Congressional Briefing: The Value of Equitable Arts Education

On December 9, 2021 the American Academy of Arts and Sciences’ Commission on the Arts, stated their case in a Congressional Briefing to two architects of the Arts Education for All Act (HR5581), Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR1) and Chellie Pingree (D-ME1). During the briefing members of the Commission, including Co-Chairs John Lithgow (Actor), Deborah Rutter (The Kennedy Center), and Natasha Trethewey (Professor and Poet) presented their findings from their report released this past summer, Art for Life’s Sake 

The Regional Arts & Culture Council has endorsed the Arts Education for All Act, along with hundreds of other arts organizations across the country and 31 current House Members including, Oregon’s Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR3). Click here if you would like to join us in support of HR5581. 

During the hearing, an arts education partner Paul S Sznewajs, Executive Director from Ingenuity-Chicago, spoke to the importance of data to address inequity in arts education. Locally in Multnomah County, we have partnered with Portland Public School and Parkrose to gather real-time data on the state of the arts in our schools through our online platform artlook® with our partners,  the Kennedy Center’s Any Given Child program and Ingenuity-Chicago. The data available to the districts can demonstrate the gaps in arts education in our schools, as well as highlight our successes.  

These data points better inform and guide districts to address shortcomings and establish strong community relationships with arts organizations across the city. We know  arts not only provide a skill set that is critical in our creative economy but the arts help heal, connect, build relationships and can help move us forward out of trauma. We know having a robust well-rounded education, which includes the arts, keep kids in school, exposes us to diverse cultures, teaches empathy and compassion, expands our knowledge, encourages us to think critically, participate in civic engagement, and most importantly, bring us joy. Chanda Evans, who leads the Arts Education Program, at RACC was able to ask the question— “How can parents become more involved?” Congresswoman Bonamici replied “…Telling stories. It really makes a difference. When we talk about policy in the abstract, it is not nearly as compelling as telling a story about a child who benefited from arts education…” Our recent interview with the Congresswoman on November 5, 2021 also highlights the need for telling our personal stories on the impact of an art education in our lives.  

This act of storytelling resonates with RACC and we ask you to share your arts education stories with us. We all have that one teacher who made all the difference. They may have been a librarian who said to you, “Wow, you read a lot, have you thought about writing?” The science instructor, who noticed you had a knack for constructing robotics, suggested you might enjoy stop animation. Maybe you seemed bored and did not participate in class and your teacher said, “Hey, why don’t you think about band?” Arts education that is infused in our lives through a well-rounded education connects us to the world around us, enables us to thrive and survive and makes us better humans.  

What can you do? Endorse the act as an individual or organization. Share your stories with RACC.  Don’t forget to pay your Arts Education and Income Tax Fund (AEAF) of $35 by April 15th if you are a resident of Portland, which puts k-5 arts educators in the classrooms of 6 districts. They include Centennial, David Douglas, Park Rose, Portland Public, Reynolds, and Riverdale School Districts. We thank you.  



#ArtsEducationForAll #ArtsCreateHope #ArtsEducation #ArtsAdvocacy #ArtEd #ArtEquity #region411 #ArtSavesLives #artsforall 

An Interview with Congresswoman Bonamici about the Arts Education for All Act

Last week we were fortunate to catch up with Oregon Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) on Zoom to talk about the exciting new legislation she has introduced ensuring equitable arts education for students. Watch the video of our conversation with Rep. Bonamici, Chair of the Education and Labor Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Human Services and Co-Chair of the STEAM Caucus, and read on to learn more about the Arts Education for All Act she introduced on Oct. 15, 2021.

Congresswoman Bonamici is a passionate advocate for the importance of a well-rounded education that includes arts integration and instruction as a part of every child’s school experience. Her mother was a painter and piano teacher and she knows first-hand the value of creative expression. As she explained on our call, “I know what a difference it makes for students to have arts education and arts in their lives, and that’s true regardless of what path they take in life. It helps students learn and grow in important ways.”

As of today, the Arts Education for All Act (H.R.5581)  is being co-sponsored by 25 Congressional Representatives and has been endorsed by more than 350 national, state, and local organizations. This includes the Regional Arts & Culture Council, Americans for the Arts, National Association of Music Merchants, Grantmakers for the Arts, and hundreds more regional and statewide arts organizations and schools. The Arts Education for All Act will support and encourage arts education and programming for young children, K-12 students, and youth and adults involved in the justice system. It will help close existing gaps in access to arts education, which has the potential to improve the lifelong health and success of both children and adults.

