The Right Brain Initiative



September 20th, 2010 by Right Brain Team

Emily at Right Brain's "Show + Tell" exhibit; Photo by Christopher Onstott, courtesy of the Portland Tribune

Hello! Allow me to introduce myself: my name is Emily Stevens and I am the brand new Outreach Intern for the The Right Brain Initiative. I am a recent graduate from Lewis & Clark College with a degree in musicology and a love of singing, painting, theater, playing the piano, film, poetry and history. After graduating in May and joining  the ranks of hundreds of unemployed, twenty-something Portlanders, I serendipitously came across The Right Brain Initiative one day job searching on the Regional Arts & Culture Council website. Charmed by Right Brain’s manifesto video,  I filled out the volunteer inquiry form without entirely understanding the breadth of the organization, and made a date with the multi-talented Outreach Specialist Rebecca Burrell to come to help in the office one afternoon. During my volunteer shift, I was presented with the task of sorting through photos on Right Brain’s Flickr stream. There, I came across the pre- and post-residency writing samples of a student from Whitman Elementary (Southeast Portland) named Sophie, who spent her 2009-2010 Right Brain residency trying to define ‘identity.’  Here is Sophie’s pre-residency description on identity; a simple list of elements of her appearance:

Let me tell you about me. My name is Sophie Mann. I have long dirty blonde hair. I have brown eyes, 2 legs, 2 arms, 1 nose, 1 mouth, 1 head. The unique thing about me is I love a goat.

After exploring cultural and personal identity through poetry and ceramics with artist Beth Rogers, Sophie’s writing is transformed to a striking and expressive portrait of her inner self (even her handwriting is more defined!):

I am from. I am from long walks with my papa. I am from listening to music with my Papa. I am from a tough aunt and a soft uncle. I am from a papa with an iron stomach. I am from a loving family. I am Sophie.

After reading these, I was pretty much sold that The Right Brain Initiative was a revolutionary idea and I began devoting as much time as possible to the cause. After meeting with hundreds of parents, teachers and concerned citizens at the traveling Show + Tell exhibit, I was more convinced than ever that Right Brain is the answer to emancipating arts education from the clutches of catastrophic budget cuts in area school districts.

After a few weeks of volunteering, some exciting things started happening in my life. An intern at the Portland Tribune included me in an article profiling 2010 college graduates in Portland (see the picture at the top of the page) and soon after, I interviewed for and was offered a part time job selling advertising that pays well enough to support my arts habit. As soon as I settled down financially I started to get a little restlessness creativtivity-wise and, Ta-Da! an internship magically appeared at my favorite non-profit to fuel my creativity!  I’m hoping that over the course of the next few months I will help to address issues of local and national issues in arts education through this blog and other Right Brain platforms, hopefully spreading the word about Right Brain and starting a conversation about what we can do right now to solve the arts education crisis in America.


Right Brain Team