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.
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.
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.
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!
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.”
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.
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.
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.
Several weeks ago I had the opportunity to sit in on The Right Brain Initiative’s Spring Reflection Colloquium. I’m not an educator, or an artist, or a parent. In fact, before the Colloquium I hadn’t given much thought to art and K-8 education. Watching the presentations of teachers, artists, and school administrators, I was amazed at the positive impact that integrating art into the curriculum had on everyone involved.
Right Brain programs take place at schools across the Portland metro area and involve a wide range of different arts and subjects. Students get the benefit of working hands on with a particular art form, and learning classroom curriculum in a creative and innovative way. In the panels I witnessed, one group of students learned about weather patterns through ballet, another class turned their study of American Indian history into a play, and another incorporated photography into learning about their neighborhood and community.
The Spring Reflection Colloquium is an opportunity for educators who have taken part in Right Brain programs to come together and share their experiences, and for all partners involved to evaluate how things are going after a school year full of professional development and artist residencies. Panels consisting of the classroom teacher, teaching artist, and school principal present their residency experiences to a room full of educators and artists from other Right Brain affiliated schools, and a Right Brain coach facilitates the entire process.
The presentations, or “protocols,” are designed to allow each school’s team a chance to explain their school’s demographics, the goals for the residency, classroom priorities, and how integrating a particular art form met those goals and priorities. There is time allotted for the audience to ask questions, then examples of student artwork are presented, and finally the panel and the rest of the group join together for a discussion of the residency. Over the course of the two-day colloquium I observed six presentations and noticed two consistent themes: the challenge presented by trying to achieve curriculum goals through incorporating the arts, and the importance of the classroom teacher being an active participant in the residency.
There is clearly a value in exposing school children to different forms of expression and art, but how do you teach aspects of the curriculum through this exposure? I was struck by how intelligently and creatively all the parties involved in Right Brain residencies addressed this question. From more direct examples, like using theatre to tell a historical narrative, to the more abstract—using ballet to teach meteorology and weather patterns—it was incredible how a group of artists and educators could come together to integrate the teaching artists into classroom learning goals.The most successful presentations were those in which the classroom teacher was fully engaged with the teaching artist and participating before, during, and after the residency. Time, space, and funding constraints mean that residencies can’t go on indefinitely. Classroom teachers who spent class time in advance of the residency preparing their students, and continued using their Right Brain training to integrate the arts into their daily practice after the residency had ended, clearly saw the most benefit in terms of students’ mastery of the curriculum.
All the presenters shared wonderful and profound moments from their Right Brain experiences. One example that was particularly striking concerned a student who was having difficulty meeting grade level academic standards. The classroom teacher described how the student’s pace—slow, meticulous, deliberate—was a challenge academically. However, those same attributes were a tremendous asset during the Right Brain residency. The student worked very carefully and methodically on her project, and her deliberate pace and meticulous work resulted in a beautiful piece of art. Seeing the student excel in this context, the classroom teacher was determined to find a way to use the student’s pace as a strength academically as well.
As an outsider, the Spring Reflection Colloquium was a terrific introduction to what The Right Brain Initiative does, and the power of fully integrating the arts into the classroom. The Colloquium also represents Right Brain’s admirable commitment to monitoring, assessing, and adjusting their programs to meet the needs of students, teachers, and the community. Finally, it was inspiring to see the level of commitment, dedication, and pride displayed by all the educators, artists, and facilitators involved with Right Brain and working in Right Brain schools.
A Northeast Portland native, Liam McGranahan spent his entire K-12 education in Portland Public Schools where he perfected his cursive italic. He now works in digital marketing at a local advertising agency where no one can read his handwriting.
If you follow us on social media (do it!), you’re probably aware we just finished a big fundraising campaign. The Imagination Fund is so important to Right Brain for several reasons, not the least of which is that our program is growing a lot faster than our budget! The main focus of the campaign, though, was to ignite a base of individual donors who care about arts education in the Portland community. We need our neighbors to support us just as much as we need corporations and governmental agencies, because it means the whole community is behind our efforts.
Not only did we succeed in finding new supporters, our long-time friends once again proved their astounding dedication to our cause. After a seven-month campaign that united Right Brain staff, board members, friends and local businesses, we are so pleased to announce that we raised $23,605, every penny of which will be matched by the Maybelle Clark Macdonald Fund. We more than doubled our community of individual donors!