We hope you will join us in supporting arts education in our schools. With our focus on social justice and equity in all aspects of arts and culture, we know it is critical that this bill includes programs that benefit our at-risk youth, provide opportunities and professional development for our arts educators and arts specialists, and solidify a STEAM education in the Every Child Succeeds Act. We know that the arts create a pathway forward, provide hope, stimulate our creative economy and give us a voice. The Arts Education for All Act will only enhance these endeavors.

Support the Arts Education for All Act by signing up and showing your individual and/or organizational support today!

Find a one-page summary of the Arts Education for All Act here. Full text of the legislation can be found here.

For more information please contact Chanda Evans & Mario Mesquita


Arts Education for All 2021 Act


On Oct. 15, Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR, District 1), Chair of the Education and Labor Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Human Services, Chellie Pingree (D-ME), and Teresa Leger Fernández (D-NM) introduced comprehensive legislation to increase access to arts education. Bonamici hosted a virtual rollout and reception of her Arts Education for All Act (H.R.5581), that will address equity gaps in access to arts education for K-12 students and youth and adults in the justice system.

The Arts Education for All Act has been endorsed by more than 300 national, state, and local organizations, including Americans for the Arts, National Association of Music Merchants, and Grantmakers for the Arts. We’ve added our name to the list of supporters and you can, too.

As an arts and culture organization with social justice embedded in our mission, vision, and values, we support arts organizations and artists that make a difference in our community through their impactful engagement in the arts with at-risk youth. The Arts Education for All Act will only enhance these programs.

“Arts and culture education for every Oregonian is our goal because it is critical to our understanding of each other, our healing, and our progress as a country,” said Sue Hildick, Senior Advisor to the Cultural Advocacy Coalition of Oregon. We are beyond proud that our congresswoman has made this a priority.”

The bill covers various aspects of Arts Education including:

Caregiving & Early Education

  • Makes sure Child Care Development Block grant funding can be used for arts programming.

K-12 Access & Supporting Arts Educators

  • Expands Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) plan requirements to clarify how states can support and encourage arts education to improve student achievement in all subjects
  • Guarantees professional development for arts educators and for all educators on arts integration
  • Directs research activities on arts and arts education at the Institute of Education Sciences
  • Provides critical data to assess arts education disparities by reinstating the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) in the Arts, which was terminated in 2019.

Afterschool & Summer Learning

  • Reinforces that the integration of the arts and arts education can be accomplished by 21st Century Community Learning Centers and other arts nonprofit organizations
  • Incorporates support for partnerships to increase the amount of arts education and creative youth development available in afterschool and summer learning programs in state plans.

Arts Education and the Justice System

  • Requires state plans under the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act to describe how the state will coordinate services and activities for juvenile justice and delinquency prevention with arts agencies and arts organizations
  • Facilitates arts education to be used for reentry efforts and to reduce recidivism by connecting adults involved in the justice system to educational opportunities and employment after reentry.

Read the press release from Oregon Representative Suzanne Bonamici here.

Locally, look no further than the Morpheus Youth Project’s mural program and the Multnomah County Court House Youth collaboration to see the importance of creativity in young people’s development. We know that it takes a village to raise, support, and elevate our youth. RACC is proud to promote and support these programs and collaboration with youth in our community.

Our artlook®oregon, a partnership with the Kennedy Center and Ingenuity-Chicago, provides a real-time arts education database platform that connects communities, schools, and families to arts-related resources in their backyard. These partnerships create the opportunity for a well-rounded arts education to be possible for all K-12 youth in our schools.

The Arts Education for All Act addresses the gap in access to arts education and has the potential to improve the lifelong  health and achievement of both children and adults. Arts education and programming can be federally funded under various existing programs, however, currently there is a lack of clarity and information available about how the funds can be used. Unfortunately, as we have witnessed in the Pacific Northwest, this results in limited and inequitable access to the arts for students and adults in underserved communities.

“The Arts Education for All Act will help bring the power of arts education to early childhood programs, low-income K-12 students and systems-involved youth on a scale we haven’t seen before,” said Eddie Torres, President and CEO of Grantmakers in the Arts. “By empowering childcare, K-12 schools, and programs serving systems-involved youth, this bill has the potential to enrich lives and expand educational opportunities for millions,” said Eddie Torres, President and CEO of Grantmakers in the Arts. “The arts community, but most importantly the children of our nation, owe a great deal of thanks to the innovative leadership of Representative Bonamici for introducing this critical legislation.”

