The Right Brain Initiative


The Imagination Fund: Reaching Challenges, Extending the Arts

June 30th, 2014 by Meredith Wong

Earlier this school year, we introduced the second round of our fundraising campaign—The Imagination Fund—to raise $25,000. As a part of this campaign, the Maybelle Clark McDonald Fund agreed to match each contribution, dollar-for-dollar, if we hit $25,000 by June 15th. Needless to say, we reached our goal!

Earning this match was a joint effort between Right Brain staff and the Grassroots Fundraising Task Force, community members, and volunteers. Throughout the year, we organized regular neighborhood events and activities, such as trivia nights and dinner parties hosted by individuals. 

Through our collective time and effort, these funds will help support arts education programs for K-8th grades in the tri-county area. We are also especially thankful for our gracious donors and event hosts, who helped make this match possible!

  • Individual Donors: Nancy Archer, Sylvia Ashmore, Melody Bridges, Verlea Briggs, Greg Chapman, Carson and Sela Cies, Jodi Delahunt Hubbell and Todd Hubbell, Cameron Drilling,  Michelle Eraut, Savannah Gilmore, Gary Hartnett, Marvin James, Joe and Flizita Kaiser,  Kenzo Kubo, Michael Maas, Joe Mabe, Ashley McClellan, Josie Mendoza, Cate Millar, Robert Nicholas, Frank Palacios, Dorothy Piacentini, Geoff Phillips, Carla Piluso, Wallace Preble, Melissa Ranucci Soll, Emily Ritter, Elizabeth Rusch, Steve Seabold, Tyler M. Smith and Melissa M. Smith, T.A. Smith, Nick Walrod, Donna Allen Wardenaar, Thomas and Jodi Watson, Dan Wieden, Sadie Yudkin

  • Pooled Gifts from Hosted Events: Alan Alexander, Kaitlyn Allegretti, Marina Barcelo, Danielle Bastien,  Bruce & Julia Brown, Tamara Bruketta & Justin Yngelmo, Teralyn Bruketta, Thomas Bruketta, Marilyn Couch, Matt & Lara Drouhard, Westie Freeman, Wayne Harvey, Marcy Haugh, Sarah Knuth & Kurt Weller, Martha Koenig, Kenneth Kolarsky & Cynthia Gladen, Parker & Katherine Lee, Nora Lehnhoff, Christine Lorenz, Jeremy Marks, Genna Martin,  Gavin McCardle, Ron Miller, Caprice J. Neely, Edwin Perry & Deborah Peterson, Cynthia Pease, Jerome Rillera, Allison Rueckl & Liz Donovan, Randy Short, Jamie Smeland, Colin Staub, Carol Triffle & Jerry Mouawad, Ricardo Vasquez, Barbara & Karl Wetzel, Annie Wilkins

Although we reached our goal, the challenge grant continues! We have now entered the third and final year of the Maybelle Clark McDonald Fund, so be sure to keep us and our students in mind by donating here.

Meredith Wong is the current Development Apprentice for The Right Brain Initiative. She is a graduate student in the Arts and  Administration program at University of Oregon. 

Learn more about becoming a Right Brain Teaching Artist!

June 26th, 2014 by Rebecca

Last school year, Right Brain Teaching Artist Caitlin Shelman taught in both English and Spanish at El Puente Elementary in Milwaukie. (Photo by Robb Cummings.)

UPDATE: Please see our full call for teaching artists and download the RFQ.

Are you interested in becoming a part of the Right Brain Teaching Artist Roster? In just a few days, we’ll release our request for qualifications (RFQ) for the 2015-16 school year, but, in the meantime, we want to make sure these information sessions are on your calendar. We look forward to telling you more about what it means to work as a teaching artist with Right Brain, and the qualifications we’re looking for this time around.

Join us on one of the following dates to hear from Right Brain’s Teaching Artist Program Manager Briana Linden and other staff, and ask any specific questions you may have:

(1) General Information Session

Wednesday, July 16, 1:30-2:30 pm
Teatro Milagro
525 SE Stark St, Portland

(2) Information Session—focus on artists of color

Monday, July 21, 4:30-5:30 pm
810 SE Belmont St, Portland


Please contact

Calling all teaching artists and arts organizations interested in partnering with Right Brain

June 23rd, 2014 by Maia McCarthy

Teaching artist Subashini Ganesan of Young Audiences works with The Right Brain Initiative in Gresham. Photo by Leah Verwey.

