The Right Brain Initiative


Arts at the Market

May 20th, 2015 by Claire Bassett

Fresh produce, plants, and performances—they’re a winning combination. Here’s why: Next Saturday, May 30, 8am-4 pm, the Hillsboro School District will host Proud to Be HSD. This first-ever, community-wide festival will be held in conjunction with the Farmers Market in Historic Downtown Hillsboro!

So, while you’re picking out May flowers, you’ll also have the chance to enjoy this entertaining showcase of student talent, curricular offerings, and local partnerships. Proud to be HSD will serve to unite students, parents, staff, and community members in celebration of Hillsboro schools.

Wondering how Right Brain fits in? Student artwork will be displayed along Main Street throughout the day. We will have a Right Brain table located in the Festival’s STE(A)M Pavilion in the Civic Center Plaza. Four of our teaching artists who taught in the Hillsboro School District this year will be present. To start, cartoonist and illustrator Lisa Eisenberg (of Young Audiences) will lead an interactive comics demonstration from 11am-2pm inside the Pavilion.

You can see artwork like this at Proud to be HSD on May 30th. Photo taken at WL Henry Elementary during a Right Brain residency.

The following artists’ demonstrations start at 2pm on 3rd and Main Street:

  • 2-2:30pm, Subashini Ganesan (of Young Audiences), choreographer and dancer of the South Indian Classical dance form, Bharathanatyam.
  • 2:45-3:15pm, Korekara Taiko, featuring co-directors Michelle Fujii and Toru Watanabe in a modern fusion of taiko and Japanese folk dance.
  • 3:30-4pm, Mo Phillips (of Young Audiences), songwriter, guitarist and singer noted for high energy and engagement with young people.

Are you excited as we are? We hope you’ll join us on the 30th for a fun Saturday.

Until then, we’re happy to share that The Right Brain Initiative was the featured segment on the Metroscope public affairs radio program in conjunction with this event. At this link, listen to Marna Stalcup, RACC’s Director of Arts Education; Shelley Panayiotou, 5th grade teacher at WL Henry Elementary in Hillsboro; and Soraia Betrous, Area Retail Leader with KeyBank Oregon talk about the value of our work in public schools, in Washington County and beyond. 


Thank you to KeyBank for leading The Right Brain Initiative’s expansion in the Hillsboro School District for the 2014-15 school year.

Imagine This! is HAPPENING – June 16-18

May 19th, 2015 by Rebecca



Imagine This! A Creativity Symposium for Educators
Tuesday, June 16 – Thursday, June 18, 2015
Portland Art Museum
1219 SW Park Avenue, Portland
*Register here.*

After a three-year hiatus, our popular creativity symposium for educators is back by popular demand. This three-day experience is open to teachers, principals, teaching artists and anyone else who wants to up their ability to deliver the arts to children in the classroom setting. This year, the theme is “How Place Inspires Thinking,” and all three days will be spent at the Portland Art Museum, making full use of the museum’s classrooms, event spaces and galleries. 

Attendees will choose from dozens of workshops led by local and national arts education leaders. Sessions will include hands-on art making, a plenary on the history of racism in Oregon, and multiple workshops focused on the power of the arts to address equity and culture. We are particularly excited to feature Glenis Redmond, a nationally recognized poet, educator and activist from North Carolina, and a teaching artist with the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. 

Glenis Redmond - Poet (Poetry as healer)

Glenis Redmond – Poet

To get a sense of Redmond’s brilliance, watch her moving TEDx Talk below.


Group discounts and scholarships are available. Download scholarship information here.

Want to spread the word to your colleagues? Download our flyer!


BofA updated2

Imagine This! would not be possible without the support of Bank of America, who serves as our Presenting Sponsor.


From Access To Success: English Language Learners

April 29th, 2015 by Claire Bassett

We’ve been featured in two publications! Their common thread is, Right Brain produces significant, culturally relevant academic growth for English Language Learners. This transformation is among the best resulting from our arts integration teaching methods.

As Olga Sanchez explains in El Hispanic News, “Latino students now represent over 22 percent of the total student population statewide.” In the words of our Outreach Specialist Rebecca Burrell, “By bringing teaching artists of color into the classroom — as well as those who speak languages other than English — we can provide cultural perspectives that their teachers, in many cases, cannot.”