If this becomes legislation, it will support and encourage arts education and programming for our youngest learners, K-12 students, including youth and adults involved in the criminal court and justice systems. The bill also includes provisions that support rigorous arts and arts education research to continue to inform how elementary and secondary education outcomes are affected by a well-rounded education.

The Arts Education for All Act incorporates support for partnerships to increase the amount of arts education and creative youth development available in afterschool and summer learning programs in state plans. We know art changes lives. We understand that a well-rounded arts education includes arts integration. This Act reinforces that the integration of the arts and arts education can be accomplished by 21st Century Community Learning Centers and other arts nonprofit organizations.

In collaboration with Trauma Informed Oregon, this spring we kicked off a series of trauma-informed workshops for our K-12 arts educators in six school districts in Multnomah County running through the 2021-2022 school year. These workshops are free, virtual, and provide much-needed resources to ensure our arts educators have the tools they need to address the trauma that we have all experienced. We know that the arts enable students to express themselves and navigate through stress and anxiety. The Arts Education for All Act guarantees professional development for our arts educators and arts integration specialists. We are proud to recognize the importance of social-emotional healing and recovery through the arts and provide these valuable workshops in our community.

Support the Arts Education for All Act by signing up and showing your individual and/or organizational support today!

A one-page summary of the Arts Education for All Act can be found here. The text of the legislation can be found here.

For more information please contact Chanda Evans & Mario Mesquita


Portland General Electric Foundation Awards Arts Education Grant to the Regional Arts & Culture Council


logo for PGE FoundationPortland, Ore. – The Regional Arts & Culture Council (RACC) is pleased to announce its Arts Education Program was awarded a Community Creative Expression Grant for $10,000 from the Portland General Electric Foundation. The purpose of the grant is to expand arts education advocacy and equity in Multnomah County’s middle and high schools with the expansion of advocacy into Clackamas and Washington County. This is a collective impact project with a focus on equity and access to arts education in underrepresented and underserved communities in the tri-county area compromised of Multnomah, Washington, and Clackamas counties. As we emerge into a new post-COVID world with a focus on equity and access we look to include more counties (Washington and Clackamas) school districts on the artlook® platform, a unique data driven arts education platform that connects schools, families, students and arts organizations to quality arts programs in their neighborhood.

RACC will conduct outreach and engagement, and offer professional development opportunities for arts educators in seven elementary schools in the Reynolds School District in East Multnomah County, which are currently unserved by the Council. This effort will support equity and access in arts education in the tri-county region through advocacy, outreach, and engagement. RACC’s mission is to enrich our communities through arts and culture. Support for artlook® Oregon will support this through collaboration and community engagement.

The Regional Arts & Culture Council wishes to thank the PGE Foundation for recognizing the past work in arts education and appreciate their acknowledgment with this grant in RACC’s pivot to expand the scope of services, advocacy, and community engagement.


An independent nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization, we support greater Portland’s creative economy by providing equitable funding and services to artists and art organizations; managing and growing a diverse, nationally acclaimed public art program; and developing long-lasting public and private partnerships. For more information visit racc.org

artlook® oregon Interactive Database Expands in Greater Portland

An initiative of the Regional Arts & Culture Council, Parkrose, and Portland Public Schools in Partnership with The Kennedy Center and Ingenuity/Chicago

Portland, OR – Through a unique partnership with the Kennedy Center’s Any Given Child and Ingenuity-Chicago, The Regional Arts & Culture Council (RACC) is pleased to announce the expansion of Portland Metro’s artlook® oregon. Selected for a 3-year pilot program, RACC joined other arts education organizations and school districts across the United States to work with the Kennedy Center’s Any Given Child program and Ingenuity in Chicago to create a free, accessible, online arts/culture education search engine.  An interactive mapping platform and software, artlook® oregon, allows school districts of all sizes to collect, map, and analyze data regarding the availability and distribution of arts staffing, funding, and services on a school-by-school basis.

Chanda Evans, RACC’s AEAF Specialist, explains the importance of the initiative and how it fits into the art nonprofit’s strategic plan. “Our advocacy agenda includes creating a culture of accessibility and inclusivity as we move forward equitable arts/culture education for all K-12 students,” she said. “We know that supporting a well-rounded education includes an arts education: visual arts, dance, theatre, music, and media arts.”

As RACC looks to partner with more school districts and arts and culture organizations, artlook® oregon gives school districts a snapshot of the arts landscape within their district. It provides up-to-date mapping of how arts resources are allocated during the school day and uses data to help administrators set strategy and measure progress. Arts and culture organizations can more efficiently connect their services to schools and thousands of students.