The Right Brain Initiative calls for a new kind of education with an emphasis on creativity, collaboration, critical thinking and communication—natural areas of focus for the arts. We believe that the link between creative and analytical thought is strong, and we aim to ignite all learners by partnering with teaching artists, arts organizations and school communities to show the value of integrating the arts into other curricular areas. In doing this, Right Brain endeavors to create long-term, sustainable and systemic change to educational practices.

Our investment in our teaching artists begins with our call for artists. Just as we seek to make a deep and lasting change within our regional educational system, so have we crafted a request for qualifications and submissions process that requires the time and dedication of prospective applicants and allows us to better get to know the artists and arts organizations interested in partnering with us. The process begins in summer 2014, with final decisions made in December 2014.  Accepted teaching artists will be eligible for work in Right Brain schools in the 2015-16 school year.

If you are an arts educator who is interested in partnering with The Right Brain Initiative, join us to learn more at an informational meeting either on July 16 or July 21. (See below for more details.)

Is this call right for me?

For the 2015-2016 school year we seek teaching artists who demonstrate mastery of teaching in one or more of the following:


  • Mask making and/or puppetry

  • Elements of dance composition/choreography
  • Exploring world cultures through dance
Visual Arts

  • Paper arts including printmaking and photography
  • Sculpture

  • Composition
  • Active exploration of music vocabulary

  • Media literacy
  • Technology-based arts
Writing/Literary Arts

  • Using writing to explore underrepresented cultures
  • Spoken word


Additionally, candidates must demonstrate:

  • Experience teaching the arts in traditional and non-traditional classrooms, including lesson planning.
  • Experience with arts integration and other collaborative teaching methods.
  • A strong commitment to Right Brain’s values of equity, collaboration, sustainability and accountability.
  • Previous experience teaching in a school day classroom setting with students from diverse backgrounds (economic, language, cultural, and a range of learning styles).
  • Reside or be headquartered in the state of Oregon.

Preference will be given to artists residing in the suburban and rural areas of the Regional Arts & Culture Council service footprint of Clackamas, Multnomah and Washington Counties. Preference will be given to qualified teaching artists of color; those working in culturally-specific art forms; and applicants fluent in languages that are common the region’s public schools, including Spanish, Russian, Chinese, Vietnamese, and Somali.



If you’d like to learn more about The Right Brain Initiative and the application process, please join us for an informational meeting:

General Information Session

Wednesday, July 16 1:30-2:30 pm
Teatro Milagro, 525 SE Stark St, Portland

Information Session – special focus on artists of color

Monday, July 21 4:30-5:30 pm
Zoomtopia, 810 SE Belmont St, Portland

QUESTIONS? Please contact



Welcome, Estacada School District!

June 19th, 2014 by Rebecca

We are excited to report that we will take on the Estacada School District next year as our seventh partner school district. We will be working with Clackamas River and Eagle Creek Elementary Schools, providing integrated arts programming for their students, and professional development for their staff.

Read yesterday’s announcement about the partnership, as published in the Estacada News. In particular, we really like this quote from Seth Johnson, principal at Clackamas River: 

“We believe arts [are] a very important piece of education….What we’re hoping to have with this Right Brain Initiative is a more comprehensive plan for how we role out our arts.”

We are so charmed that Clackamas River Elementary has its own Twitter handle. Please find them at @CREChinooks!

These two schools will join the 49 current Right Brain partner schools, and other new schools to be announced this fall. See a full list of 2013-14 Right Brain partner schools.

How the Arts Empower

June 17th, 2014 by Aleah Romer

There are many who do not feel that the arts are an important and crucial aspect in terms of empowerment. They, like Rainn Wilson in the video above, feel that the most important things fall within Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

Yes, a person needs water, shelter, and food in order to physically survive. But in order to thrive you must also give them the ability to connect with both themselves and their community. Art allows people to do that. It allows people to reach out and find connections with others, as well as the ability to explore their innermost thoughts.

One of the speakers at this year’s State of the Arts was Joaquin Lopez. One of his recurring messages was that “art makes an impact” — not just for the individual, but also for the community. Lopez described how, as a member of both the Latino and LGBT communities; he was marginalized for much of his life. After he was awarded one of RACC’s project grants, Lopez described how his life was transformed. Lopez stated that “With [RACC’s] support I will empower my community through creative expression.” He had the time that he needed to work on giving both himself, and his communities, a voice. It is a moving testimony that you can watch for yourself here (Lopez’s testimony begins at 57:28).

