The Right Brain Initiative


The 2015 Willamette Week Give!Guide Campaign has launched!

November 12th, 2015 by Kelsey Gray



Follow the #RightBrainConfessional hashtag to keep tabs on our seasonal fessin' up!

Follow the #RightBrainConfessional hashtag to keep tabs on our seasonal fessin’ up!

One of the most exciting times of the year for over 140 nonprofits in the Portland area is upon us! The 2015 Give!Guide has officially gone live, and the giving season is in full swing. The Give!Guide is consistently Right Brain’s most profitable fundraiser, and it truly plays a critical role in sustaining our efforts. Last year we were able to raise $17,000 through the guide, and this year we’re aiming for $20,000! You can help us meet this goal by donating at the Give!Guide’s super user-friendly website. The Willamette Week does the bulk of the work for you, and giving couldn’t be easier – browse the 143 featured nonprofits by category, click, and donate online in a matter of minutes.

What’s in it for you? When you donate ten dollars or more to any organization in the Guide, you qualify to receive coupons to ¿Por Que No? Tacos, Stumptown Coffee Roasters, Sizzle Pie, Salt & Straw, Ken’s Artisan Bakery, and the Chinook Book App (for a full description of and guide to the incentives, click here). Additionally, the Give!Guide sponsors Big Give days where the winnings to be had are extra enticing – and TODAY happens to be a pretty incredible one! Donate any Give!Guide organization of your choice, and immediately you’ll be in the running to win a $500 shopping spree at Powell’s Books! Keep the following days in mind for the chance to win big:

Nov. 12: Powell’s Book’s $500 shopping spree

Nov. 19: Portland Thorns and Timbers ticket package

Dec. 1: Trek Allant 7.2 bike, courtesy of Bike Gallery

Dec. 10: An 80 person Salt & Straw ice cream party at Pip’s & Bounce

Dec. 17: Spirits from Rogue Distillery.

Finally, every year as part of the campaign, the guide puts on the Young Donors Contest, the aim of which is to rally young donors under the age of 35 in the spirit of giving. What it means for the participating nonprofits is a bonus of $1,000 to the organization that receives the most donations from folks in this age group. For the past five years Right Brain has had the honor of winning this generous prize, and now we’re aiming for year six! You can help us win again in the Young Donors category by spreading the word about the Give!Guide to young people you know!


You can check out our regular Give!Guide updates on our Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter over the coming months, as well as keeping up with our blog website events calendar. Be sure to visit our #RightBrainConfessional hashtag, and take a peek at our twist on the Give!Guide’s, “Been a little bad? Do a little good,” campaign!

Check out our #RightBrainConfessional series on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, our twist on the Give!Guide's "Been a little bad? Do a little good" campaign.

Check out our #RightBrainConfessional series on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, our twist on the Give!Guide’s, “Been a little bad? Do a little good,” campaign.

Right Brain’s Outreach Specialist wins Skidmore Prize through Willamette Week’s Give!Guide

November 5th, 2015 by Kelsey Gray


This past Tuesday at the Willamette Week’s 2015 Give!Guide launch celebration, Right Brain’s Outreach Specialist, Rebecca Burrell, was one of four recipients of the Skidmore Prize, a recognition of dynamic individuals working in Portland’s nonprofit sector. We’re beyond excited for Rebecca and so proud of this Right Brain accomplishment! To read the full press release on Rebecca’s win, check it out on the RACC website!

This year’s other Skidmore Prize winners included:

Check out their featured bios, along with Rebecca’s, at


Of course, this means the Give!Guide is officially live and ready to receive donations! Every year the Willamette Week sponsors this two month campaign to rally Portlanders in the spirit of giving, and highlights over 140 local nonprofits. It’s a pivotal event for these organizations, and an amazing way for YOU to learn about and support some incredible work happening in our community. This year Right Brain has a goal of raising $20,000! Help us out by donating at this link, and make sure to take a look at all the other inspiring organizations featured in this year’s guide!



Right Brain wins at “Portland Monthly” magazine’s Light a Fire Awards!

October 29th, 2015 by Kelsey Gray


On Tuesday, October 20th, The Right Brain Initiative was honored at the prestigious Light a Fire Awards, Portland Monthly’s annual recognition of some of the most dynamic nonprofits in the city. Right Brain was granted the Game-Changing Project award, which recognizes innovative collaboration between community projects generating systemic and impactful change.

We were so thrilled that arts integration and creative thinking in the classroom were given the opportunity to shine at this year’s event, alongside some other truly remarkable organizations and individuals! Check out the full press release on the Regional Arts and Culture Council’s website, and to take a peek at Light a Fire’s profile of Right Brain, click here!


Right Brain staff Maya, Rebecca, Sinead, Marna, and Phoebe (from left) pose with the night’s emcee, Poison Waters, at the 2015 Light a Fire Awards.

Welcome to Right Brain’s Newest Teaching Artists!

