect the arts with STEM subjects like physics, zoology and geology.  

Common Core

New Common Core State Standards designed to foster students with critical and creative thinking skills for the real world and beyond were introduced to Oregon Public Schools. By connecting our educators to development sessions, we helped forge a harmonious link between the new Common Core standards and Right Brain, producing creative and critical thinking experiences for students.

Turnaround Arts

The Turnaround Arts Initiative aims to use the arts to improve the achievement of America’s lowest preforming schools. King School in Northeast Portland was selected as one of eight schools to receive funding for arts programming. Teaching artist Julie Keefe worked with students on a variety of projects including storytelling, photography writing, and museum observation and provided educators with tools to integrate the arts into their classroom.

To read more of our progress report and learn amazing statistics and facts—like Right Brain growing 120 percent since January 2009, or Right Brain serving more than 11,470 students—click here to download the PDF.


Elizabeth Midgorden is Right Brain’s Outreach Apprentice for Fall 2013.

Small events, big impact

August 26th, 2013 by Becky Thomas

Community is at the center of The Right Brain Initiative’s mission. The goal is to get everyone engaged in the ways we educate our children, from government to business to individuals in every neighborhood. We want the community to be involved in Right Brain’s work, to integrate the arts into standard curriculum and better prepare our children for bright futures.

With that goal in mind, last year we launched The Imagination Fund, a three-year challenge grant aimed to raise money, awareness and a base of individual donors to expand the Right Brain community. The Imagination Fund is a great opportunity for us to grow Right Brain, especially since the Maybelle Clark Macdonald Fund matches all donations dollar for dollar. This past year, Right Brain focused on grassroots fundraising to fuel the Imagination Fund, spurring an outpouring of creative fundraising approaches like the Dine In for Right Brain event series. This month, a group of awesome students at Portland State University helped kick off the second year of our campaign, demonstrating once again how small events can make a big impact.

Rocking for Right Brain.

Rocking for Right Brain. Photo by Colin Straub.

Groups of students from PSU’s Arts Advocacy class planned, coordinated and partnered with us to host three fundraising events: a rock show, an improv comedy night and a silent auction. At each event, friends, peers and parents came out to show their support and learn about Right Brain’s work. Everyone had a great time and the students came away with nearly $800 in donations for our Imagination Fund. What a great way to start the campaign!

PSU students bring the fun to an improv comedy show to benefit Right Brain. Photo by Ricardo Vazquez.

We’re so impressed by the ingenuity of these young supporters. Follow their lead: host a picnic for Right Brain, a kickball game for Right Brain, a book club meeting for Right Brain. The possibilities are all but endless. We have roughly nine months to raise $25,000 for the Imagination Fund, and we’re relying on our community to help us get there. The goal is to raise at least $250 per event, which is the minimum individual donation amount to make the match.

Consider hosting an event this fall or winter! It can be as small or big as you want it to be, and our staff is ready to provide support. We have training, talking points and printed materials that will help you deliver the message of Right Brain to your community! To get started, contact Becky Miller via email at

A look at our 2012-13 school year

August 15th, 2013 by Allie

It’s that time of year when we gather our list of every single Right Brain classroom artist residency that took place during the 2012-13 school year. This year, our grand total was 206, involving nearly 11,500 students. Please read on to learn more about each and every one and how it uniquely connected to school curriculum, as collaboratively designed by the Right Brain teaching artist and school staff.

Where applicable, we have also given links to complete photo sets for a particular classroom experience.

Prepare for Right Brain overload!


Corbett Arts Program with Spanish (CAPS) with Oregon Ballet Theatre

Oregon Ballet Theatre worked closely with the teachers in grades K-8 to create residencies that would meet grade level content areas while developing critical thinking skills by pushing a greater understanding of discipline and revision in the creative process. Through movement and choreography, students explored curriculum ranging from ecosystem/food web to simple machines to the modeling of electron energy.


East Gresham with Oregon Ballet Theatre

While collaborating with Oregon Ballet Theatre, students at East Gresham began to personalize movement and control and understand how to internalize the targeted life skills of patience, problem-solving, perseverance, and friendship. Students also attended an OBT production of Swan Lake.

