The Right Brain Initiative


Success story! James John Elementary makes arts education a community-wide conversation.

August 15th, 2011 by Right Brain Team


With all the demands that exist within a school year, what is the value of taking the time to connect arts education to the outside community? We’d like to show you one powerful example.

In Spring 2011, students at James John Elementary (St. Johns, Portland) worked with Right Brain artist Julie Keefe to create poetry and self-portraits that explored their individual identities. 3rd grade teacher Sam Leach then partnered with the neighborhood coffee shop to exhibit his students’ artwork. The exhibit made a huge impact on everyone involved, from the students, their parents, the coffee shop customers and even the baristas.

We were so excited about how successful Mr. Leach was in connecting his students’ Right Brain residency outside of the classroom that we took the time to interview him in this video about the process of coordinating the exhibit. We are blown away by everything he has done to engage the community and parents with his teaching, from creating a blog about what goes on in his classroom to enlisting parent and community volunteers. We hope that this success will inspire other schools to think about how far they can take their arts programming.

Here’s our favorite quote from Mr. Leach:

“There’s this idea that people don’t care about what’s happening with kids and schools and public education. And I don’t think anything could be further from the truth. I think people desperately, desperately care, and they’re not invited into the conversation. Getting the artwork out into the community allows people to engage in that conversation, which I think is critical for our kids.”

We are not paying him, I swear!

Special thanks to Right Brain intern Robb Cummings for his amazing video editing on this project. Check out the video here. You’ll love it.


Right Brain Team