by RENEE PATRICK Cascade A&E Editor
Art was my favorite class in school when growing up. I learned how to throw clay, carve soapstone, draw, etch and the best part: get messy with paints. The climate for arts education in today’s schools is much different than it was 20 years ago: budget cuts, curriculum changes and the impact of No Child Left Behind has created a vacuum for creative arts in schools. That’s why the Black & White Fundraiser for Arts Central’s work is so crucial to the health and vitality of our children and communities, through their efforts to make the arts accessible to all, and by integrating the arts into all aspects of community life, they can mitigate some of the impact of dwindling arts programs in schools.
“The need for arts education in the schools is extremely serious,” explained Arts Central Executive Director Cate O’Hagan. “Almost 25 percent of our budget (or $100,000) comes from the Black & White Fundraiser, with all proceeds going to support the organization’s arts education programs. This event is critically important.”
The programming offered by Arts Central ranges from the Art Station, Central Oregon’s only nonprofit visual arts school; Artists in Schools, a team of over 30 professional artists working with students and teachers; and VanGo, a community outreach program giving children in rural communities and at-risk youth access to arts education.
“Art Station is the largest freestanding art school east of the Cascades,” O’Hagan said. “If we were extracted from this market there would be basically no visual arts education. There are a number of instructors, artists and studios who are doing smaller scale programs, but the breadth of what we cover is greater than what anyone else is doing.”
Arts Central took a hit during the recent recession, as they saw an almost 40 percent drop in their budget. “During the recession a lot of our students left town…and to protect our ‘internal organs’ we hunkered down and weren’t doing as much outreach as we didn’t have the staff,” O’Hagan explained. “Standing today, we did pull through. We are now in the process of carefully rebuilding and figuring out the best ways to proceed. The environment for arts education has changed since 2007. We are assessing: what is the new environment? What can we do and how?”
O’Hagan touts the Art Station as their biggest asset as it serves as Arts Central’s laboratory where they develop new curriculum, train teachers and test the results through programs like VanGo. VanGo, the decorated Honda Element, is a mobile art studio complete with supplies and an art instructor. To date, VanGo has traveled to 30 sites in four counties, reaching over 2,250 underserved kids.
Once again the High Desert Museum is unveiling a stunning collection of western-inspired art, both traditional and contemporary, in the Museum’s annual Art of the West exhibition. The exhibit and silent auction for Art of the West opened July 31 with an artists’ reception and culminates on August 23 at the annual High Desert Rendezvous.
“This year we will showcase works by several artists who haven’t exhibited with us before, including Caely Brandon from San Francisco, Julie Oriet from Wyoming and Sherry Salari Sander from Montana,” said Faith Powell, curator of collections at the High Desert Museum. “We also have Travis Humphreys from Utah and some local favorites, including Marty Stewart of Bend.”
Art of the West features more than 30 paintings and sculptures from well-known regional and local artists. The public is invited to view the work and bid on individual pieces any time before the Rendezvous event. Minimum bids for the art range from $250 to $5,280, with proceeds helping support the Museum’s educational programs.
Art of the West is an important part of the 25th Annual High Desert Rendezvous, the Museum’s primary fundraiser of the year. The educational programming offered by the museum ranges from discovery classes and tours that take school children through the historical and natural environment of the area, to learning expeditions which offer free materials for a focused course of exploration during museum visits. Eighty-six percent of the museum’s funding goes towards education.