In all, we mobilized over 100 donors through 14 events, three letter-writing campaigns and three online campaigns. Our staff, supporters and partners got creative, in true Right Brain fashion, to generate support. Committee members and board members pitched in to host Dine in for Right Brain events, bringing friends together to share the message and raise funds. We gathered support in a warehouse, in a law firm and in a retirement home. We did it through craft parties, luncheons, rock concerts and wine tastings. Our good friends at NORTH got creative with the first of four videos heralding the virtues of Right Brain. Watch the first and stay tuned for more!
To those who helped and those who gave and everyone in between: thank you. The kids of the Portland area will reap the rewards of your generosity in years to come.
All this good news comes with a long-term vision. This is just the beginning. The Imagination Fund campaign is a three-year challenge. We had just seven months to mount this recent campaign, and look how much we accomplished! Can you imagine what we can do in a full twelve months? Let’s find out. The next campaign begins now.
For non-profits like Right Brain, there’s not much better for the health and longevity of our organization than a giant check. Support from corporations makes up about 15% of our budget. Recently, we’ve been inspired to see businesses in our Portland community even go beyond the big check, taking cues from our innovative programs and from their own employees to increase the impact of their contributions.
Take our corporate partner Bank of America. The Bank of America Foundation has been a wonderful contributor to the Right Brain cause, contributing $62,500 since our first year in schools. Last week, the Foundation brought us our biggest check yet, for $20,000. This grant will enable Right Brain to bring arts education programs to new schools in the 2013-14 school year.
The foundation support means a lot to the stability and growth of our organization, but that’s not all! This year, thanks to a local BofA employee, the company took their support a step further, engaging their workforce to increase contributions and awareness.
We recently launched a series of Dine in for Right Brain events to increase awareness and support of our work as part of our Imagination Fund campaign. Most folks hosted dinner parties with friends where they discussed Right Brain’s work and the impact of arts education on our kids and community. But Katherine Drew, a member of our Development Committee and a Merrill Lynch employee (Merrill Lynch is owned by BofA) realized she could take the Dine In series to a new level with BofA’s help.
Katherine and her co-workers—including mother Jane Drew—got creative and threw us a fundraising ice cream party at their office! Employees donated, and BofA matched their contributions, doubling the impact. We were lucky enough to be joined by some students from Right Brain school James John Elementary (St. Johns), and maybe it was all the sugar, but everyone was pumped up about what we can accomplish when everybody chips in.
It makes sense for businesses to invest in a thriving community, and Bank of America knows that our arts integration programs are preparing kids to think and contribute and succeed in their future careers. Whole communities—schools, non-profits and businesses—coming together for a better future: everybody wins!
BofA has a history of collaborating with us on interesting projects. Remember our installation at the branch in Oak Grove? Read more about that here.
As Program Specialist for The Right Brain Initiative, I work with educators at our schools and our staff to gather “data” all year long. I am privileged with the opportunity to do things like conduct student interviews, help create and refine surveys, observe and record in classrooms, and coordinate a roster of volunteers and staff to do the same, all in an effort to gather the evidence that Right Brain is having an impact in the schools.
It does require a perky pace to keep up with multiple residencies all happening in different schools, on various schedules, but I am so often energized by the stories that emerge in otherwise frenetic blur of my gathering. I see learning everyday, in a vast array of contexts. (Imagine the diversity of perspectives amongst the 11,000 students participating in sixty-six unique arts experiences!) These anecdotes and experiences show us that arts integration is an effective way for kids to learn, but we also know that we need to illustrate this for everyone else, and to summarize what we are finding.
This is why I am elated when our Evaluation Partner, Dennie Palmer Wolf, so graciously lends her brain, not only to plan our strategy for data collection at the beginning of each year, but to synthesize and summarize what our data provides in the months after. She has the invaluable perspective of being both close enough to know the details of our operation, but also a global arts education lens to see how our evaluation work fits into the larger field. Our evaluation process not only informs how we will move forward as a program, but it helps us paint a picture for everyone else – in charts and graphs – that our work is moving onward and upward.
Below are some hand-illustrated graphics from our just released 2012 Evaluation Report:
We are pleased to share DPW’s Executive Summary of the 2012 Annual Report with you, as well as this nifty one-pager illustrated by Halle Cisco featuring highlights from the report. Please contact us with questions and comments at firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to furthering the conversation about evaluating our work and looking ahead.