As Burrell elaborates on ARTSblog hosted by Americans for the Arts, classroom teachers and Right Brain teaching artists collaborate to ensure that, simultaneously, students gain artistic skills relevant for self-expression, and dramatic new ways to improve in their classes, and on their homework and tests. Students, especially English Language Learners, are grasping concepts better “through movement, music, and visual means, not simply through written or verbal language.”

As a result of the interdisciplinary learning generated by our program, Burrell concludes, “We provide new avenues for students to learn, to demonstrate their knowledge, and to feel successful in the classroom.”

A 5th-grader at W.L. Henry Elementary School in Hillsboro. In February 2015, her class wrote personal essays about whether the Declaration of Independence would apply to them if written today. Then, they worked with Right Brain teaching artist Caitlin Shelman to make self-portraits through the printmaking process, collagraphy. Photo by Frank Hunt.


An Array of Impressive New Hires

March 9th, 2015 by Claire Bassett

We Right Brainers would like to celebrate seven new team members! Some were hired through Regional Arts & Culture Council, our managing partner, and some were hired through Young Audiences, our implementation partner. In a word, they’re phenomenal. Each person is an artist and an educator in their own right. They are united by their desire to weave the arts into the curriculum of the Portland area’s public schools, and by their belief that the arts impart whole-brain benefits to children — not only as students but also as human beings.


Phoebe Ebright, Development Manager (Regional Arts & Culture Council)

Phoebe’s role at Right Brain is to oversee our annual private fundraising plan. Previously, she served as Director of Development as well as Director of Events and Marketing for the Oregon chapter of Junior Achievement. She was also a Community Relationship/Volunteer Manager for the American Cancer Society. With a degree in sociology and fine art from Linfield College, Phoebe understands the social impact of the arts, and is thrilled to return to arts administration. She connects Right Brain’s deeply transformative education for children, and her early work teaching juvenile offenders. She notes, “The arts provide a voice for young people,” and “if given even the slightest encouragement, [they] have been able to go on to achieve really incredible things.”


Maya McFaddin, Program Assistant (Regional Arts & Culture Council)

Maya assists with planning and organizing events, committee meetings, and professional development sessions for teachers and teaching artists. She began interning with Right Brain in May 2014 as our Outreach Apprentice. As a former intern for internationally renowned architectural firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, with degrees in Studio Art from Willamette University, and Graphic Design from Portland State University, Maya has impressive artistic and administrative capabilities. As a former migrant summer school teaching assistant, she perfected her skills as a Spanish speaker. Yet her deepest pleasure is “hearing kids tell their stories about learning in the arts.” She is struck by children’s capacity to “find connections between art forms, classroom content, and something they did that weekend.”


Sinéad Kimbrell, Program Manager (Regional Arts & Culture Council)

Sinéad oversees our school program to make sure it is working to its highest capacity, for the benefit of educators, stakeholders and students. Educated in dance at Ohio University, Sinéad became a teaching artist for Oregon Ballet Theatre, then Managing Director for The Obo Addy Legacy Project. In the late-2000s, she moved to Chicago and served as the Associate Director of Education for Hubbard Street Dance Chicago. While in the Midwest, she acquired a Master of Arts in Education (Curriculum and Instruction) from Governors State University, and published in The Teaching Artist Journal. Now, in her return to Portland, Sinéad will measure student gains working with arts strategies starting as they enter school: “The challenge will continue to be all art forms for all students.”


Kim Strelchun, Arts Integration Coach (Young Audiences)

Kim, a six-year Right Brain Parent Advocate and volunteer, has transitioned as a coach and site coordinator for our partnering schools in the Estacada, Portland, and Gresham-Barlow districts. With fifteen years of education advocacy experience, she is a current Hillsboro School Board Member, former Hillsboro PTA President, and previous Parent Director at Creative Children’s Center. Utilizing her combined Bachelor in Social Sciences and Political Science from Portland State University, Kim not only advocates for the children in her community, but also assists parents as they speak up for their children. She knows, through firsthand observation, that Right Brain helps children “express their knowledge through the 100 different languages of art.”


