Arts education advocates launch The Right Brain Initiative



A community vision of providing arts learning experiences for every K-8 student in the Portland tri-county region took another big step forward on Thursday night when nearly 200 arts education advocates convened at the Winningstad Theater in downtown Portland to celebrate the launch of The Right Brain Initiative. Read The Right Brain Initiative Fact Sheet (pdf).

The Right Brain Initiative, formerly known as “Arts Partners,” is a collaboration among artists, arts organizations, school districts, governments, businesses and donors who are working to integrate arts education experiences into the standard curriculum of every K-8 classroom across the region’s school districts. From February through April, 2009, 10,000 children and their teachers will be served in 20 pilot schools across 4 districts (Gresham-Barlow, Hillsboro, North Clackamas and Portland). The program is expected to roughly double in size each year for the next 4-6 years until every K-8 student in Clackamas, Multnomah, and Washington Counties is being served.

“We are turning the tide of declining arts education in our community,” said Carole Morse, Chair of the RACC Board and President of the PGE Foundation in her opening remarks last night. “We all know that arts and culture are critical components of a well-rounded education, and studies have proven that children do better in other subjects when they participate in the arts. But our students aren’t getting enough. It is time to bring arts learning back into our classrooms so that our children can succeed in school and in life.”

Guests applauded the financial investments that have been secured thus far for the first-year implementation of the program. More than $525,000 has been raised from the City of Portland, The Collins Foundation, the James F. & Marion L. Miller Foundation, Multnomah County, Clackamas County, the Oregon Arts Commission, the Hillsboro Arts & Culture Council, the PGE Foundation, US Bank, and Bank of America. Each of the four participating school districts has contributed funds as well. Organizers are working to raise an additional $260,000 by December 31.

Carole Smith, Superintendent of Portland Public Schools, explained why she and other superintendents are enthusiastic about this effort. “We must provide our students with the kinds of educational experiences that increase their capacity, and commitment, to becoming actively engaged citizens,” she said. “Integrating the arts into other core academic subjects does exactly this by actively involving students in their learning; by helping them recognize the interconnectedness of multiple disciplines; and by challenging them to learn in creative ways that will help them become more open-minded, creative citizens.” Smith listed the schools that are participating in the first year of the program:

In the Gresham Barlow School District:
East Orient Elementary
Hollydale Elementary

In the Hillsboro School District:
Free Orchards Elementary
Jackson Elementary
Lincoln Street Elementary
Quatama Elementary

In the North Clackamas School District:
Ardenwald Elementary
Concord Elementary
Oak Grove Elementary
Spring Mountain Elementary
Sunnyside Elementary
View Acres Elementary

In Portland Public Schools:
Glencoe Elementary
Hayhurst Elementary
James John Elementary
Markham Elementary
Rigler Elementary
Sitton Elementary
Whitman Elementary
Woodlawn Elementary

Smith also introduced Michael Geisen, National Teacher of the Year. As a seventh grade science teacher at Crook County Middle School in Prineville, Oregon, Mr. Geisen uses creativity to help each student connect with the big ideas of science. "Creativity and the arts are essential in our schools,” Geissen said, “not just in art and music class, but in every class! We need to honor the full humanity of our children by infusing creativity into everything we teach. We must realize that students won't be prepared for the 21st century if they only use the left side of their brain to understand science and math, and that they'll only become passionate and engaged in learning if we encourage their natural curiosity and creativity."

At the conclusion of Geisen’s remarks, Project Manager Marna Stalcup unveiled The Right Brain Initiative’s new name, logo, and manifesto in a 2-minute film with links to a new website, A local design firm, North, contributed much of this branding work on a pro-bono basis.

The goal of The Right Brain Initiative is to achieve a measurable impact on learning by integrating the community’s arts and cultural resources into the education of every K-8 student in the tri-county area. The Right Brain Initiative is unique in that it places core emphasis on equitable access to arts education experiences that support holistic learning in every classroom across the region. For more information visit

The Regional Arts & Culture Council ( is the managing partner of The Right Brain Initiative, which ties directly to RACC’s mission of integrating arts and culture in all aspects of community life throughout the Portland metropolitan region. RACC will work in conjunction with three additional operating partners to implement The Right Brain Initiative this year, including Young Audiences of Oregon and SW Washington. Young Audiences will help coordinate the services that will reach 10,000 children and their teachers this school year. The program evaluation and professional development partners are in the process of being determined.

A governing committee, with individuals representing key stakeholders, is responsible for program development and oversight. Members of the governing committee include Sam Adams, Sarah Boly, Gwyneth Gamble Booth, Tim DuRoche, Tom Hughes, Marvin Kaiser, Eric Lindstrom, Max Miller, Ron Naso, Jan Robertson, Kathi Robinson, Jim Schlachter, Joan Shipley, Carol R. Smith, Carole Smith, and Diane Syrcle.

RACC Staff to Contact

Mary Bauer
Communications Associate