East Orient with Jan Abramovitz

East Orient

Kindergarten and 1st grade students experienced how to use creativity through movement and a better awareness of their body with teaching artist Jan Abramovitz. Teachers also gained strategies to apply the art of dance and movement into instruction. See more images from this residency on Flickr.

East Orient with Julie Keefe

2nd and 5th grade students explored the connection between math and photography with teaching artist Julie Keefe.  They photographed geometrical shapes discovered in nature and in man-made objects found in their local environment.  Students then used descriptive language and literary devices to describe their photos.

East Orient with Addie Boswell

3rd grade students worked with visual artist Addie Boswell to create a mural using silhouette poses to represent character traits made from pellon fabric. They created flowers, birds, and butterflies using painted paper to add detail to the mural. 4th grade students used observational drawing skills to connect realistic drawings of natural elements such as animals, plants, and landforms to learn about the importance of perspective as it applies to informational drawings and increase their knowledge of the journey taken by Lewis and Clark.

Hollydale with Portland Taiko


Hollydale Kindergarten through 5th grade students worked with Portland Taiko on a Japanese drumming residency incorporating the three main principles of Taiko: respect, perseverance, and cooperation. Students learned about the techniques of Taiko, Japanese culture, and the importance of being a part of an ensemble and in turn, the importance of being part of a community.  See more images from this residency on Flickr.

Powell Valley with Julie Keefe

Powell Valley 1st, 2nd and 5th graders worked with photographer Julie Keefe to combine compelling photographs with descriptive writing. Special emphasis was placed on learning the elements of composition, shooting techniques, collaboration, and figurative language. In addition, each classroom worked with Julie to determine a specific focus: first grade – understanding and using metaphor; the blended classroom – recognizing and understanding affect and facial expressions; and fifth grade – self-reflection, compassion and interviewing techniques.


Free Orchards with Karie Oakes

Free Orchards

Each student in this school-wide residency with ceramic artist Karie Oakes explored self-identity by creating an original relief self-portrait out of clay. Along the way, students were asked to describe their process and communicate their thinking using appropriate vocabulary. Each student’s final clay piece was then attached to a schoolwide installation. See more images from this residency on Flickr.

Free Orchards with Julie Keefe

5th and 6th graders at Free Orchards worked with Julie Keefe to explore photography and writing with the idea, “HOW I SEE MYSELF/ HOW OTHERS SEE ME”.  Student took photos of each other, and wrote about their self-perception and understanding of their “image” to others.

Jackson with Oregon Ballet Theatre

Jackson - OBT

While working with Oregon Ballet Theatre, students throughout the entire school explored science and social studies concepts through movement.  They developed their ballet and dance vocabulary and skills, while exploring cycles of nature or history. For example, 1st graders learned about life cycles through movement and dance.  Students gained a better understanding of spatial relationships, and actively created movement sequences, putting themselves in a role.  See more images from this residency on Flickr.

Jackson with Nicole Penoncello

Jackson - Nicole

With visual artist Nicole Penoncello, 1st grade students learned techniques to print in multiples and then used these to share their understanding of the water cycle.  This is an example of a STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) residency connected to informational text and Common Core curriculum standards.  See more images from this residency on Flickr.

Jackson with Portland Art Museum

Jackson 6th graders participated in the Portland Art Museum’s Object Stories project.  Using narrative writing and storytelling, students explored objects of personal significance as well as objects of art during two visits to the museum.  While at the museum, students recorded oral stories about their personal objects in the museum’s Object Stories’ booth.

Lincoln Street with Nicole Penoncello

Lincoln Street

With visual artist Nicole Penoncello, students built their own 3D paper-mache and mixed media sculptures which demonstrated their understanding of their chosen subject area. Kindergarten and 1st grade studied animals and habitats, 4th grade Oregon Trail land formations, 5th grade wire sculptures.  See more images from this residency on Flickr.

Lincoln Street with Sarah Nagy

2nd, 3rd and 6th grades at Lincoln Street worked with teaching artist Sarah Nagy of Young Audiences to make short claymation films in which they created characters out of clay, built dioramas and filmed a sequence that conveyed appropriate knowledge of their subject matter (2nd & 3rd grades studied animal habitats, while 6th grade learned about narrative creative writing).

