The Right Brain Initiative


Grassroots, and Tree Tops, and Canopy…Oh My! The Statewide Arts Education Conversation, Part One

May 24th, 2010 by Right Brain Team

We are excited today to feature our first official guest blogger: Deb Vaughn, arts education coordinator for the Oregon Arts Commission.

This is the first of three posts by Deb discussing the importance of activating the conversation across Oregon in order to examine our unique arts education landscape. She’ll then provide us with some upcoming opportunities to participate in that discussion.

This week, Deb discusses Oregon Public Broadcasting‘s upcoming coverage on arts education, including an episode of Think Out Loud on OPB radio, airing live this Friday at 9am, on 91.5 FM, if you’re in the Portland or Salem area (if you’re in other parts of the state or beyond, find the frequency in your area, or listen online). We’re particularly excited about this episode, as our very own Marna Stalcup, Right Brain Program Manager, will be interviewed, along with Dan Bosshardt, the music specialist at Right Brain partner school Lincoln Street Elementary in Hillsboro. You can contribute to the discussion on the TOL blog—which already has some response-worthy contributions—or on air by phone or email. Read below to find out how to add your two cents.

Welcome, Deb! Readers, enjoy!!


It has been a pleasure over the past few weeks to attend several local and regional arts education gatherings. I watched teachers and artists engage in a reflective protocol in Portland, heard Lynn and Benton County residents discuss their communities needs, and spoke with the next generation of arts managers in Eugene. As I cruise along at an altitude of 10,000 feet here in Salem, it is an inspiration and a pleasure to engage with those who are working directly with young people. In return, I wanted to share some really exciting state-level opportunities to expand on the conversations already happening in your communities.

One of Oregon’s strengths is the many arts education voices speaking: intelligent, passionate, thoughtful voices from the front lines in classrooms to high-level policy makers. But one of our state’s challenges is how to bring those voices cohesively together to deliver one powerful message about the impact of the arts on our students. All the levels of the forest, grassroots through canopy to tree tops, work together to create a healthy ecosystem.

Cross pollination is what keeps our ideas fresh. When I don’t talk to other people about the work I’m doing, I find myself struggling to reinvent the wheel. A little research, a phone call, some web reading or a look back at notes from an event can jump start my thinking to a whole new level. If you need an exciting jump start in your own work, here are a few suggestions:

Oregon Art Beat asks, “Is Art the Answer?”
Oregon Art Beat producer Katrina Sarson has a background in arts education. So when she contacted me last fall about an Art Beat special on just that topic, her enthusiasm was infectious. Katrina has been diligently learning about the arts education community around the state over the past few months, and the efforts of the entire OBP team are about to come to fruition.

On Thursday May 27, OPB’s Art Beat will broadcast a special arts education episode (8 PM, available online shortly after that). The episode, entitled Teaching Creativity: Is Art the Answer? looks at three situations:

  • Milwaukie choir director John Baker, who fears for the future of his award-winning choir program
  • Prineville science teacher Michael Geisen, who uses the arts to engage his students, but struggles with increasing class size and decreasing budgets
  • Artist in residence programs provide intensive experience during their duration, but for some students, it may be the only formal arts education they receive all year

In conjunction with this broadcast, Art Beat is launching an expanded educational website, specifically designed to bring Art Beat into classrooms. With a searchable database of episode content, this offers one more way to highlight and access arts education in Oregon. Check it out here.

Think Out Loud Arts Education Episode
Following the Art Beat premiere, OPB radio continues the dialogue with an arts education episode of Think Out Loud on Friday, May 28th. The blog associated with the show is open for comments now, so I encourage you to participate in the conversation. Blog comments will help influence the choice of guests for the radio show.

These back-to-back opportunities represent two powerful ways to reach beyond the “choir.” I know why I believe the arts are critical, but I am always interested in learning why others feel that way (or don’t, for that matter.)  Aren’t you?

— Deb Vaughn


Right Brain Team