Arts Education: Join the Movement

by Maya McFaddin, RACC Arts Education Community Engagement Associate

It seems that each day we are facing new and more difficult challenges than the day before. At times, it is tough to maintain our hope and strength, let alone any sense of normalcy in our families, jobs, and daily routines amidst the overwhelming political and social turmoil that we are all experiencing. The issues often seem so much bigger than ourselves and we begin to wonder how we as individuals, or we as an arts organization, can make an impact. As an arts organization, do we have a role in the resistance? As national support for the arts is being threatened, what can we do? How can we be part of the solution? Sure, we believe in the transformational power of the arts, and yet we still find ourselves asking these questions; wondering how what we do each day fits into the bigger world. It took a conversation with one of our students from The Right Brain Initiative, Tarynn, to remind us that our work and the work of artists across the world not only matters, but is necessary.

“After our Right Brain residency with Korekara Taiko, we don’t look at each other just as classmates. The arts have made us stronger and have made our relationships better with each other.”

Tarynn nailed it on the head. That is power of the arts; that is why we get up each day and come to work at the region’s arts council; that is how we can unite communities and make change. As artists have been for centuries, we are the storytellers and the connectors and we are most definitely part of the solution. We need that sort of creative thinking now more than ever. We need the voices of the artists, the students, the people.

“You might not have ever done something creative, but if you let go of that need for everything to be colored within the lines. It could just be a line on a paper, but you could turn it into so much more if you let go of having to know that everything has to be done a certain way.”

Tarynn reminded us why we’re here and why the arts matter just as much now as they ever have, because the arts are a platform, a vehicle, and an opportunity to make change. And this fall, we are especially digging into the movement.

As we enter our tenth year of supporting schools through Right Brain’s arts integration programming and our fifth year of empowering arts specialists hired through the Portland arts tax, we know that this work is making an impact in our community. This year Right Brain has added two new schools to serve a total of 70 K-8 schools in eight school districts across Portland metro. We’ve added a new school in the east Portland district of Parkrose; a Title I school where 100% of the students receive free and reduced lunch. We are supporting 92 K-5 arts specialists in the City of Portland who are providing arts learning opportunities to nearly 35,000 students in six school districts. With each educator and student partnership we engage, we build a stronger movement.

In just under two weeks, we will be joining Americans for the Arts’ celebration of National Arts in Education Week (September 10-16) with partners across the country. Throughout the week, we will be publishing a blog salon and sharing community voices on the transformative power of arts education. We are initiating conversations with regional, state, and national policy makers to shape a shared vision for equitable education through the arts.

Our efforts in Portland metro do not stand alone. We are joined by our fellow educators and arts organizations who also believe that the solutions lie with creative and equitable educational experiences. We know that this movement is not, and cannot, be exclusive. We need you. We need arts lovers, leaders, students, teachers, and communities. It is our mission to provide the opportunities to collaborate, experiment and discover and your voices are the true leaders in this movement. This is just the beginning. Are you ready? Here’s how you can get involved this month:

  1. Engage with RACC, Right Brain, and Americans for the Arts (AFTA) social media during National Arts in Education Week (September 10-16).
  2. Tune into to #BecauseOfArtsEd and #ArtsEdWeek on all social media platforms.
  3. Register for the daily webinars at 12pm (Pacific Time) during National Arts in Education Week.
  4. Join in for the #ArtsEdChat on Twitter every day at 5pm (Pacific Time) during National Arts in Education Week.
  5. Stay tuned for The Right Brain Initiative’s Blog Salon during National Arts in Education Week (September 10-16).
  6. Write to your local elected officials in the tri-county region and tell them that you care about arts education!
  7. Write to your local school board members in the tri-county region and tell them that you care about arts education.
  8. Join RACC and Right Brain on 9/21/2017 for our first annual runway show SHIFT: An experiment in fashion design.
  9. Keep an eye out for The Right Brain Initiative’s 2017 Progress Report that will be released on September 11, 2017—it’s chock-full of the amazing impacts of arts education in K-8 public schools.

Do you have other ideas you’re ready to bring to the movement? Can we work together?

We’re listening.