Oregon Arts Commission awards $230,000 for school arts projects

Organizations offering musical, artistic and hands-on training received funding aimed at widening students’ experience and ability to learn

By: - January 28, 2022 10:01 am
Tillamook County students displays Da Vinci-inspired robot

A Tillamook County student displays her Da Vinci-inspired robot made through a Bay City Art Center project. (Bay City Art Center)

Children in Tillamook will make a quilt-like board game and learn about the history of quilting as part of an art program recently funded through the Oregon Arts Commission.

The program, by the Bay City Arts Center, is among 23 awarded a total of $230,000 in grants from the commission, which is part of Business Oregon, the state’s development agency. About half of the money came from Oregon’s general fund and most of the rest was paid by the National Endowment for the Arts.

Each recipient received $10,000 for projects aimed at students who might not otherwise have access to art, music, theater or dance classes.

Research shows that art helps children learn, said Carrie Kikel, spokesperson for the Oregon Arts Commission.

“You have to be exposed to the arts at a young age,” Kikel said.

Last year the arts commission awarded $10,000 to 19 organizations. This year, the commission also awarded more than $1.5 million to 250 Oregon arts organizations for their operations.

This was the first time that Bay City Arts received an art learning grant.

Leeauna Perry, arts center executive director, said she was “incredibly honored.” The money will pay for arts lessons for up to 500 students through sixth-grade in an impoverished area where arts classes are not provided at school, Perry said. 

“For our rural coastal communities where art access is disproportionately limited as compared to our urban Portland neighbors, this has such an immense impact on our student base and ability to increase cultural immersion and exposure throughout our community,” Perry wrote in an email.

With the pandemic still raging, the program’s instructors teach online sessions to students in class and at home. The lessons aim to enhance traditional coursework in science and math, for example, by creating projects with paint, charcoal, wire or clay to bring concepts to life.

In the board game lesson, students create a math quilt, with numbers in squares that are used to practice addition and subtraction while learning about textile arts.

Other funding went to music classes for students in English as a second language classes in David Douglas High School and other schools in east Portland. That project is sponsored by a nonprofit music organization Ethos Inc. in Portland.

About half of the grants went to Portland-area nonprofits, including the Portland Art Museum, Portland Youth Philharmonic, Literary Arts Inc. and the Oregon Ballet Theatre. 

Other recipients include the Eugene-Springfield Youth Orchestras for strings classes in nine Eugene elementary schools, writing classes for students aged 7 to 18 sponsored by Fishtrap in Enterprise, art classes for grades K-8 sponsored by the Sitka Center for Art and Ecology in Otis and music classes for middle and high school students in southern Oregon through the Rogue Valley Symphony Association.

Among the dozens that applied for the grant, nearly 40 were eligible. The winners were chosen by a panel of arts professionals, chaired by Matthew Stringer, arts commissioner. They scored each project based on quality and its responsiveness to student needs, whether the project is ready to go and its potential impact.

The organizations also had to show that they could match the grant with other funding or contributions. 

Stringer said the funding comes at a time when it’s more important than ever to protect the well-being of children and offer them a diversion from the restrictions imposed by the pandemic.

“Creative outlets can offer young people a way to soothe their fear and anxiety,” Stringer said. “It also inspires further development of problem-solving skills, important for our future leaders.”

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Lynne Terry
Lynne Terry

Lynne Terry has more than 30 years of journalism experience, including a recent stint as editor of The Lund Report, a highly regarded health news site. She reported on health and food safety in her 18 years at The Oregonian, was a senior producer at Oregon Public Broadcasting and Paris correspondent for National Public Radio for nine years.