October 9th, 2015 by Amy Botula

Please join us in welcoming four new teaching artists to the Right Brain roster for Fall 2015!


Kanani Miyamoto

Kanani is a visual artist specializing in printmaking. She loves to hear the Oooos and Ahhhs of students when a print is pulled and is eager to both share the magic of printmaking with students and get teachers excited about infusing their core curriculum with the arts and arts instruction. To Kanani, “arts integration has the power of engagement” for every student and is “necessary” because “thinking creatively is a valuable skill that our future generation needs.”



Kathy Coleman, Disability Art and Culture Project

Kathy, a Master of Social Work in addition to a choreographer and dancer, is the artistic director for The Disability Art and Culture Project. Kathy believes that “there is nothing more exciting than watching students transform an idea into movement.” When asked what she’s most looking forward to working as a teaching artist for Right Brain, Kathy replied: “I think Right Brain provides the opportunity for teachers and students to dig deep into creativity and critical thinking which then cultivates new ways of imagining the world.”



Oluyinka Akinjiola

Oluyinka is a choreographer, dancer, and artistic director for Rejoice: Diaspora Dance Theater. For Oluyinka, her role as a teaching artist is to “reveal the power and capacity of the arts” to encompass other disciplines and critical thinking. When considering her work with Right Brain next year, she says “What I love about Right Brain is that every session in every residency will be different…That keeps life exciting and fresh for the students and for me as a teaching artist.”

Oluyinka’s profile will go live on the roster in advance of her return to Portland in January.


Tina McDermott

Tina is a visual artist and certified arts teacher who takes the role of instigating the right kind of questions seriously. As a teaching artist, Tina values the relationship between student inquiry and student learning. For Tina, arts integration holds that relationship together: “When we wonder about the motivation for students to learn, we’re asking them why we look for meaning. We have to use an artist’s toolkit to get a full answer.”

See our full roster of 41 individual teaching artists and arts organizations here.

The Right Brain Initiative featured at Art Spark

October 8th, 2015 by Kelsey Gray


Right Brain is a featured focal point at the upcoming Art Spark, Thursday, October 15th at the Canton Grill, 5:30-7:30 pm. Art Spark is a monthly, causal gathering for artists and creative minds of all sorts to meet, mingle, and discuss the growth and goals of the arts in Portland, hosted by the Regional Arts & Culture Council. Come join us in a conversation about Right Brain’s mission of whole-brain learning and arts integration in the classroom! This will also be a great opportunity to hear a bit more about the program from our teaching artists’ perspective, as a number will be there to add to the discussion, along with Right Brain staff. Additionally, the APANO Arts and Media Collective will be joining this final Art Spark of the season to bring to the table their aim of making space for the Asian/Pacific Island Community to be present and creative all throughout Portland.

Right Brain is excited to be a part of the first Art Spark in the Jade District, and we hope to see you there! 

Art Spark with The Right Brain Initiative and APANO Arts and Media Collective
Thursday October 15, 5:30-7:30pm
Canton Grill, 2610 S.E. 82nd Ave
RSVP on Facebook.

Right Brain sparks teacher innovation

October 5th, 2015 by Kelsey Gray

Last spring, we interviewed teachers about Right Brain’s impact on their work. Some of our initial findings were published in the following article, currently featured on the front page of this fall’s Art Notes, the newsletter for the Regional Arts and Culture Center. Scroll down to read the full story, and stay tuned for more teacher interviews in our 2015 progress report, to be released next month.



Ask any educator, and they will tell you that teaching elementary school is one of the sweetest and most noble career paths. And, it’s not for the faint of heart. Marna Stalcup, Director of Arts Education at RACC says: “Teachers come in with a passion for learning and children. But often the list of things they have to attend to gets in the way.”

So, as a bright new school year launches, Marna and her team at The Right Brain Initiative prepare to help 25,000 students in the Portland metro area think creatively and critically through the arts. Central to the success of this work is serving the students’ 1,300 K-8 teachers.

“In one way or another, everything we do is professional development for teachers,” says Stalcup. Between workshops and collaborations with professional teaching artists, Right Brain gives educators tools to bring creativity into their classrooms every day.


Veronica Tarshis, Kindergarten teacher, East Gresham Elementary

Veronica Tarshis, a Kindergarten teacher at East Gresham Elementary, describes it this way: “In education, we always compartmentalize things. Right Brain shows how you can take creativity, like music, visual arts, movement, and incorporate that with everything. When you look at art, you can see geometry.”

East Gresham became a Right Brain partner school in 2011. Tarshis radiates with enthusiasm when she talks about the learning to integrate the arts: “When I went to a Right Brain professional development session for the first time, I kept thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, I can teach again! I feel amazing. All teaching should look like this.’”

From Right Brain’s workshop facilitators, she learned how to create a safe space for students to contribute ideas and take risks without fear of judgment. As a result, her students have become very brave about sharing their writing, for one.

