Archive | September, 2010

Q & A with new YA artist Beth Wilson

30 Sep

I recently had the opportunity to get some great insights from new YA mural artist, Beth Wilson. She recently joined our roster after returning to Portland and is raring to go! She brings a great passion for both kids and art to her work, and Young Audiences is thrilled to have her!

Q: What is your background (art and otherwise)?
A: I was raised in Seattle and as an adult I have lived in Chicago, Mexico and Hawaii. Moving to Portland 6 years ago felt like coming home. I have always been a maker of things. I am formally trained in ceramics, mosaic and bookbinding. Despite my formal training I believe that anything can be an art supply or a source of inspiration; the recycling bin, or fallen petals in the garden. I earned my MFA in Eugene, but my best teacher has been my daughter who is constantly teaching me the magic of slowing down and making friends with ants.

Q:  What makes you want to work with kids/schools?
I truly see working with kids as collaboration; I have as much to learn from them and their communities as they do from me. I am refueled by their perspectives and approaches to the problems that the creative process inevitably offers. School-wide (or even classroom-wide) art projects are an opportunity for the adults in this community to model what we want to teach our children: respect, communication, problem-solving, and teamwork. Upon completion, the community is left with a beautiful product to inspire and remind them of the experience. Every time I am given the opportunity to facilitate this experience I am in turn inspired.

Q: What do you hope a kid gets out of a residency or workshop with you?
A: I want a child to come away from my residency feeling excited to DO MORE. I want kids to see that creativity includes math and ecology – that it is a form of communication.  The craziest ideas are often the best and most fun. I want a child to feel empowered as an individual, as well as have a strengthened sense of place within their community.

Q:  What do you hope a teacher gets out of working with you in their classroom?
A: I hope that educators will feel inspired to use the creative process as an experiential learning tool to enforce scientific and ecological concepts in their classroom. I want to support teachers that feel like they “aren’t the creative type” to find ways to experiment and play with their students, knowing it is the process and not necessarily the product.

Q: What is a favorite moment you’ve had working with students?
A: When I was making mosaic murals in Chicago, we would often be in some of the most depressed and dangerous neighborhoods in the city. I remember one boy – probably about 15 – who would not take his hat off (gang related), never made eye contact, and spoke in one word answers to any question.  I assumed he didn’t hear a word I said. Then one day, about 5 or 6 weeks into the project, I looked over and he was making these lovely graceful forms with the tile – using the nippers perfectly. It literally brought tears to my eyes. Despite his demeanor he had been listening and taking it all in! Once he let go just a little bit, he was truly a natural. At the end of the workshop he volunteered to be a student artist on our next project. This meant that he would travel out of his neighborhood for the first time in his life. This was truly a life changing event! Extreme examples like this are few and far between, but not as few as one would think. Art is the great equalizer.

Q:  Is there anything else you’d like us to know?
A: No matter how ambiguous or defined your idea for you class or school is there is always room for playfulness and genuine contributions from every person in the community. Let all that energy that your students have guide the process. I am happy to be the guard rails or air traffic control.


Fall, Run For The Arts and You

25 Sep

So.  It’s the first full day of Autumn in Oregon.  And what’s the weather doing?  Why do I even bother asking that question, when I already know the answer?  I’ve been a resident of Oregon for over 17 years (!!!) now, yet I still can’t bring myself to stop asking that question.  I love a good rain storm in late July with thunder and lightning; I’m like a cat hanging on a screen door when blue sky first appears in Spring; I actually get excited about the threat of snow and constantly look out whatever window is near in anticipation of frozen water falling from the sky.  I find weather and seasons fascinating and have come to terms with the fact that weather happens here, as opposed to where I grew up (Sonoma County, NoCal), where it didn’t.  Predictability can be good, but the unpredictable can be exhilarating!

Having said all that, and essentially admitting to be being a “weather dork”, Fall is officially upon us.  Which, for Young Audiences, means a couple of things in regards to the Run For The Arts program.  For those of you unfamiliar with the program, there’s a tremendous amount of information on our website, but in a nutshell, it’s a tool schools can use to raise funds from their immediate community to get desperately needed arts programming in their schools.

First, we have what we refer to as the “Fall Run“, which takes place the whole month of October.  If you’re school is interested in doing a Run in October, there is still time to sign up.  If not, well, there’s also a Run in Spring, which takes place between mid-March and the end of April.  Most schools in the greater Portland-metropolitan should be receiving information in the mail any day now, so be on the look out – this is a great and easy way to raise some money specifically for your school, specifically for arts related education.