“I never would have attempted this project without my Right Brain training. It was a real leap of faith to take 26 kids out into the garden and let them make something. It paid off.”
-Lewis Elementary teacher Paul Colvin
Lewis students work collaboratively to create art using natural objects. Teacher Paul Colvin is using Right Brain techniques to integrate the arts in his practice, and it’s paying off for his students. Photo by Paul Colvin.
Our goal at Right Brain is to bring the arts to every student in the Portland region, but not just for an hour a day or a week-long special program. We want the arts to be embedded in each lesson, so that our children learn to collaborate, think independently and solve problems creatively. To achieve that goal, we need teachers to agree and work to make it a reality. Luckily, we’ve got some awesome teachers around here.
Despite facing innumerable pressures, teachers who work with Right Brain are making the commitment to bring arts to their students every day. They’re seeing students respond and engage in our artist residencies, and we’re bringing them more professional development opportunities than ever to help them think creatively in their own lesson planning.
Mr. Colvin put that training to use in a recent lesson–detailed here on his blog–bringing students outside and letting them work together to create natural art inspired by artist Andy Goldsworth. The students created a beautiful piece and learned about plant biology along the way. Check out the pictures and student reflections!
We’re so excited about Mr. Colvin’s continued efforts, and the work of so many other educators, because it proves that this work matters. Teachers are using their limited resources and boundless passion to realize and expand our shared vision: engage both sides of the brain and our students will learn important lessons in a meaningful way. They’ll be ready to think and contribute in the amazing future we’re creating together. Awesome!
The arts can change a child’s life. Don’t believe us? Ask former Gresham Police Chief Carla Piluso–she talks about how much our arts integration programs impact students, schools and entire communities in this awesome new video, produced by NORTH!
One experience can be the tipping point in the success or failure of a student’s education, their future and the future of our community. Here at Right Brain, we’re filling the “cracks” in the system with dance, drumming and design. We’re making students excited about school so they keep coming back. And the positive effects in our community can be absolutely amazing.
The thing is, we can’t do this alone.
Partnering with schools, teachers and artists, we have brought the arts to over 11,000 students in 44 schools in the Portland region. Our partners are doing great work, but our goal is to reach every one of the 110,000 K-8 students in the tri-county area.
To reach full capacity, we need engagement from the community. Individual support is critical to the success of our initiative in the long run, which is why we’ve challenged ourselves to raise $25,000 through individual donations of $250 or higher in the Imagination Fund. If we reach our goal by June 15th, the Maybelle Clark Macdonald Fund will match it dollar-for-dollar. At the time of this post, we need just $1,800 more with four days remaining. Help us reach our goal, and help prepare our kids for a great future.
Students learn to collaborate through Right Brain programs. Our program manager recently shared how we make it happen in a NEA podcast interview. Photo by Allie Maki Maya.
We’re famous! Right Brain recently joined the ranks of poet laureates, famous filmmakers, Pulitzer Prize winners and other folks who have been featured on the National Endowment of the Arts’ Art Works podcast. Host Josephine Reed’s interview with Program Manager Marna Stalcup is a 30-minute short course on what The Right Brain Initiative is all about, and a wonderful opportunity for us to share what we do with listeners worldwide. It’s worth a listen or five.
The interview comes hot on the heels of a $25,000 grant award from the NEA, and Marna discusses the ways these funds translate into real learning for local students through extensive training for classroom teachers and visiting artists. Teachers learn to integrate the arts into their lessons and artists learn how to teach their craft within the school curriculum. These educators enable students to learn traditional subjects like science, math and technology in a meaningful way, and they also develop the innovative creative thinking skills essential to future success.
Marna points out the value of using the arts to engage students and enable learning beyond standardized classroom instruction. “We hear from teachers all the time […] a child that’s acquiring the language or is challenged to learn in a very linear way has new inroads to learning and has new opportunities to express their understanding.”
Real results have emerged over the past five years, with a series of classroom observations showing 21st Century skills like critical thinking and communication can double with an artist and classroom teacher working together, compared with a traditional classroom setting. Plus, over 64% of Right Brain teachers put their training to work, utilizing arts integration strategies in their daily practice.
In the end, host Josephine Reed is convinced we’re on the right track. “Gosh,” she says. “It makes me wish I was a kid in Portland.”
Becky Thomas is Right Brain’s Outreach Apprentice for Summer ’13.