Quatama with Caitlin Shelman


Visual artist Caitlin Shelman worked with Kindergarten students to learn the life cycle of frogs through printmaking. She started with a non-fiction book and each week the students made a print depicting part of the life cycle, culminating with a book that illustrated the steps. Student writing and reflection gave teachers authentic assessment of growth for these emerging writers. High level scientific vocabulary was used and remembered through this hands-on residency. Showing her ability to tailor the art form to the grade level content, Caitlin did kinetic sculptures with 1st graders studying the weather and its effects. This STEM to STEAM residency brought students and teachers the art of using collagraph prints to depict landforms, architecture, and products of Oregon to the 3rd grade.  See more images from this residency on Flickr.

Quatama with Nicole Penoncello

Artist Nicole Penoncello brought circuits and electricity to life for 2nd graders with wire sculptures that actually lit up as the final product of this STEAM integrated residency. In 4th, 5th and 6th grades, Nicole worked with student and used clay to integrate with content studies such as the study of soil erosion, trees, and fossils  for 4th graders, who then created a mosaic tree out of ceramic clay. 5th grade made wind chimes representing objects in the sky and 6th grade made pottery as part of a plant (and bulb) study as well as linking it to social studies (ancient civilizations.)

Rigler  with Julie Keefe

In this school-wide residency with photographer Julie Keefe, students explored their own identity through taking photographs and through writing using the model of The Best Part of Me (K-2) and I Am Portraits (3-5). Students learned to be curators of each other’s work, using artistic criteria, and photography language.

North Clackamas Schools

Ardenwald with Jan Abramovitz

Kindergarten and 3rd grade students at Ardenwald explored movement with Jan Abramovitz.  Students and teachers learned strategies for kinesthetic learning and focus. Students also learned to value the connections between emotions, thinking and their bodies.

 Ardenwald with Beth Bundy


Ardenwald 1st graders worked with Beth Bundy exploring culture and self-identity through visual art. Each child brainstormed in a drawing journal to choose symbols or objects that would represent what was important to them and their family, which were then crafted out of clay, arranged on a colorful mask and displayed with an accompanying “map”, detailing a key to understanding the objects on each child’s mask.  See more images from this residency on Flickr.

Ardenwald with Earth Arts NW

Ardenwald 4th graders worked with EarthArts NW to design masks that visually represent animal adaptations within a particular NW habitat they researched. Students confronted a design challenge to translate their ideas into 3D reality, developing their masks through drafts, collaboration, and experimentation. Students also wrote I AM poems that reflected their understanding of “clan” relationships and practiced speaking aloud from the point of view of their species while wearing the mask.

Ardenwald with Diane Jacobs

Ardenwald 5th grade students worked with visual artist Diane Jacobs to collaboratively design a mobile that visually represented a healthy Northwest biome, synthesizing their understanding of food web, life cycle, and ecosystem relationships. In small groups, students experimented with a variety of materials (paint, drawing, paper, sewing, found objects), researched and troubleshooted different types of mobiles, and gave a “tour” of finished mobiles to other classrooms.

Concord with Oregon Ballet Theatre


Concord K-5th grade students participated in a whole school residency with Oregon Ballet Theater that focused on a “Stand Tall” theme — confidence, focus, collaboration and joy in community. Students explored kinesphere, locomotion, remembering patterns of steps, staying focused and working together in small groups, as well as connecting to stories in some classrooms. Students gained kinesthetic awareness of what confidence/focus looks like and feels like.  See more images from this residency on Flickr.

Happy Valley with Julie Keefe

Happy Valley 3rd/4th/5th grade students as well as English Language Learning 1st grade students worked with photographer Julie Keefe to create compelling photos and poems that reflected on “How I See Myself”, with the goal of drawing out students’ deeper aspirations or versions of themselves. Students worked collaboratively to take photos of each other, give feedback, self-reflect and revise their writing, which was handwritten on final photo posters.

Linwood with Jan Abramovitz


Linwood Kindergarten through 5th grade students worked with movement artist Jan Abramovitz on heightening their kinesthetic awareness and ability to focus, especially around the theme of “how to set yourself up for success”. Some classrooms primarily learned Brain Gym movements, other classrooms connected with math, reading, or writing. Linwood students also attended a whole school assembly with BodyVox to extend their residency experience.  See more images from this residency on Flickr.