The coalition partners, led by RACC, hope for collective impact including:

  • Accelerate arts equity for students in schools and monitor progress towards this goal over time
  • Build responsive, targeted, collective impact agendas with strong data backing
  • Use real-time progress indicators to guide monthly and annual decision-making
  • Leverage aggregated data to make a compelling fundraising case to supporters/donors
  • Make a data-driven case for better arts/culture policies and practices at district, city, and state levels.

The benefits of artlook® oregon reach across all levels of the community by unifying data in a comprehensive, interactive map.

You can find artlook® oregon at https://portlandmetro.artlookmap.com/



About the Regional Arts & Culture Council

An independent nonprofit 501(c)3 organization, RACC supports greater Portland’s creative economy by providing equitable funding and services to artists and art organizations; managing and growing our diverse, nationally acclaimed public art program; and developing long-lasting public and private partnerships. For more information visit racc.org.










Arts Education and Access Fund 2021 Logo Design Winner

Rose City Park Elementary third-grader selected

Vincente, Rose Waterfall, logo design 2021

We are delighted to announce the winner of the 2021 Arts Education and Access Fund (AEAF) Logo Competition. The competition challenged students to reimagine the original logo to illustrate how the fund supports the community and showcase students who benefit from arts education in school.

Arts education helps children develop the skills they need in order to communicate effectively, expand their analytical thinking, and engage with their community. In traumatic, turbulent times like these, art can be a literal lifeline for social, emotional, and mental health.

Arts Education and Access Fund 2021 Logo Design Competition


Vincente, a third-grader at Rose City Park Elementary School


Edison, a fifth-grader at Rose City Park

Cate, a seventh-grader at Sunnyside Environmental School

All students attend Portland Public Schools.

The design competition was open to all students from kindergarten to eighth grade who receive arts education in Portland’s six school districts: Portland Public, Parkrose, Reynolds, David Douglas, Centennial and Riverdale. The design challenge was to for students create a new AEAF logo over Winter Break 2020. The competition was a collaboration between RACC and the City of Portland’s Arts Oversight Committee.

A panel of judges including professors and officials from Reed College, University of Portland, Pacific Northwest College of Art, Portland State University, Portland Art Museum, Echo Theater Company, Office of Commissioner Dan Ryan and the City of Portland Department of Revenue reviewed the submissions and selected the winner.

Read Vincente’s interview with RACC’s Arts Education Access Fund Specialist, Chanda Evans.

Vincente, AEAF Logo Design Competition 2021 Winner

Vincente, why did you decide to submit your art for the AEAF Competition?
Because I wanted to see how good at art I am. I tried my best.

What inspires you about art?
Happiness. I have a sign in my room “Build Yourself Up and Never Give Up” I want people to become happy when they see my art.

Did you have fun doing the drawing? What is the title of your piece?
Yeah – the name is The Rose Waterfall. Because there is a waterfall behind the rose.

How do you feel about your logo design used by different School Districts and Arts Organizations across the Portland Metro region?
Excited! I thought I would never win!

Your Art Teacher is Ms. Vang, what is your favorite part of having art at Rose City Park Elementary?
She helped me in first grade making faces – so she helped me learn art. She is nice.

If you could give advice to a budding artist, someone who is just starting to draw or paint, what would you tell them?
Become yourself. Draw any art in the future – what you do is art. All art. Just be true.


Learn more about Portland’s Arts Education and Access Fund.

The Arts Education & Access Fund Oversight Committee seeks new members. Commitments include quarterly meetings, with a variety of projects in between.

Current Chair Laura Streib explains the committee’s purpose, “The committee engages with City of Portland officials, the Regional Arts & Culture Council and school districts to make sure the AEAF is doing what the charter set out for it to do – ensure funding for K-5 Arts Education teachers and support for accessibility and access to the arts and arts organizations.” Find out more.

Chanda Evans, our new Arts Education and Access Fund Specialist

A note from Chanda Evans the new Arts Education and Access Fund Specialist (AEAF) at RACC.

What is the role of the Arts Education and Access Fund Specialist at RACC?

A large part of my role at RACC is to support and advocate for our arts education teachers. RACC teachers are in six school districts throughout the Portland Metro area. In 2012, the Portland voters passed the Art Education Access Fund (Art Tax) with overwhelming support. In addition to supporting more than 90 music, dance, theater and visual arts teachers in Portland’s public schools, the Art Education Access Fund provides support to other art organizations in the greater Portland Metro area. RACC also works with The Arts Oversight Committee, required in the measure approved by voters to ensure we comply with the funding and City of Portland requirements.

