Studio to School

Ejournal #14: Learning Community Reflections

It’s hard to believe that we are hitting the five-year mark of Studio to School, and therefore, the formal conclusion of the project. But the beauty of having established a learning community is that we have built connections and relationships along the way. Here are some highlights and reflections on how the experience has shaped our work:

  • A site visit to Harney County in May 2016 helped bring perspective to serving remote communities. While our S2S schools are not necessarily located in a rural setting, several other Right Brain schools are.
  • The 2017 rendezvous introduced us to Dr. Salam Noor and Maia Abbruzzese who were perfect additions to the agenda for a regional convening of arts education stakeholders in September 2017. The event was co-hosted by RACC and Americans for the Arts (AFTA) and was designed to begin addressing the issue of educational equity in and through the arts. Maia set the stage for the event through the spoken word piece she presented at the rendezvous, reminding us that student voice is essential in education. Dr. Noor joined Michelle Boss Barba and a school district administrator on a panel moderated by Jeff Poulin of AFTA. Here’s a three-minute video documenting the event.
  • Discussions at the Pendleton Rendezvous with Ethos led to professional development workshops on arts integration for Elkton teachers facilitated by Right Brain’s program manager. This is helping us hone our thinking about how we might provide similar opportunities for schools that are either not in our service area or do not fit the profile of high-need and under-resourced schools. Similarly we began thinking about who among the Learning Community might provide similar opportunities for us.
  • Staff at Caldera and RACC shared a similar need to connect and support their rosters of teaching artists. Recognizing that this was a desire shared by other organizations, the NW Teaching Artist Network (NWTAN) was launched in 2018. This consortium of arts organizations has steadily grown and supports a network of teaching artists who are working together to share resources, opportunities, and best practices in the field and bring the arts to the community.
  • Most recently, hearing from Kylie Hutchinson at the February 2019 Project Leads’ meeting was eye opening. We completed the Program Sustainability Assessment Tool and, upon reflecting with Kylie that day, we discovered that we are more entrepreneurial in our approach that we realized. However, we have a need to focus our efforts on strategic planning and gaining political support within our organization. We have been mulling an idea on program structure to best support schools as they “mature” in their arts integration practice. We’re looking forward to scheduling a follow-up session with Kylie to tap her expertise on how to thoughtfully develop and roll out our plan that will maximize and sustain its success.

Speaking of sustainability, our greatest challenge with the learning community has been maintaining consistent school/district membership on our team. The inevitable staff turnover contributed to the situation, but the major obstacle was the timing of the rendezvous. More often than not, the dates were at exactly the same time as a mandatory district training for administrators. If we were lucky we were able to negotiate an exception so someone else affiliated with the project could attend at least part of the time. The result was that each year a different administrator attended and in 2018 we had no administrator with us. Luckily we have a strong, long-term relationship with the school district so our project was not derailed by the complication.

Regardless of any challenges, we are so appreciative of the opportunity to learn about the arts education work across Oregon that is tailored to our individual communities. Learning alongside our new colleagues through Studio to School has reassured us that we are not in this alone and gives us hope that our collective efforts will one day pay-off.

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