Milwaukie & El Puente with Julie Keefe

Milwaukie and El Puente 4th and 5th grade students worked with photographer Julie Keefe to learn about what makes a powerful portrait and compelling poem, encouraging students to express their personal beliefs through both written and visual means. Students interviewed each other, took portraits of one another in their favorite place in school, as well as a portrait of an object that is important to them, using the photographs as catalysts for “Shout Out” poems to their partner, which were handwritten on posters.

Oak Grove with Ben Popp

Oak Grove

Animation artist Ben Popp with Young Audiences did a school-wide residency at Oak Grove Elementary in which each classrooms produced a video that portrayed past, present and future aspects of their community. Students learned about the history of their local communities and they took time to analyze and evaluate the condition of their present day communities. They were then asked to imagine what their communities could be like in the future. Students learned about various forms of video animation such as stop motion, and were also taught to use various video production and editing tools to produce segments for the larger production. The end product was a 28 minute video that was shared with parents and students at an art night and various assemblies.  See more images from this residency on Flickr.

Scouters Mountain with BodyVox

Scouters Mountain Kindergarten and 1st grade students worked with dance artists from BodyVox to explore cultural folktales through movement. Students paid particular attention to elements of story, a deeper understanding of a particular culture, and working together as a team to rehearse and perform their choreography for families and buddy classrooms.

Scouters Mountain with Earth Arts NW

Scouters Mountain

Scouters Mountain 2nd and 3rd grade students worked with visual/theater/writing artist Earth Arts NW to collaboratively develop and bring an original story to life with puppets — a story that reflects interests and values of animal tribes.  See more images from this residency on Flickr.

Scouters Mountain with Acts of Wonder

Scouters Mountain 4th and 5th grade students worked with theater artist Acts of Wonder to explore methods of dramatic storytelling and create an original scenes based on their understand of Oregon Trail history. Students also paid special attention to honor one another’s contributions, teamwork, and giving each other respectful feedback.

Spring Mountain with Greta Pedersen

Spring Mountain

To help gain an understanding of music, rhythm and movement from various cultures, Kindergartners and SLCB (students with disabilities) worked with Young Audiences and Wordstock‘s Greta Pedersen. Throughout the residency, students learned that we are all part of the global community but also individuals, and they learned how to express their understanding of themselves as individuals within the whole group. Students demonstrated their understanding by verbal discussion, playing instruments and singing correct lyrics, and by creating their own movement and body shapes following directed criteria.  See more images from this residency on Flickr.

Spring Mountain with Addie Boswell

2nd grade students worked with visual artist Addie Boswell to create acrylic paintings recognizably connected to the theme of community and the life cycle of those plants and animals who live in this community.

Spring Mountain with Portland Art Museum

This residency with 3rd and 4th graders allowed students to experience local Native American culture in a very hands-on way. The students not only saw visuals and heard information from experts on the subject, but also created art pieces inspired by Native American creations (both from the past and present) which helped to develop an understanding of our local Native American culture.

Spring Mountain with Lisa Wilcke

5th graders at Spring Mountain worked with glass artist Lisa Wilcke on a residency designed to help students come away with an understanding of the physical process glass goes through from beginning to final product. Concepts of symmetry, and spatial understanding of percentages were also integrated into the creative process.

Sunnyside with Earth Arts NW


In this residency with Earth Arts NW, Kindergarteners created animal puppets based on their study of forest creatures, and told oral stories with a beginning, middle and end which were then performed for their peers. 1st graders created frog puppets and wrote their own Frog and Toad stories after studying the elements of a story. These works of art were shared with other grade levels to enjoy. 2nd and 3rd grade students from six different classrooms created a story that solved a group mystery message from a wise owl in the forest. Each student and group created a habitat and characters that lived within the habitat along with a creative storyline that culminated in a solution to their mystery. Student jointly created visual maps of the habitats that they created for their story.  See more images from this residency on Flickr.

Sunnyside with Northwest Children’s Theater and School

4th graders worked with Northwest Children’s Theater and School to strengthen their speaking and leadership skills by acting out fictional stories. Students engaged in theater games and techniques that gave them the tools they needed to deepen their understanding of stories and develop a sense of teamwork as they worked as an ensemble, culminating in a performance for their school community.

