The Right Brain Initiative


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.

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!