Art helps us figure out who we are, what we love, and how we see ourselves in connection with the rest of the world, they help us find our voice and share our passion, and most importantly, the arts give us a medium with which to express our identity.

Aleah Romer is an undergraduate student at Portland State University, blogging for Right Brain through her Performing Arts Advocacy capstone class.

Reflections at the end of the school year.

June 6th, 2014 by Rebecca

Right Brain Professional Development Partner Deb Brzoska (standing), leads educators through the protocol for reviewing and responding to student work at Spring Colloquium.

Each Spring, we convene teachers, principals, and teaching artists to reflect on their Right Brain programming through the eyes of a child. Throughout the Right Brain artist residency, teachers collect evidence of one student’s experience in the form of photographs, video and audio clips. A mixed group of educators from different schools will then sit down together to review that evidence and talk about how this work impacted that child.

It’s a program we call Spring Colloquium and to say that the experience is powerful is an understatement. As teaching teams present, you see before you what ingredients make a strong arts learning experience, you see the value of teacher and artist collaboration, and the power of the arts to feed kids’ brains and hit them to the core. We’ve made posts about Colloquium before and I encourage you to check out this reflection from our 2013 session.


School staff and teaching artists focus on one child’s experience with Right Brain, and then identify the impact of the program on their life and learning.

This year, Portland State University student Jake Turner was able to sit in as four different sets of educators told their Right Brain story. Here are his reflections:

“I was lucky to volunteer as a technology facilitator (slideshow operator) at The Right Brain Initiative’s Colloquium on May 22nd, an event showcasing the work that has been put into their artists’ residencies in the past year. Each pairing of teacher and teaching artist presented the transformation of one child who participated in the artist’s residency program. Those in attendance at the Colloquium got a chance to see testimonials from students who had gained a stronger understanding of their own context in history, their own capability to instigate positive change, and the best ways to effectively communicate within a group. Those are all things that I had to discover for myself and I definitely didn’t discover them in any public education setting available to me, yet they are lessons that I wish I knew better, concepts that I now think are vital for the continued growth of a healthy community.



Teachers and teaching artists from different schools and districts respond to the residency documentation.


Right Brain is a new kind of education, an arts-integrated, personalized, empowering kind of education that I wish I had had access to as a child.

From what I saw at the Colloquium, every student gains an empowering education through The Right Brain Initiative’s residency programs because Right Brain seeks to give students the education that they individually need.”


One More Chance for Right Brain Trivia!

May 30th, 2014 by Maya McFaddin


Right Brain Trivia is back for one more time this spring! Join us on June 4th at Radio Room and test your knowledge of music, film, books, art, and more. You’ll have the chance to win awesome prizes and bragging rights for the entire summer!

The cost is $5 per person to play with teams of 2‒6 people. All cash raised, plus 15% of food and drink sales between 7 and 11pm go to our work in public schools. Come at 7pm to snag a seat, to buy raffle tickets, and to order yourself a burger, tacos or beer. Trivia will start promptly at 7:30.

Test Your Right Brain: Trivia for The Right Brain Initiative
Wednesday, May 7, 7:30‒9:30pm (arrive at 7pm to settle in!)
Radio Room, 1101 NE Alberta Street, Portland

RSVP for the event on Facebook

Doodling in Math Class: Connecting Dots

May 23rd, 2014 by Jake Turner

Vi Hart and her YouTube channel “Doodling in Math Class” are champions of easily accessible knowledge. The concept for her videos is that, while her math teacher is trying to explain a difficult mathematical concept to the uninterested class, Vi starts making up doodling games to keep herself occupied. As she continues to play, she makes up new rules for her games, trying to find ways to challenge herself. In the end, her doodle “game” looks more like an artistic application of whatever the teacher has been trying to explain. And, instead of absorbing it through conventional academic means, Vi has found the mathematical concept in her own way, at her own pace, and through something that allows her to explore with a sense of fun.