Sunnyside with Ben Popp

5th graders worked with Ben Popp of Young Audiences to strengthen their knowledge of science as well as story line, stop motion and the passage of time. Students worked in collaborative groups to create an animated lesson on science concepts. These animations will be used with younger students to teach science concepts such as gravity, force of motion and life cycles.

View Acres with Portland Taiko

View Acres

View Acres Kindergarten though 5th grade students worked with Portland Taiko in a schoolwide residency exploring Japanese Taiko drumming and character traits of respect, cooperation and perseverance. Some classrooms also explored Japanese American cultural heritage and history, while other classrooms connected their residency to building stronger self-expression and voice in student writing.  See more images from this residency on Flickr.

Oregon Trail School District

Oregon Trail Primary Academy with Oregon Ballet Theatre

Students in Kindergarten, 1st, 4th and 6th grades worked with Oregon Ballet Theatre to explore and represent natural systems (water, plants, electricity) with movement. The residency also connected with OTPA’s character trait of the month, “confidence”, as students developed their comfort level with risk-taking, persistence, and teamwork, eventually showing their choreography at the whole school “Confidence” assembly.

Oregon Trail Primary Academy with Beth Bundy

Teaching Artist Beth Bundy worked with 2nd, 3rd and 5th grade students to solve a “design challenge” related to a particular planner, such as Marketplace, Engineering, and Personal Growth/Wellness. Students worked in small groups to brainstorm, create, test, and refine prototypes that visually show their solution to their classroom’s design challenge.

Portland Public Schools

Beach with Obo Addy Legacy Project

PreK, Kindergarten and 2nd grade students explored pattern, rhythm and the meaning of stories while learning Ghanaian drumming with the Obo Addy Legacy Project.  Students learned both traditional songs and also how to create their own solos.

Beach with Carla Wilson

Three 1st grade classrooms at Beach School worked with Carla Wilson of Young Audiences to create a musical score based on selections from Scott Foresman. All students participated in analyzing the literature, creating and performing a musical score.

Beach with Northwest Children’s Theater and School

3rd, 4th and 5th grade students worked with Northwest Children’s Theater and School to create plays, while focusing on the character development of each of their roles.  Some plays explored imaginative worlds, while others explored various cultures around the world.

Beach with Earth Arts NW


Collaborating with Robin Chilstrom of Earth Arts NW, 5th grade students created 3D masks of Northwest animals (ravens, beavers, or salmon) from 2D materials using lines, shapes and patterns that they felt reflected them.  See more images from this residency on Flickr.

Beach with Portland Art Museum

Grades 6-8 participated in the Portland Art Museum’s Object Stories project.  Using narrative writing and storytelling, students explored objects of personal significance as well as objects of art during two visits to the museum.  While at the museum, students recorded oral stories about their personal objects in the museum’s Object Stories’ booth.

Beach with Caitlin Shelman

6th, 7th and 8th grade students in Beach’s language immersion program learned the art form of silk screening in a residency taught in Spanish by visual teaching artist Caitlin Shelman. Students learned about the use of visual messaging in creating propaganda and then created their own silk screen designs to represent these concepts.

Hayhurst with Tears of Joy


With Tears of Joy, Kindergarten-2nd grade students at Hayhurst created puppets based on a world folk tale, and then wrote an original line for their puppet based on their understanding of the story. They performed the adapted folk tale with their puppets in front of their peers and family members.  See more images from this residency on Flickr.

Hayhurst with BodyVox

Students from the 3rd-5th grades explored movement with BodyVox, and integrated dance with other core curriculum. Groups of students collaborated together to choreograph dances and perform an original dance expressing an idea or concept they were currently studying.

James John with Amy Steel and Alice Hill

James John

Kindergarten through 5th grade students worked with Amy Steel and Alice Hill to create a mixed-media mural and installation that reflected social studies content appropriate for each grade level. For example, 3rd graders connected visual art to the study of their neighborhood.  See more images from this residency on Flickr.

