Art access: State Commission’s report points to strength of local programs

Oregon Arts Commission‘s “Access to Arts” report, issued Thursday, shows that four counties — Hood River, Morrow, Sherman and Wheeler — have 100 percent access rates.

That means every school in each of these four counties provides some form of arts instruction.

Music education is provided in every school in the district by a certified staff member. Through Arts in Education of the Gorge (the new name of Columbia Gorge Arts in Education) every school also receives arts instruction in one or more of the following disciplines: literary art, visual art, media art, dance, music and theater. This happens through artist-in-residence programs or ASAP (After-School Arts Partnership program). Arts in Education also serves Wasco and Sherman counties in Oregon and Klickitat County in Washington.

Two current arts projects serve as vivid examples of the power of arts education:

One is the Empty Bowls benefit, held Thursday, for the FISH food bank capital campaign. More than 100 people gathered at Hood River Middle School, spending $30 each for a ceramic bowl created by an HRVHS student.

The bowls were not only refined creative expressions, they also went to a great cause. Art teacher Amirra Malak said that while the class credit the students received encouraged them to create good bowls, the main motivation was knowing their works would go to helping other people.

(Evidence that there is a payoff to the empathy teaching woven into arts and other projects over the years at the elementary school level.)

Meanwhile, the “12 Plates” project continues through Nov. 29 at Gallery 301: local artists created art plates for silent auction to benefit Arts in Education. Anyone can go and place a bid; it’s an extension of the same plate auction that was part of the discontinued “Bite of the Gorge” event.

Other Arts in Education programs include the May Street Elementary Art Week (see photo on page A12, and more to come Nov. 27) and a Music Enrichment Program; Westside Elementary Sequential Arts Education Pilot Program and a Music Enrichment Program; Cascade Locks School: Artist-in-residence and ASAP After-school Arts Partnership through the Excel Program (21st Century grant); artists in residence at Hood River Valley High School and Hood River and Wy’east middle schools.

At Wy’east, Arts in the Gorge and the district have teamed with support from Oregon Community Foundation to expand STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) to STEAM – adding arts to the blend, something other schools are also working toward.

Projects to come include a digital storytelling project for Hood River Valley High School senior English students in March 2014, funded by the Oregon Arts Commission’s Arts Learning grant program (grants written and received by Arts in Education).

The Arts Commission report confirms the breadth of local projects as well as the importance of the many teaching artists from Arts in Education of the Gorge and other programs.

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