Meaningful collaborations with Right Brain teaching artists only increased her ability to make long-term changes to her teaching practice.

During her Right Brain artist residency in the spring of 2015, Tarshis worked with Northwest Children’s Theater and School (NWCTS) to examine storytelling through theatre in her classroom. From a NWCTS artist, she learned a deceptively simple song called Magic Rocks that became, as she calls it, “a game-changer.” The song begins with students curled up on the carpet: “Magic rocks, magic rocks, what can you be? Can you be a silly monkey swinging from a tree?” Then students quickly stand and adopt a monkey’s stance. And it goes on from there. Next, they might be invited to transform into a bird, or a baby.

“It was brilliant,” she said. The kids were spellbound by this easy activity, and with it Tarshis achieved 100% participation from her students—a feat she had never been able to accomplish before.

She began incorporating this very quick movement practice into her daily routine, and she saw dramatic shifts in her classroom.

In particular, three of her most restless students had a difficult time focusing in class, to the point that she worked up a behavior sheet for each one of them—a platform to check in regularly on the students’ conduct and to communicate with their parents about it.


Educators at a Right Brain workshop, 2015. Photo by Cecily Caceu.

Her most active students began to request Magic Rocks, and suddenly—miraculously—they began to better control their actions and follow instructions. The behavior sheets for all three students became filled with positive comments. “These three boys really progressed. They just needed movement,” Tarshis beamed. She cites her Right Brain artist residency as the turning point for these kids.

“Before Right Brain, I felt so much pressure to get through the material and fight against what kids naturally do,” she says. “Now, when I plan lessons, I try to think, ‘Is there any way I can incorporate the arts with this?’”

Learn more about Right Brain, meet staff and teaching artists, at Portland Art Spark on Thursday October 15, 2015, 5:30-7:30pm at the Canton Grill, 2610 SE 82nd Avenue.

Right Brain Bingo Night!

August 5th, 2015 by Bobby Zaman


Bingo Night (Braingo) is a new program emerging from popular demand and will be continuing through the fall!

Bingo Night will be at our featured location and long-term partner The Radio Room during these dates:
Tuesday August 18th 
Tuesday October 13th, and
Tuesday November 10th
7:00pm-9:00pm for all dates.

Cards are $3 each, players can buy as many cards as they want. There will also be a raffle with multiple winners that include prizes from Portland Center Stage, Hot Yoga for Life, and Gift Certificates to Tolovana Inn at Cannon Beach! 15% of all Radio Room food and bar sales will be donated. 

**Make sure to RSVP on our Facebook Event Page


Teaching Artist Info Sessions

August 5th, 2015 by Bobby Zaman

We are hosting info sessions specifically for those interested in learning more about our teaching artists application process.

If you are interested in learning more about teaching artists and the positions available, please attend one of two information sessions:
Tuesday, August 18, 2-3pm, and
Tuesday, August 18, 5:30-6:30pm

Both are located at:
Regional Arts & Culture Council
411 NW Park Avenue, Suite 101
Portland, Oregon

Applications are due September 1st. The info sessions will be a place to learn more about teaching artists, to ask questions about teaching artists, and to have the opportunity to meet the staff.

**Those who plan to attend please RSVP to Sinead Kimbrell.

Teaching Artist Application for The Right Brain Initiative

July 31st, 2015 by Sinéad Kimbrell


The Right Brain Initiative is excited to open a new application for teaching artists for the 2015-2016 school year. Demand for teaching artists continues to increase as The Right Brain Initiative expands to more schools across the tri-county area. We serve a student population that is approximately 47% children of color. Over 25% of our kids are Latino, 8% are Black, and 24% are English Language Learners. Right Brain continues to focus on diversifying our teaching artist roster, allowing students to work with artists that better reflect themselves and their communities, while making art from a cultural and contemporary perspective. We’re particularly looking for teaching artists of color, teaching artists who can speak Spanish, as well as those who speak Chinese, Vietnamese, Russian and Somali in addition to being able to speak English.

Have you ever taught kids how to work in the Creative Process, the process of making meaning through art? Have you ever asked kids to translate what they know about the world into an artistic product or performance?

Right Brain is an inventive and equitable approach to education. Apply to be part of our vision of systemic change in Portland metro area public schools. Help students of all backgrounds find their inherent curiosity and creativity, and help them feel safe, inspired and successful while at school. Let Right Brain know why you would be a great addition to our arts residency team.

Applications are due September 1, 2015 by 3pm. An information session about the application process will be held in August. Check out our website for date and location, and tell your artist friends.



Sinéad Kimbrell is the Program Manager for The Right Brain Initiative, and former teaching artist and administrator with multiple organization, including the Oregon Ballet Theatre, the Obo Addy Legacy Project and Hubbard Street Dance Chicago. She has been published in the Teaching Artist Journal, the Journal of Dance Education, and the Schools: Studies in Education Journal.

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.