King with Julie Keefe


King Kindergarten through 5th grade students explored photography with teaching artist Julie Keefe. Kindergartners used photography to share personal comparisons to animals, using the text Quick as a Cricket as an inspiration.  The 1st and 2nd graders expanded upon their IB unit about neighborhoods, exploring the roles they each play in their neighborhood, what they enjoy in their neighborhood and through interviews with local community members (including former King students) a better sense of the dynamic make-up of their own local neighborhood.  The 3rd, 4th and 5th grade students used photography as a springboard to figurative writing.  See more images from this residency on Flickr.

King with Portland Art Museum

Grades 6-8 participated in the Portland Art Museum’s Object Stories project.  Using narrative writing and storytelling, students explored objects of personal significance as well as objects of art during two visits to the museum.  While at the museum, students recorded oral stories about their personal objects in the museum’s Object Stories’ booth.

Lewis with Jan Abramovitz

At Lewis, Kindergarten-2nd graders worked with movement specialist Jan Abramovitz on a residency designed to give students and teachers strategies for focus.

Lewis with Northwest Children’s Theater and School


Grades 3rd-5th worked with Northwest Children’s Theatre to integrate literacy and social studies content with theater games and the dramatic arts.  Each grade level had a different focus: third graders wrote and performed their own myths; fourth grade focused on specific Pacific Northwest Native American legends; and fifth grade wrote scripts that coincided with their study of Early America.  See more images from this residency on Flickr.

Markham with Oregon Ballet Theatre


While working with Oregon Ballet Theatre, Kindergarten through 2nd grade students at Markham explored body control, space, time/musicality, communication, collaboration and problem solving through dance movement.

Markham with Oregon Children’s Theatre: Read, Write and Act

3rd-5th grade students worked with Oregon Children’s Theatre and their Read, Write and Act program to write a script based on their understanding of a story and then performed a staged reading of their script for their peers.

Sitton with Sarah Ferguson


All Sitton students worked with Young Audiences teaching artist Sarah Ferguson to explore using clay and collaborating to create a mural that reflects their study of geography, world cultures and flora/fauna.  See more images from this residency on Flickr.

Vestal with Karie Oakes


Karie Oakes, of Young Audiences, worked with Vestal’s Kindergarten through 4th grade classes, a multi-age Lifeskills classroom, and an 8th grade to create various ceramics projects that were linked to core subjects throughout the various levels. Students also used writing to help connect the dots between their individual clay pieces and their integrated curriculum. See more images from this residency on Flickr.

Vestal with Sarah Nagy

4th through 8th grade students worked with Young Audiences media artist Sarah Nagy to create group claymation films that reflected their sense of identity and personal interests. Through this process, students learned about themselves as individuals, but also how they fit into the larger community of their classroom and school.

Whitman with Portland Taiko

Whitman’s Kindergarten through 3rd grade students learned about Japanese Taiko drumming and the three core values of Portland Taiko—respect, cooperation, and perseverance.  Students reflected in journals throughout the residency, furthering their understanding of the concepts and context learned while drumming.

Whitman with Northwest Film Center


4th and 5th grade students worked with Art Specialist Keri Piehl and the NW Film Center on a filming project entitled “Mapping Me, Mapping You.”  This semester-long, innovative residency began with students considering their personal histories and how to represent them in all 2-D forms: pencil drawings, watercolor, and ink. From there, students created “personal geographies” and filmed their history as a short film. Students learned stop-animation techniques and worked in pairs to create their own films. The project concluded with students learning interviewing techniques and interviewing each other about their hopes and dreams.  See more images from this residency on Flickr.

Woodlawn with Oregon Symphony

Woodlawn Pre-Kindergarten through 2nd grade students attended four performances by Oregon Symphony musicians and then participated in storytime back in the classroom with musicians from the orchestra.  Students learned musical skills such as rhythm, melody and pattern, gained a greater exposure to music and connected their musical understanding to math, reading, writing and other cultural experiences.

Woodlawn with Portland Taiko

3rd and 5th grade students built on the skills they learned last year during this second year of a residency with Portland Taiko.  Their learning this year was focused on developing students’ confidence and ability to perform in front of an audience.

Woodlawn with Rick Meyers

4th grade students learned resourcefulness and creativity while experimenting with string, music and dance with Rick Meyers of Young Audiences.  Connecting with their study of the Oregon Trail, students demonstrated an understanding of the different experience of recreation while on the trail vs. recreation and entertainment option available to them today.