Press Run for 2010 Run For The Arts T-Shirt

T-Shirt Design Winner at T-Shirt Press Run

The second project that’s going on is the Run For The Arts T-Shirt Design Contest.  Every year, we ask for artistic submissions from students in area schools that may potentially be used as the design for the following years Run For The Arts t-shirt.  I have to say, every year, we have a hard time selecting the winning design as all the entries are really impressive.  The student whose design does get picked gets to work with us and a professional designer to hone the image, which will eventually appear on thousands of t-shirts as well as tens of thousands of sponsor sheets and posters. The best part, at least for me, is going to the “press run”; the student, the professional designer and a couple of staff members go to the factory where the t-shirt gets screen printed and watch the whole process involved in creating the shirt.  I think it’s pretty cool seeing the evolution of the original design transformed into printed materials and the t-shirt; it’s one of the highlights of year, rain or shine.

Submissions for the contest are due by October 31st.  Rules, guidelines and the entry form can be found on our website.

The Fall Run For The Arts as well as the Spring Run can be found on our website.  Heck, just about everything can be found on our website, so check it out.  And carry an umbrella.  Just in case.

Who are you bringing to Showcase?

24 Sep

For weeks now, I’ve been scheming with our teaching artists about all the kinds of fun they want to share with you at our Artist Showcase, October 3. The event is great for principals, educators, PTA/PTO members, and families. I’ve even heard that one principal is bringing a delegation of his school’s student council leaders.

Our teaching artists, being the creative humans that they are, have all kinds of great stuff planned. Maybe on that Sunday you’ll draw a comic or muck around with clay or dance a tango or listen to an instrument go electric. We’ll have mini-performances, workshops, and hands-on activities.

Meet the artists, start thinking about collaborations and curriculum connections, learn more about fundraising for arts education, and talk with YA staff about how to make it all happen.

And it’s all free.

See you there!

What: Artist Showcase presented by Young Audiences of Oregon & SW Washington

When: Sunday, October 3, 1- 5pm

Where: Buckman School, 320 SE 16th/Portland

For more details, including participating artists & schedules:

Howard Gardner is Coming to Portland!

17 Sep

So, have you registered yet?

At the first annual Creating Minds Symposium, Dr. Howard Gardner and 2008 National Teacher of the Year Michael Geisen will discuss creativity and the future of education. Teachers, school administrators, and anyone interested in understanding the critical role that creativity plays in children’s lives and in our schools is invited to attend.

Date: Friday, October 8, 2010
This event is being held on a statewide teacher in-service day to encourage and allow teachers from Oregon and Washington a rare opportunity to hear Dr. Gardner speak about his work.

Time: 9:00 a.m.-Noon; arrive early for coffee and pastries at 8:30 a.m.!
First Congregational Church, 1126 SW Park Avenue, Portland
Cost: $40*
Credit: CEUs will be available for teachers at no additional cost

*Note: A special rate is available for Lewis & Clark students. Please contact the Center for Community Engagement for more information (

So, have you registered yet?

How are you celebrating Arts in Education Week?

10 Sep

The school year has just barely started and it’s looking like another challenging year for schools. Despite that, or perhaps even to counter that, we already have cause to celebrate. On July 26, the US House of Representatives declared next week, September 12-18, Arts in Education Week.

Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski has acknowledged the House’s resolution with a proclamation of our own. Locally, other activities of note (some of these are for information only, not necessarily open to public):

  • Several area schools are jumping into the new school year with Young Audiences artists such as Ralph Nelson, Fools in Paradise and Ann Penfound.
  • The Right Brain Initiative‘s cool Show + Tell traveling exhibit will be on view at Portland Public School’s Blanchard Education Center through September 13, then on to the Portland Children’s Museum September 14 through October 3. The exhibit is in one of those PODS storage units (clever!) and includes displays of work and stories of their arts education programs from last year. Also check out their wonderful blog for more on Arts in Education Week!
  • Fall.ART.Live – Oregon Ballet Theater’s FREE daylong festival celebrating Portland’s vibrant performing arts scene! Lots of arts from OBT and other arts groups on Sunday, September 12, 2010 at  Director Park in downtown Portland, all day from 11:00am – 6:00pm
  • Writers in the Schools (WITS, a program of Literary Arts) will publish its 2009-2010 WITS Report in the Literary Arts September e-newsletter. This will be WITS’ first widely distributed public report, educate the larger community about their work with over 2500 Portland public high school students.
  • For pre-schoolers and their parents, the Oregon Symphony will be at Beaverton Library for their Symphony Storytimes series.

