Janis and I left on May 24th, finally making our trip to Harney Carney just in time for their last week of school. The trip had been postponed due to the occupation at the refuge and our crazy schedules. We started the five-hour journey around ten in the morning and made a lunch stop in Sisters for delicious wraps and cookies.


When we arrived in Harney County, Janis and I looked at each other in surprise. We had no idea what to expect, but still were shocked by the small town feel of this ranch town. We checked into the Comfort In and then went to dinner at the only place recommended to us by the hotel, the Pine Room.


The next morning, we met with Eric Nichols, Instructional Support and Technology Director of Harney County ESD, Hector Martinez, art teacher at Hines Middle School, and Jerry Mayes, principal at Hines Middle School. We sat in their work room/ staff lounge and they told us about their great work they are in doing in the area.


From there, Hector took us to Slater Elementary School and then out to lunch at Bella Java in town. We met with a lovely couple who were the heads of the foundation that supported the band program in the community. They had been working tirelessly to keep the arts thriving in Harney County and are thrilled to have the opportunity to work with OCF. After lunch, Eric took us to a three-room school house in Crane where we witnessed their last day of school. We had started out toward one of the “rurals” or frontier schools, but they had already gone home for the summer because they had completed their hours. After the drive through the ranches, we went back to the Pine Room for dinner with Eric and Jerry who treated us to a lovely rib dinner. The next morning, we started home to reflect upon all that we had seen and heard.


Thoughts from our trip to Harney County

  • Wow! What an amazing mix of art in such a rural city.
  • Despite the difference from Hillsboro to Harney County, there were many similarities:
    • They found that they have had to be flexible as they have proceeded with their grant. What they have started out to do, is not that same as what they are doing now which is the same as us.
    • They have used this work with OCF as a springboard to discussions about the art and to increase the opportunities for students
    • Fabulous teachers who “get” the arts make a difference, and you can find them in both places.
    • Both of our groups have struggled with changes in leadership at the district/ school admin level.
    • Harney County was using their money in a variety of ways, like we have been as well.
  • Even though we knew how rural this area was, we were surprised to see how vast the land was.
  • While it is hard to bring artists to them because it is so far away, the town has taken advantage of their own artists in their community such as leather work, and saddle-making.
  • Technology is HUGE there. Even the smallest schools had a wealth of chromebooks, ipads, laptops, etc. to connect them to the world around them.
    • Innovative teachers were using technology to have students create and share their art and others were using the technology as workspaces.
  • We went in with an open mind and were excited to see what was happening somewhere else. We were still pleasantly surprised to see the amazing arts integration happening.
  • Our visit was really affirming, that similar to us Harney County has had to adjust as they go through with this grant work. But no matter what, they have continued to keep their priorities straight and keep the focus on kids and the arts. 
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