Site visit to Open School and Hollywood Theater in Portland, Oregon

February 24th, 2016

Denise Baxter, Project Manager, Ashland Art Center

Jamie Haden, Teacher Rep, Ashland Middle School

Ben Wood, Video/Film Teacher, Ashland Middle School


We flew up to Portland on a 4:50pm flight out of Medford, Oregon on Tuesday February 23rd.   We were eager to learn about the efforts being made by the Open School Studio to School team. We stayed at the Hilton, had a nice dinner, and then woke early the next morning to embark on our site visit.


Taylor from Hollywood Theater met us at the entrance to Open School and we quickly went to the re-furbished room that the program staff uses, situated next to the basket ball court and filled to the brim with technology to support the schools program in Media Arts.   We had the opportunity to meet with many of the program players in that room – as they hustled and bustled in and out while we talked and shared information about the studio to school program at Open School.


Most of our time was spent talking with Taylor and Mike, the school principal, but others would join us when they could; Carlos, Reina, Isaiah, Desiree. We did not have the opportunity to meet the two AmeriCorps workers that are also part of the team.   The program started with Justin and Taylor in 2014 but now has eight people working together – funded by OCF but also three other granting organizations. The amount of income that they have for the program this year is over $300,000 and so they are having a very big year with a strong vision and confidence in achieving some great things. The program does not have any income streams outside of contributed income.


We quickly learned that the relationship between Hollywood and Open School is strong, the Hollywood staff is essentially school staff – they attend all meetings on a weekly basis. The school has a total of Five Instructors in addition to the Hollywood team and the school is a private, alternative program that currently works with 52 at-risk students (the school capacity is 60).   The relationship between Mike and Taylor has been a key element of success. They have built trust over the years, they worked together in the past, and they have many complimentary skills.


Principal Mike sees a number of things that have made their program grow in a positive way. These things span the spectrum of The Art Program itself, sustainability of the art program, integration into core curriculum, and outreach.

  • The Art – Open School focuses on Media Arts, which include technological equipment, and software but there is also a component of traditional art.
  • Sustainability – the program has the technology it requires now to teach media arts and it will be possible to keep that maintained over time. Mike explains that sustainability is also about learned instruction and teaching the core instructors to feel comfortable with the media technology. The new arts integration manager, Desiree, is a key component to this sustainability piece.
  • Integration – Mike made it clear that integration is a hands-on piece of the puzzle and this is why Desiree was brought on a month ago to work closely with the core instructors. This position required a person with many skills. In addition to understanding the technology, they must understand the importance of communication with many different personality types. Teaching experience was a must, so that this person could understand the demands that are being made on the instructors. Being in the classroom and available at all times, also a must! And having experience with the Open School specialized population of at-risk children is a very important part of the job description. Looking at common core standards and finding ways to support those goals by using the arts and Hollywood media support is the end result of Desiree’s work with core instructors.
  • Outreach – For Open School, outreach is about events and public arts. Getting the attention of the community and placing the spotlight on the arts created by their students is important. Also, bringing people together to celebrate the arts and the work of these children means success for the program. There have been many positive examples of this at Open School and many more to come!


The greatest success for Open School, in Taylor’s words, has been the artist residency programs. The programs is being refined to a six week residency program, but past residencies have been as long as three months. Outcomes from the program include a mural, a neon sculpture, a music program and then some. It appears that two six week residencies each school year is the best route for success.


As in most cases, this program is multi layered. I will not go into the details of the work at Open School. Suffice to say that these people are making huge strides in bringing arts to the children in this program and they are learning what works, what doesn’t work, and how to document this for our use in the State of Oregon.


It was a please to have time with these dedicated individuals and we took home some inspiring and useful information that we can use in our own Studio to School program at Ashland Middle School.


Thank you Open Meadow and Hollywood Team!!!! You are great!!!!!






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