Lin Lucas, Arts Integration Coach (Young Audiences)

Lin serves as an educator and resource to teachers and teaching artists at our partnering schools in Portland, Hillsboro, and Gresham-Barlow districts. He teaches and practices comics illustration and the Japanese dance form butoh. Since 1996, he has instructed Kindergarten through adult ages. Having served as Diversity Coordinator for Northwest School in Seattle, Lin led social justice trainings with the Seattle Race & Social Justice Initiative and Facing History and Ourselves. Now, he is a member of Portland’s African American arts collective, Brown Hall PDX, and an active graphic novelist depicting journalists who investigate mysteries and fight oppression. On that subject, he asserts: “Dismantling a social structure starts when individuals conduct deep self-assessments; arts education can offer subversive opportunities.”


Jamie Houghton, Arts Integration Coach (Young Audiences)

A published and practicing poet, musician, and performer, Jamie coaches Right Brain-affiliated schools in Corbett, Oregon Trail, and Hillsboro districts. Formerly she taught and coordinated creative writing workshops for the Museum at Warm Springs Indian Reservation, and Deer Ridge Correctional Institution in Bend, Oregon. She was also a teaching artist at The Shepherd’s House habilitation center. She learned that a receptive, comfortable learning space encourages “children and adults to take risks and surprise themselves and each other.” Through a 2014 Artist Fellowship Residency at PLAYA in Summer Lake, Oregon, Jamie spent five weeks alone with her own writing and music. Now, through her collaborative project Dreamhouse, she will host readings and events in pursuit of strengthening community.


Amy Botula, Implementation Coordinator (Young Audiences)

While Amy is not new to Right Brain, her role has changed from Arts Integration Coach to Implementation Coordinator. She now provides support for Arts Integration Coaches and residency assistance for schools and teaching artists. She and our Program Implementation Manager oversee the teaching artist application process. A former Portland Public Schools teacher for sixteen years, Amy worked with second through twelfth graders. With a Master of Arts in Teaching at Lewis & Clark College, and Writing Program Certificate from the Independent Publishing Resource Center, Amy is also a published writer. In recent visits to Right Brain-integrated classrooms, she is “struck by how few differences there are between teens and young children — everyone wants to be heard and seen.”

If you would like to read about the entire Right Brain team, we have more information here! It is our belief that each advocate will keep the themes of The Right Brain Initiative — equity, excellence, expression, and collaboration — running strong.

Claire Bassett is our new Communications Apprentice for the winter and spring seasons of 2015. In equal spades she is an education advocate and an arts advocate, and she regards the mission of Right Brain — “to give every K-8 student in the region access to the arts regardless of neighborhood, language, or income” — as one of the most uplifting visions in our country’s arts education landscape. The value of The Right Brain Initiative’s programming is inherent, significant, and enduring — in her humble opinion.

Digging Deeper: What Teachers Really Think about Right Brain

February 24th, 2015 by Sarah Hwang

Teachers engage in a collaborative design challenge during a recent Right Brain professional development session.

Have you ever wondered what teachers are like outside of the classroom? When I think back to my elementary school teachers, I revert back to my elementary student self and view teachers as authority figures who hold the fate of my future with a single letter grade. Earlier this month, I was able to attend the Right Brain Initiative’s 2nd workshop in their Professional Development series called “Arts Integration–Digging Deeper,” where I learned that I had the completely wrong impression about teachers.

Teachers and teaching artists came together to learn more ways to integrate the arts in everyday classroom learning and refresh ones they learned from the first workshop. We delved into the world of theatre, using pantomime as a tool to teach students about improvisation and teamwork. We practiced different types of drawing as a way to teach students to be resourceful and careful observers. It was great to experience some of the activities that students experience during their Right Brain residencies and witness the many “aha” moments as teachers were exposed to the benefits of arts education firsthand.

Arts integration is not necessarily a new concept to me. Having studied art history in school, I was already well-versed in how the arts provide new avenues in innovation and thinking. In fact, the most memorable part of the workshop for me was the personal stories teachers exchanged with each other about their experiences with Right Brain.

One teacher I sat with spoke about her school’s residency with Nicole Penoncello, who used printmaking as a way to teach elementary students about the water cycle. She was impressed not necessarily by the artwork created by students, but rather how their learning had such a lasting effect. Throughout the year, she would ask questions about water to refresh the students’ memories, and she said that they would answer correctly with such confidence and even volunteer more details about the cycle itself.

As these teachers told their stories and asked their questions, I began to feel a great sense of camaraderie at the table. Everyone, both old and new to Right Brain, were eagerly listening to these stories to learn more about their perspectives on Right Brain. We had open discussions about classroom techniques and teaching philosophies. We would even joke and talk amongst each other during the training, like children do in class. It felt like a meeting of friends. They really listened to each other’s stories and digested them, providing them with intimate insights into The Right Brain Initiative, while getting formal training from Right Brain’s Professional Development team.