What does advocating for arts education mean for RACC?

It’s my job to listen, support, and help navigate systems for our teachers and advocate on their behalf. RACC participates on numerous committees, which engage, advocate for, and support our community in arts education. Partnerships are a critical component of the work that RACC does in arts education and we have ongoing relationships with many regional organizations and a few on the national level, like the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. It is part of my responsibility to maintain these relationships and work to develop new ones.

What do you hope to accomplish in this new role?

I will continue to focus on what really matters – the stories we tell connect us to the greater world. We use art as that medium for expression. It is no different for our students. Without sustained and continued support for arts education, we will deplete our community of creative, critical thinkers. Arts education is one of the threads that binds us. Covid-19 has not changed that. Most of us acknowledge arts education is essential;  I want to support an equitable education for our students and eliminate their barriers to success.

Worrying is Just Another Form of Storytelling

How Kathleen Lane is working with youth to understand anxiety as a universal human experience

by Lokyee Au, Communications Manager

It’s estimated that we create anywhere between 50,000 to 70,000 thoughts a day. These tens of thousands of thoughts running through our head every day have the ability to reinforce, dictate, or alter our actions, our decisions, and all our subsequent thoughts. For those of us who worry (and let’s be honest – we all worry), that’s 50,000 to 70,000 opportunities for worrisome ideas, feelings, and stories to be produced by our brains. Worry and anxiety are not things everyone is comfortable talking about, whether it’s with friends, family, or complete strangers. As adults traverse through the stigmas or shame around anxiety, stress, and worry (subsequently fueling the significant boom for the wellness and health industry), what about young students who have those tens of thousands of thoughts? Who do they share them with? And how?

Writer Kathleen Lane developed Create More, Fear Less for students to navigate some of those anxious waters. Borne out of a confluence of events and experiences – publishing a book about an anxious 10-year-old, managing her own experiences with worrying, and meeting students who deal with anxious feelings, this RACC-funded project brought Lane to middle schools over the past two years to create a place for students to share their thoughts and feelings with one another, while partaking in hands-on art activities that encourage them to express and work through those feelings.

So how do you get kids to share deep, personal feelings with their peers and adults? Each workshop begins with ‘worry stones’, where everyone, including Lane, writes their worries onto a stone and take turns sharing. These stones are then placed into a bag, a physical reminder that students are separate from – and have power over – their worries – they get to decide when and how much time to spend with them. It’s also a reminder that carrying our worries (stones) around all day can get heavy. Comfort is key in setting the tone and expectations for the group: anyone can pass, and can draw on their stones if they don’t want to write out their worries. The important thing is that students see they’re not alone in their feelings, and that they can unload some of the weight of those worries.

Through workshops, and now an interactive website, Lane introduces kids to various art and writing activities that aim to normalize the feelings and worries themselves, as well as the act of expressing their anxieties. Some activities include using metaphor to capture the feeling, creating a “worry survival kit”, drawing and dialoguing with a “worry monster”, and more. With these activities, Lane says, “It’s not about pushing feelings away, it’s about working with your feelings—it’s human to worry, it’s okay, and you can get through it. And also, thank you for being a sensitive soul because we need more of those in the world.”

Although described as a project of using art for anxious youth to express themselves, Lane’s approach and practice remind us that it’s more than that. She encourages students to see the power in their feelings and anxieties – Our great storytellers, thinkers, and problem-solvers often start with some form of worry, and that is important to celebrate. “I want to help kids see that not only can art and writing be powerful tools for expressing anxiety, but anxiety can be a powerful source of imagination, wisdom, and healing. You have anxiety, you have your fears, now what are you going to do with them?”

And while students certainly need more than a creative workshop to navigate these feelings, the project has created new paths for students and adults to understand, communicate, manage, and embrace them. In the two years since Create More, Fear Less began, the project has already taken hold in other spaces, and Lane has been in outreach mode to share it far and wide. Her hope is this project serves as a resource for as many students, teachers, and counselors as possible, and that the projects and activities create a cultural shift in how we view and deal with anxiety.

Create More, Fear Less was funded in part by the Regional Arts & Culture Council (RACC). Learn more about RACC’s Grants Program here. You can find more about this RACC project grant by visiting the project website and more about Kathleen Lane on her website.