Woodlawn with Oregon Children’s Theatre


The 6th, 7th and 8th graders at Woodlawn learned about theatrical speaking skills through Oregon Children’s Theatre’s Loud and Clear program.  Students took these presentation skills and used them to enhance the speeches that are part of their language arts work samples.  See more images from this residency on Flickr.


Community art show extends learning for King students.

August 14th, 2013 by Rebecca

Visit the 2nd floor community room of the historic  North Portland Library this month and you’ll find a unique student art show. Step inside to see incredible black-and-white photographs and writing created by 1st and 2nd graders at King School. This community show celebrates Right Brain’s partnership with King, one of eight schools in the nation selected to be a part of the Turnaround Arts program of the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities.

A King 2nd grader poses with her teacher in front of her completed artwork.

A King 2nd grader poses with teacher Kayci Murray in front of her completed artwork at the show opening event. Photo by Leah Verwey.

This artwork was created during a Right Brain experience last spring with Right Brain teaching artist Julie Keefe. Through photography and writing, students explored their role within their neighborhood, which directly connected to the school’s International Baccalaureate curriculum. By sharing the completed work at the library, we let the community in on the process. And, simultaneously, it became an incredible extension of the students’ learning experience. All 1st and 2nd grade classes took a field trip to the library—just down the street from the school—to see the work, undoubtedly bringing some of the students to the building for the very first time. 


Teaching artist Julie Keefe leads kids to take portraits of attendees at the opening event. Photo by Leah Verwey.

At the opening reception for this art show last month, we served ice cream floats. Kids took black-and-white photographs of event attendees. We heard statements from Carole Smith, superintendent of Portland Public Schools; Kim Patterson, King School Principal; and Julie Keefe about the impact of this residency and the value of working with Right Brain. Students were able to interact with the public, receive praise and answer questions about their work.

For King students and teachers, for the North Portland Library, the school district, for Right Brain, this was a win-win-win-win.

Thank you to the incredible Leah Verwey for snapping  photos for us at this opening event. See a few more glimpses below of what took place. 


Community guests enjoy a video about the process of this Right Brain experience at King School.


An event attendee creates her own portrait and writing on the spot with the help of Julie Keefe and a portable photo printer.


Event attendees respond to prompts asking them to reflect on their neighborhood—just as the students did in class during their Right Brain experience.


Left to right: Carole Smith, superintendent of Portland Public Schools; Lew Frederick, Oregon State Representative and Regional Arts & Culture Council (RACC) Board Member; meet with Jeff Hawthorne, RACC’s Director of Community Affairs.


Patricia Welch, Administrator at the North Portland Library


An event attendee views the completed photographs.


Event guests wait to receive their ice cream floats!

The exhibition will be up at the North Portland Library at 512 N. Killingsworth through the end of August, so please drop by to share in this experience!

See more images from this event—all taken by Leah Verwey—on Facebook and Flickr.

Read the full press release about this event.

Our newest all-star teaching artists!

July 29th, 2013 by James Evans


Please join us in welcoming our new teaching artists and new arts organizations for the 2013-14 school year. These folks have demonstrated a deep commitment to arts integration, 21st century skills, and a profound respect for the learning processes of children. During the application process, we were stunned again and again and again by their dedication to engaging all types of learners. We are thrilled to have them on the Right Brain team! 



Aaron Nigel Smith (Young Audiences) believes that music and movement give children the opportunity to exercise, imagine and explore self expression. He founded FUNdamentals of Music and Movement, used in over 100 early education centers nationally, and tours with PBS Kids Between the Lions Live and the National Education Association’s Read Across America campaign.


Ashley Klump has a Masters of Art in Arts Education and a lot of experience teaching visual arts as well as other subject matter in classrooms. She likes to challenge students to consider the aesthetic decisions they make as they move through their day, and why they make them.



Bobby Abrahamson is an award-winning photographer who specializes in working with middle and high school aged students. About his discipline, Bobby says, “Photography is an extraordinary medium that invites exploration of our environment and our identities through an almost magic-like process of transformation.”