It was so encouraging to witness such openness and eagerness to learn about Right Brain. The professional development series brought teachers together to create a safe space and network where they can ask questions and try out new ideas. But it also brought together like-minded individuals who are passionate about educating children and more simply, like to have fun. It’s nice to know that teachers, like all of us, are forever students, learning constantly about our ever-changing world.


Sarah Hwang is the Winter/Spring 2015 Outreach Apprentice for The Right Brain Initiative. She is excited to begin the new year working for Right Brain!

Another Successful Year for Right Brain & WW Give!Guide

January 13th, 2015 by Sarah Hwang


2014 ended with a bang for Right Brain and other nonprofits featured in the Give!Guide. The 2014 Willamette Week Give!Guide reported that 10,276 people donated a total amount of $3,140,015 to various nonprofits throughout the Portland community. This is a major increase from the previous year’s Give!Guide results of over $2.4 million.

The Right Brain Initiative is happy to report significant increases as well! This year, we reached our goal of $17K in donations from 272 donors: 

  • More than half of those donors are return donors from 2013, a 10% increase from 2013.
  • Almost half of donors were under the age of 36–that’s 130 people! Because of this, we also won the $1000 bonus from Give!Guide.  
  • AND 126 of our supporters made their first contribution to Right Brain in 2014.

So I guess what we’re trying to say is…THANK YOU.

Thank you for all of your support and dedication to The Right Brain Initiative. Thank you for helping us provide arts education to K-8 students in the Portland area, and thank you for believing in the crucial role that the arts play in the lives and educations of youths everywhere. None of this would be possible without you!

Here’s to another successful year!

Want to support our work, but missed the Give!Guide? Become a part of our Brain Trust individual giving program!

Sarah Hwang is the Winter/Spring 2015 Outreach Apprentice for The Right Brain Initiative. She is excited to begin the new year working for Right Brain!

GIVE!GUIDE UPDATE! Donate to Right Brain AND Young Audiences to win incredible prizes.

December 17th, 2014 by Rebecca



Young Audiences Logo

Didn’t you know? Young Audiences + Right Brain = A whole lotta poutine.

As we round the bend on our final weeks of the 2014 Willamette Week Give!Guide, we still have a lot to do to reach our goal of recruiting 300 donors. So, we’re excited to announce a new donor challenge, designed with our favorite partners-in-crime—Young Audiences of Oregon & SW Washington (YA), who is also included in the Guide this year. YA has served as Right Brain’s Implementation Partner since our inception. The Right Brain staff at YA oversee the day-to-day mechanics of our program—managing our teaching artists, and coaching school staff and teaching artists as they design and implement their classroom residencies. In addition to their work with Right Brain, YA also provides other arts services to thousands upon thousands of students in Oregon and Washington. We work so closely together, what’s good for YA is good for Right Brain, and vice versa.

So, what’s the challenge? Donate any amount to both Right Brain and YA and you will be entered to win an amazing prize package, which includes the following items:

Of course, the possibility of winning these tantalizing prizes is only in addition to the prizes you will necessarily receive from the Give!Guide, based on the size of your gift. Not to mention, you can feel assured that your gift will bring meaningful learning to kids around the Portland area, through dance, video, sculpture, singing and much more.

Head to the Give!Guide now,  find both The Right Brain Initiative and Young Audiences in the Education category, and you can donate to both orgs—and over 100 others included in the guide—in one easy transation. AND, please note—anyone who gives on Thursday, December 18 will be entered to win a case of booze from Rogue Distillery. Charitable giving has simply never been this easy or lucrative. Donate now!

Learn more about Right Brain’s 2014 Give!Guide campaign and goals here.

Give the gift of creative play!  

December 8th, 2014 by Dorit Harvey

Brain Food Photo

Our Brain Food decks include fifty cards with creative challenges to engage imagination for children of all ages! Many of these activities are perfect for chilly days spent staying cozy indoors or bundled up outside, which is why we are so excited to be selling them around town this holiday season. Check out all the ways you can purchase Brain Food:

As the winter months wear on, we could all use more light! For especially dreary days, we highly suggest Activity 8 in which you collect sources of light such as flashlights, glow in the dark items and strand lights to explore with brightness and shadow.  Or, you can create your own food cart with Activity 14—check out the results on Flickr from this activity created by children and families at Art in the Pearl this August.



