Blog Posts for Oregon

Seeking Bridges: Arts & Education on the Edge of Change

Posted by Rafael Otto, Apr 15, 2013 13 comments

Rafael Otto Rafael Otto

PDX, Stumptown, the City of Roses, Portlandia, Bridgetown. All of these offer a glimpse into my “second-tier,” west coast city—Portland, OR—nestled between majestic Mt. Hood and the brisk and rugged Pacific coast.

After four years away I’m back with a fresh perspective, a renewed commitment to the arts, and a job that gives me an unparalleled perspective into the world of education across the country.

I also have a vested interest in the educational system here—my daughter entered kindergarten last September. She is now a student in the Portland Public School District, Oregon’s largest district, in a state that has the fourth-worst graduation rate in the country.

As a father, I cringe at stats like that. I worry about the quality of her education, especially when we emphasize assessment and test scores over creativity and collaboration.

As a writer and researcher working in education, I know we can do better.

As an artist, I see that Portland’s system of education has failed to harness the very best of Portland’s innovative and creative talent.

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Concept-based Creative Dance for Babies & Toddlers

Posted by Rachael Carnes, Mar 20, 2013 1 comment

Rachael Carnes Rachael Carnes

Babies and toddlers love to move! Any parent or caregiver can tell you that.

For further demonstration, just look at the happy expression on their little faces as they flap their arms like a bird or their sheer focus and determination as they scoot across the floor on their tummies: kids just seem to have fun exploring their world through their own bodies.

And as they play, stretch, curl, reach, grasp, teeter, cruise, crawl and run, they're also learning.

What Do We Mean by the Kinesthetic Sense?

When asked to list the human senses, most of us would rattle off sight, touch, taste, smell, and hearing. From the shape and color of an apple in a picture book to the smell of grandma's pumpkin pie or grandpa's curried tofu, babies and toddlers get lots of sensory experiences that they will begin to recognize, sort, differentiate, and assimilate.

As babies and toddlers grow, their sense of their own movement, called kinesthesia, will expand. Some movement educators, physical therapists, and developmental psychologists refer to the kinesthetic sense as the "sixth sense": It represents not only the sensation of your child's own body, either still or moving, but also his or her growing ability to abstract cause and effect among objects.

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Adding Arts to the Equation

Posted by Susan Harris MacKay, Mar 19, 2013 0 comments

Susan Harris MacKay Susan Harris MacKay

Every day, in every aspect of curriculum, Opal School students are invited to work with the arts to express their interpretations and growing relationships with the world around them.

Inspired by the municipal preschools of Reggio Emilia, Italy, Opal School began 12 years ago with the intention to pursue the question: What are the implications of these approaches for the American Public Elementary School?

Carlina Rinaldi, has written, “We are all researchers of the meaning of life. Yet it is possible to destroy this attitude of the child with our quick answers and our certainty.”

We ask ourselves daily: What assumptions need to shift if we are to sustain curiosity and preserve this attitude of research? What would school look like if it intended to promote the development of the kind of healthy brain architecture our citizens need to support a healthy planet and democracy?

What happens if we withhold quick answers? What relationships become visible? What tools and strategies become of value?

In TED prize winner, Sugata Mitra’s recent talk, we hear him ask similar questions. While I agree with his equation/response to these questions: broadband + collaboration + encouragement, my experience tells me he is missing a vital part: the arts. 

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STEM to STEAM: Finding a Seat at the 'Cool Kids' Table

Posted by Deb Vaughn, Mar 05, 2013 4 comments

Deb Vaughn Deb Vaughn

STEM is like the most popular kid in school these days. Everyone wants to sit at the same lunch table and share Doritos.

Fortunately for the arts community, we have a powerful resource as the national conversation transforms from STEM to STEAM: Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) and Rep. Aaron Schock (R-IL) announced the formation of a Congressional STEAM Caucus last month.

The group had a successful kick-off on February 14. Rhode Island School of Design President John Maeda, an advisor to the Caucus, regularly speaks about the inextricable connection between art and science and Bonamici echoed the sentiment at Oregon’s 2012 Arts Summit.

While our representatives in Washington, DC, are hard at work advising on federal policy, our state is also taking steps to assure we’ve got “STEAM heat” (thank you, Bob Fosse!).

In Governor John Kitzhaber’s proposed 2013–2015 budget, which is now being considered by the legislature, there is a proposal for an initiative called “Connecting to the World of Work.”

Included in that proposal is funding to support partnerships between schools, arts organizations and businesses to increase opportunities for students in grades 6–12 to connect with creative industries. There is conversation about including internships, mentorship programs, industry residencies in schools, and student residencies at industry firms. 

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Making the Arts in Rural Oregon Their Business (from The pARTnership Movement)

Posted by Kathleen Chaves, Feb 28, 2013 0 comments

Kathleen Chaves Kathleen Chaves

In 2002, jobs were scarce in rural, isolated Baker City, OR, population 10,000. My husband and I decided to dedicate ourselves to growing our 20-year-old company, Chaves Consulting, Inc. from providing two jobs to creating 100 with a complete package of benefits.

At about the same time, another vision was being created by the Crossroads Arts board to have someone raise the almost two million dollars it would take to renovate Baker City’s historic 1909 Carnegie Library building to become their new home after spending much of its history without a permanent one. The Crossroads board asked if I would be the grant writer to raise the funding and manage the renovation project.

My husband, Richard, and my motivation for leading the project was based on the vision of how the arts could grow and make a huge difference in the lives of Baker’s children and families, as it had altered mine. I strongly believed that this project would provide children an avenue to express themselves and uplift them as it had done for me during my teenage years when I felt very disconnected and lost.

We believed that the arts could give children a voice who otherwise felt lonely and isolated. The arts saved my life and made me feel a part of something. I believed it could do the same in Baker. In addition, the renovated Carnegie building would give hundreds of adult Eastern Oregon artists an incredible space to share their gift.

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Connecting with My Regional Public Art Network

Posted by Karen Bubb, Dec 12, 2012 2 comments

Attendees listen to one of the excellent speakers during our NowPAC meeting in early November 2012.

One of five regional networks of public art administrators, NowPAC (Northwest Public Art Council) had their annual meeting in Portland, OR, on November 2. Nearly 70 people from four states and two countries attended the one-day session.

We met in an old, renovated building that now serves as headquarters for the hip landscape architecture firm Place Studio. Architectural models, flying brooms (Halloween had just past), and material samples surrounded us as we settled in to look at images, hear from our peers, and re-connect with the tribe.

Kudos to the Regional Arts & Culture Council (RACC) for organizing a great line-up of speakers and for hosting a great after-party at RACC Executive Director Eloise Damrosch’s “tree-house” home.

Presenters shared with us final designs for public art projects, stories of de-accessioning challenges, and new ideas on commissioning best practices.

In roundtable discussions, we covered:

  • the fine lines between being an administrator and a curator
  • changing demographics and how that affects what we commission
  • how to recover from a public art project gone bad 
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