Cindy Williams Gutierrez (Wordstock) is an author and playwright who earned her MFA from the University of Southern Maine Stonecoast Program, and teaches poetry and playwriting to youth through the Bernstein Artful Learning Foundation, the Portland Art Museum, The Right Brain Initiative, Wordstock, and Writers in the Schools.



Daniel Granias is a ceramics artist who believes that three-dimensional art offers an opportunity to teach students a greater lesson in “thinking in the round.”



Katie Basile’s work in media arts is based in photography and digital storytelling. Katie aims to “facilitate an experience where students can share their own stories through self-reflection, creativity and technology.”


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Marjorie Anderson is a long-time theater teaching artist who sees theater as a way for students to “make discoveries, try new things, problem-solve, stretch beyond their fears, laugh, and take pride in their achievements.”



Mark Caporeal (Young Audiences) is an illustrator, painter, writer and father of two. He finds inspiration in the energy and imagination of children, and teaches with patience, humor, and respect to show students various ways to realize their vision.



Mo Phillips (Young Audiences) has played music all over the world for people of all ages, but loves to rock out with kids. He empowers students to grab hold of their inner beat and turn it up to 11.



My Voice Music, through exuberant hands-on, student driven experiences, uses music to help students “find the power of their own voice and develop social and emotional skills—such as working in a team, setting and accomplishing goals, expressing one’s self in a positive manner, and willingness to try new things—that help them lead a fulfilled life.”



Subashini Ganesan (Young Audiences) is a choreographer and dancer of Bharathanatyam, a narrative and athletic South Indian dance form, Suba aims to make this holistic and traditional dance/theatre form accessible. Kids experience storytelling with hand a facial gestures, which aids them in discovering literacy skills through movement.


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Red Yarn Productions (Young Audiences) is a folk music and puppetry company founded by artist, educator, and performer Andy Furgeson. Andy believes that children possess profound self-expression skills and helps them tap into their talent, while engaging all types of learners in the creative process.


View our complete roster of over fifty individual teaching artists and arts organizations.

Turning it around with the arts

July 8th, 2013 by Becky Thomas

Taking another person’s photo is a complex task. You need to be able to communicate effectively, both as a photographer and the subject, in order to capture the individual in their element. You need the right lighting, focus and composition for the photo to turn out right. You need to snap the photo at just the right moment to catch the perfect look.

Sound difficult? Now imagine a 1st grader tasked to capture a portrait of another 1st grader.

Our Right Brain residencies challenge students to think more critically, to question more deeply and to engage their creative muscles to solve problems. That’s exactly what happened when we sent Portland’s Creative Laureate, photographer and teaching artist extraordinaire Julie Keefe to Martin Luther King Jr. School this past spring. Keefe and teachers in King’s 1st and 2nd grade classrooms collaborated to create a photography project based in literacy. Students were introduced to digital photography, some for the first time, and asked to photograph each other. They were also encouraged to think about community—how they fit into their community and what others in their community thought and felt.

The kids at King have a pretty unique community. They attend one of the nation’s lowest-performing schools, but they are literally turning things around through the arts.

King, along with seven other schools across the U.S., has been designated a Turnaround Arts school by the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities. The Turnaround Arts initiative works based on recommendations from the committee’s 2011 report, which found  that arts education had the power to make huge positive impacts on the nation’s struggling schools. Turnaround Arts schools are working to improve their schools’ high dropout rates and low test scores through a renewed dedication to comprehensive arts programming. With help from federal funding, King is building the arts into their school community to help students engage with their school, with their studies and with each other. 

King students aren’t worried about test scores and dropout rates. They’re too busy being kids. When asked to write personal statements to be displayed alongside their portraits, the students wrote about what they do care about: their family, their friends, laughing, playing, exploring. Flying. 


Right Brain is so proud to be a part of the great arts-based learning transformation happening at King, and other local schools like it.

You can see more of the King students’ work at the North Portland Library later this month. The exhibition will open with a reception, and you’re invited!

Tuesday, July 23, 5-7 p.m.
North Portland Library
512 N. Killingsworth

Join Right Brain staff and partners, and interact with the students themselves. We’d love to share this work with you.

See images of King 1st graders at work during this Right Brain experience on Flickr.