Brain Food is a wonderful gift for right-brain and left-brain thinkers alike to develop whole-brain thinking skills through arts integration! All sales fund The Right Brain Initiative’s arts programming in local public schools. The Brain Food deck was developed by local educators, designers and artists as a partnership between AIGA Portland Design for Good and The Right Brain Initiative. Please put Brain Food on your shopping list this holiday season!

Announcing The Right Brain Initiative in the Willamette Week Give!Guide

December 2nd, 2014 by Dorit Harvey


During this long Thanksgiving weekend, we spent time thinking about what we are grateful for: 

  • OUR STUDENTS This year, The Right Brain Initiative will reach 20,000 students. The joy we see in our students’ faces when they participate in creative exploration is why we do this work.
  • COMMUNITY SUPPORT: Our principals, teachers, parents, districts and community leaders are imperative to the success of our program. These local supporters advocate for the right of every student to an arts education, representing a major commitment from our community.
  • OUR DONORS: It costs $55 per student served to sustain our program. With a $15 per student investment from school districts, this means we must raise an additional $40 per child each year, and our donors help us make it happen.

We are also extremely thankful to participate in the Willamette Week Give!Guide this winter to grow our individual giving. The Right Brain Initiative grew by 40% in this year alone. As we continue to reach more and more students, the need for individual giving rises. The Give!Guide is also a great opportunity to earn rewards for your gifts. 

The Give!Guide offers incentives from local businesses for individuals who donate to local non-profits.  Starting at $10, you receive freebies and discounts all around Portland from businesses such as Salt & Straw, Stumptown Coffee Roasters, ¿Por Qué No? Taqueria, Portland Center Stage, Music Millennium, and many others. Watch our Twitter feed for updates on Big Give Days. Giving as little as $10 on these days enters you to win prizes such as:

  • TODAY! December 2: Enter to win a Trek Allant 7 bicycle from Bike Gallery
  • December 11: Enter to win an ice cream party for 200 from Salt & Straw
  • December 18: Enter to win a case of spirits from Rogue Distillery

In addition to these incentives, The Right Brain Initiative offers more reasons to give:

The Give!Guide is our biggest fundraiser of the year. Our goal for this year is to raise $17,000 from 300 donors by the Give!Guide deadline of December 31st. The McMenamins challenge offers an extra $1,000 to the organization with the most donors age 35 and younger in each category. Give today to help us reach these goals and bring us one step closer to our goal of bringing arts integration to all students in the region!



Growth in The Right Brain Initiative for 2014-2015!

November 6th, 2014 by Dorit Harvey
Students at East Orient honed their listening skills in a residency with Jan Abramowitz. Photo by Allie Maya.

Students at East Orient honed their listening skills in a Right Brain residency with Jan Abramowitz. Photo by Allie Maya.

As the fall leaves turned their brilliant oranges and reds, The Right Brain Initiative also grew more vibrant for the start of a new school year. This year we will bring high-quality arts-integration programming to 20,000 students! This is an increase of over 40 percent from the 14,000 students served last school year.

More schools and more districts means we are reaching more students than ever before!

More schools and more districts means we are reaching more students than ever before!

We are beyond pleased to welcome the Estacada School District as our seventh district in the program. We will also be partnering with new schools in the Portland Public, Oregon Trail, and Hillsboro School Districts to make a total of 59 partner schools for the 2014-2015 school year.

Below is a list of new schools added to our program this year. Check out a full list of current schools on our website.
NEW SCHOOLS 2014-2015

Clackamas River K-6
Eagle Creek K-6
Eastwood K-6
Evergreen 7-8
Groner K-6
North Plains K-6
West Union K-6
Welches K-8
Abernethy K-5
Faubion PK-8
Vernon K-8

First graders at Quatama collaborated with My Voice Music to create sound waves. Photo by Juanita Martus.

First graders at Quatama collaborated with My Voice Music to create sound waves in this music-filled residency through The Right Brain Initiative. Photo by Juanita Martus.

To kick off our new partnerships and to strengthen continuing relationships, we have been busily running Professional Development sessions for educators and teaching artists. The enthusiastic professionals in these sessions show us that we are in for a truly brilliant year filled with new experiences and collaborations between passionate educators, artists, and students.