Sisters is a unique community.
For over 20 years Sisters Folk Festival has been working diligently to create an arts-based economy with deep impact in the public schools. As a key player in this movement, we constantly need to assess our partnerships and collaborations, and explore new opportunities for growth and adaptability.
In 2020, music and arts education will be flourishing in new and exciting ways. In the schools, our partnerships have deepened considerably. The Sisters School District has created positions for art and music educators at all levels, and helped to shore up the past need for non-profits to shoulder much of the salary costs.
In the visual arts, k-12 programming is thriving with greater access to materials, supplies, mentors, and guest artists at all levels. The school administrators see the need for everyday art experiences for students in school and in real-life experiences. The classroom extends beyond the walls of the schools. Artwork created by students is not only showcased in the school environment, but also celebrated within the community. Student work is shown during the My Own Two Hands celebration and in public art shows, where students present their work as artists to their parents, friends and the larger community. Professional artists and alumni of the program living in Sisters are given opportunities to mentor students, and those relationships build positive role models for economic vitality in the arts. The galleries explore new ways to engage these young artists and Sisters is seen as an “artist destination” of Oregon. A new community art installation has been created on the elementary school grounds, which carries on the River Celebration theme to include greater regional biodiversity.
The seeds of a new “Art Campus” have been sewn and planning for artist residencies are beginning to take place on a new campus-style facility. This new and exciting facility will take shape where national and international artists integrate with community and schools to inspire the next generation. This “sense of place” on the east slope of the Cascades, with sweeping views of the mountains, clear skies and clean water will inspire countless people to express this exhilarating feeling from the natural world through artistic expression. The friendly, laid back vibe and style of Sisters helps to create an environment of collaboration and new works emerge.
The community fully embraces the arts-based community theme.
In music education, there is momentum to expand and continue programming in all three schools. In the elementary school, students are actively singing and playing ukuleles and our after school-strings program has taken off with group and private lessons daily. Music programming continues to thrive with the keyboard lab giving 5th grade students music theory and piano skills. Students also pursue their own music in songwriting and roots-music education, as well as expanded offerings in band and choir. Additionally, Americana Project programming has grown to include a stand-alone class offered at Sisters Middle School, which is thriving and an engineering strand at both the middle and high school has been developed and students are engaged in recording/engineering and live sound engineering, providing numerous career-related skills.
The Sisters Folk Festival has successfully developed a plan and is working to build a three-season venue that presents concerts, workshops and is used as a shared community space. This new venue also helps to generate additional revenue for the non-profit organization and is a beautiful gathering space for community groups to access. A new community music school, modeled after the Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago, is driving more music-related opportunities as well. Through the Americana Project Arts Outreach Scholarships (APAOS) young aspiring artists have greater opportunity to participate in programming, providing under served youth even more creative outlets. Private music-based businesses thrive and new businesses grow and develop with the demand. The music school and venue, connected to SFF, create a symbiotic relationship between education and enrichment, community and schools, where multi-generational artists work with young people as artists, and music binds the community together.
“All the Town’s a Stage” is embraced and the “walk-able village” concept continues to be realized. During the Sisters Folk Festival, 12 venues present world-class music to a thriving, beautiful town known for arts programming, excellence in schools and an arts-based economy.
This is the hope for Sisters, a unique arts community in 2020 and beyond!