NOTE: Right Brain staff are working this quarter with students in the Performing Arts Advocacy capstone class at Portland State University. Through this partnership, these students will craft a series of blog entries covering various topics related to arts education, beginning with this one from Aleah Romer. Please enjoy, and please also follow the students as they take over our Twitter feed for the next few weeks!
On April 23rd, 2014 I went to my first State of the Arts meeting at Portland City Hall.
Several classmates and I met in front of the council chamber and filed in behind the small crowd that had already assembled. Several people sported large, colorful masks on top of their heads (seriously, the smallest was about the size of a three year old child) and one woman wore a hat with two-foot long aloe leaves spiking out from all directions. It was a fun mix of characters, and it set the tone for the rest of the meeting.
The meeting opened with a live horn orchestra playing a mash-up of Mendelssohn and ABBA. Then, RACC presented the annual report (which can be found here). It is definitely worth it to read the full report, but here are a few things I learned:
Portland is known as a major arts destination, and is drawing in more visitors because of this
180,000 people benefited from RACC in 2013
In Oregon, the arts had an economic impact of $120 million in 2013
RACC and the Right Brain Initiative have had a tremendous effect on the people of the Portland metro area
The last point came to me as I listened to guest speakers share their experiences. One of the speakers was Shawn Garnett, the principal of Markham Elementary School. This is her school’s sixth year working with Right Brain, and if I were already a fan of The Right Brain Initiative her testimony would have won me over in an instant. After her school began working with The Right Brain Initiative she noticed that her students were more empowered. Principal Garnett explained that 55% of the students in her school have free or reduced lunch, and 23% are English language learners (with the two most common first languages being Arabic and Somali). In addition, she stated that Right Brain’s emphasis on whole-brain learning has raised awareness among the educators at her school, and has increased the intellectual competence and motivation of her students. She said that Right Brain “infused [the arts and “core” subjects] so seamlessly.” It was a powerful testimony to the value of The Right Brain Initiative and it drove home the importance of integrating the arts and core studies in school.
As I said earlier, this was my first time at the State of the Arts meeting, but it will not be my last. It is necessary to show your support, even when you think it is not needed. One of the key things that I learned is that even though RACC and The Right Brain Initiative have done some awesome things in the last year, the arts in Oregon are still under-supported, under-funded, and in need of help. RACC receives funding from the city of Portland, so one of the ways that you can show your support for their funding is by attending events such as this one. Your support is invaluable.
You can watch the video recording of this year’s State of the Arts here. (Principal Garnett’s testimony begins at 35:51)