Many arts education advocates around the country have come up with other splendid thoughts for celebrating Arts in Education Week. A lot of this can be initiated, declared, promised or discussed starting next week, building towards March which is Arts Education/Youth Arts Month. Here are a few of my thoughts and favorites from ideas posted around the web:

  • The obvious one: do or start an art project! Perhaps something as big as a rock musical or a recycled art installation. Or a smaller project like playing theater games or creating a multi-media self portrait. Just go and get your hands dirty and your body moving!
  • Check out the American for the Arts’ Arts Education Blog Salon, taking place the whole week, and The Inspired Classroom, which has dedicated the next two months to arts integration (I’ll actually be a guest blogger) . Read, comment, share ideas. These blogs are always chock full of great dialogues and ideas.
  • Make a pledge this week to support arts education this year and testify for arts education in your community in March. Lots of info and resources about this on Americans for the Arts’ Arts in Education Week page.
  • Introduce yourself at a local school and volunteer to in an arts education classroom.
  • Talk to teachers, parents and students  about their experiences with arts education. Find out what inspires them, keeps them engaged and learning.
  • Some folks who participate in the #artsed chat on Twitter had a great suggestion for next week. Make a pledge to share the process of arts education projects, not just the product. Think about sharing student and teacher reflections, photos, drawings, drafts, videos, interviews, writings about the process of creating your work. Share that along with your final creation.
  • If you like to tweet (connect with us @YAoutreach) consider participating in the lively weekly #artsed chat. 4pm PST/7pm EST every Thursday. Just show up to twitter and dedicate all your postings for the hour to #artsed. @creativityassoc posts archives of the chats here.

I think I’ve rattled on enough. Here are more resources about Arts in Education Week. Go forth and create!

Our very own afternoon art festival

8 Sep

It’s the Young Audiences website combined with the printed Guide, but it’s live! It’s a whole afternoon art festival, free!  It’s the biggest smorgasbord of school arts experiences you’ll ever taste!

I get a little excited when I talk about the Showcase.

It’s a chance for you — Principals, teachers, school staff, PTA/PTO members, and families — to investigate and imagine and experience what it would be like to bring our artists into your school. Arts programming represented will range from classical Indian dance to fused glass to storytelling to ceramic murals to songwriting to circus arts. We’ll have mini- performances, workshops, and hands-on activities.

Meet the artists, start thinking about collaborations and curriculum connections, learn more about fundraising for arts education, and talk with YA staff about how to make it all happen.

And it’s all free.

See you there!

Event Details

What: Artist Showcase presented by Young Audiences of Oregon & SW Washington

When: Sunday, October 3, 1- 5pm

Where: Buckman School, 320 SE 16th Ave, Portland

Cost: Free

Who: Principals, Educators, PTA/PTO members, Parents, Children, School Volunteers

Contact: Toni Tabora-Roberts, Outreach Coordinator, 503.225.5900 x225,

Schedule of events:

Sometimes the Good Old Days Actually Were

6 Sep

Prang Textbook“It is not necessary to review the history of art education in public schools, nor to present argument for the introduction or retention of drawing as an important study. These questions have been exhaustively treated, and need no fresh discussion. The school that does not offer to its community some kind of systematic art instruction is today an exception.”

The above is from the preface to Book IV of the Text Books of Art Education series put out by The Prang Educational Company. Its copyright is 1904.

This quote tends to make me babble incoherently as I struggle to come up with a response. I finally figured out that it’s because I’m looking for something smart and on-point to say when really what goes through my mind is, “Seriously?!? We’re still discussing this?”

Think about it: Despite mounting scientific evidence that arts education aids brain development, despite repeated articles about employers seeking creative employees with problem-solving skills, despite the anecdotes we can all share about the power of music, dance, theater and visual arts in the classroom, one hundred years after these text books were published we are still talking about whether the arts have a place in public education. More upsetting, it often seems as though the naysayers are getting louder.

At the base of it, I’m choosing the long view – educational theory tends to work in cycles. Eventually, there will be a critical mass of people who will be able to convince (or shout down) the naysayers, and we’ll circle back around to the idea that this topic “needs no fresh discussion”. I wouldn’t work where I do if I didn’t believe that. In the meantime, I’ll keep plugging away, doing what I can to help make sure that kids have education in and through the arts. I hope you’ll do the same.

P.S. If anyone’s curious about what kinds of projects are listed in a 1904 textbook for arts education, let me know. I’d be happy to share. They’re actually pretty good.

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