This video in particular seems fast-paced and dense, but this time the theme of her video isn’t focused on explaining mathematics. In whizzing by concept after concept, Vi emulates the rhythm of common academic education. You struggle to keep up with her, with where she’s going in the video, with the math that you are trying understand because what you’re currently seeing must only be a stepping block to the highest-level math you assume she’ll reach by the end. And it’s not until you actually get to the end that you realize she’s not really trying to teach math in this video at all. Her lesson this time is almost a manifesto for her channel, for her views on education: you can teach math by connecting the dots in straight lines, progressing in a single direction because that makes sense and it’s predictable and repeatable. But learning isn’t about prediction and it certainly isn’t about doing the same thing over and over again.

To make people want to learn, you need to explore new ways to connect dots.


Jake Turner is a theater student, advocate, and stage manager. He is blogging for Right Brain through the Performing Arts Advocacy Capstone class at Portland State University.

Right Brain Joins Fred Meyer’s Community Rewards

May 19th, 2014 by Maya McFaddin


Fred Meyer and The Right Brain Initiative are teaming up to raise money for arts education. If you shop at Fred Meyer and you have a Rewards Card, then you can help! Each time you shop at Fred Meyer and use your Rewards Card, Fred Meyer will make a donation to Right Brain. It’s easy to sign up—just link your Rewards Card to Right Brain by following the steps listed below:

Step 1: Visit

Step 2: Link your Fred Meyer Rewards Card to Right Brain using this number:  85380

Step 3: Use your rewards card every time you shop!

If you are interested in tracking your contribution to Right Brain, you check your Rewards account online to see how much you have contributed. Sign up today and start shopping!

Maya McFaddin is the Outreach Apprentice with The Right Brain Initiative for the 2014 summer. Maya is currently completing a post-baccalaureate degree in graphic design from Portland State University. She graduated from Willamette University where she studied art, Spanish, and varsity basketball. She is an Oregon native who loves all things Portland—the Blazers, coffee, and a good (or bad!) story.

Pythagoras: Math, Music, and more!

May 16th, 2014 by Travis Opocensky


This fine gentleman is Pythagoras. Born in 570 BCE, he is most commonly known for his work in mathematics, specifically his theory about the geometry of right triangles which states that the area of the square on the hypotenuse is equal to the (blah blah blah math math math) or a^2+b^2=c^2.

Most of us have come across the Pythagorean theorem at some point in our learning lifetimes. BUT: did you know that Pythagoras and his followers were also interested in the mathematics of every day life and the things around us— leading him to discover many of the systems which make up the foundation of Western music? Take a look at just a few of the ways Pythagoras used mathematics to explain the sounds we hear!

Blacksmiths’ hammers and Guitar string

Legend has it that one day Pythagoras took a stroll through the market and the sounds of the blacksmiths’ hammers as they struck the anvil caught his ear. He noticed that different hammers produced different sounds.  This brought about an idea that we take for granted today: that the speed of vibration and the size of the object producing the sound affects the ‘pitch’ of sounds in music.

Think of it like this: Imagine you have two different sized buckets, one large and one small. We expect that when we hit the larger bucket that the sound we get will be lower than that of the smaller bucket. Just like in music when we hear low sounds we know they come from a large instrument like a tuba or a string bass.

Pythagoras discovered very important properties of relationships between notes as well. After experimenting with musical tones and ratios on several stringed instruments he found that the sound of a stretched string gets lower as it gets longer. He also noticed that when he placed his finger on the string and plucked it, that the relationship between the original tone of the string and the note created could be put into numerical terms. We know this relationship today not by the numerical value, but by the term ‘interval’.

We can see this idea in action in the construction and performance of the guitar. To make sound, press on the strings of the guitar at the frets and strum. The note created has an exact relationship to the original note of the string. Wherever you placed your hand, that note is at a certain interval like a perfect fifth or minor third. Now you can thank Pythagoras every time you hear a rocking guitar solo!

Check out this video from the Science Channel talking more about Pythagoras’ theories! 

Pythagoras thought in ways very similar to our mission here at The Right Brain Initiative. He saw that everything was connected, from mathematics to music. We hope we can excite our students about learning by showing them these very same connections, just as we hope we have excited you to go learn more about Pythagoras!

Itching for more ways to learn more about the sounds around us? So are we! Here’s a Brain Food exercise you can do anywhere to explore how the space you’re in changes your voice.

Happy learning!


 Travis Opocensky is a percussion instructor in the Portland area and a Psychology student at Portland State University. He blogs and tweets for The Right Brain Initiative through the Performing Arts Advocacy Capstone class at Portland State.