abc, easy as 123.


Supporting the arts in public schools and how you can help.

AIGA Portland & The Right Brain Initiative spent over 3 years creating a joint project to help spread awareness about Right Brain’s goal, getting the arts back into schools and supporting the multi-disciplinary learning that children want and need when they’re young. The result of this project was an activity deck written with input from local teachers, designers and community members and illustrated by 10 local Portland artists. I had the opportunity to sit down with Rebecca Burrell of Right Brain and see how we’ve made an impact on the community around us:


 How does The Right Brain Initiative work?

We are a community partnership program working to integrate a culture of creativity in every school building K-8 in the Portland metro area. We answer questions like, “How can a teacher make their math class a sculpture experience?” Through this approach, kids are learning in a more multidisciplinary way and having a lot more fun.

The Right Brain Initiative reaches many schools in the Portland area. This image gives you an idea, however they’ve even increased their reach in 2015 to serve 59 schools and about 20,000 kids.




What is Brain Food?

Brain Food is a grouping of 50 activities that reflect the types of interdisciplinary learning that we help schools foster. They are nuggets or seed ideas that teachers and parents can build upon to provide a cool arts experience for kids. It’s a powerful learning tool for teachers and parents. It’s also a great way to communicate what Right Brain is about.

With this project we’ve embraced the strengths of both organizations to create something that neither could have executed alone. To me, this is the definition of true collaboration. As we dreamed up 40 new Brain Food activities, the designers provided the kind of fresh perspectives that could only come from those outside the confines of the school systems. The AIGA team and the illustrators they recruited then provided the design services needed to complete the deck.

This video was used for fundraising before the project was complete describes Brain Food in more depth:


Can you describe some of the impact The Right Brain Initiative has had on the Portland education community?

We can show what everyone who believes in arts education already knows is true. Kids learn better when they are engaged, when they can think in an active way. Rather than being passive recipients of knowledge, with arts integration they are thinking through the material, transforming it and making it their own. They are developing both creative and critical thinking skills. We’ve found through test data from almost 19,000 students that the kids’ scores increase at a higher rate after working with Right Brain. Graph_Learning

Here are some quotes from students, in response to working with Right Brain:

“Thank you for letting me show my learning through art rather than through a test.”

“Poems isn’t just to make you feel better, it’s to express your mind.”

“Art makes me feel proud.”

“I think we all kinda learned that we have power.”


What are some things that the creative community can do to make an impact?

Pay their arts tax. The result is that every elementary school in the city of Portland now has an art teacher!

People perceive a greater barrier between the neighborhood and their elementary school. All schools are in need of more volunteers and participation in your community. Don’t fear reaching out to your school and finding out how you can help them. Maybe they need some help in their classroom. Community volunteers can also get involved with the PTA.

Folks can get involved with Right Brain as well. Attend an event, volunteer, connect us to the business community, donate. Would your staff benefit from a Brain Food activity? Just call me or email me if you want to get more involved.

Rebecca – Outreach Specialist – can be contacted at  (503) 823-2965



Brain Food has had a far reach. The Right Brain Initiative has donated 1,000 copies and raised over $4,000 through retail sales, which is a really big deal for their program. The decks are currently available at some New Seasons locations, as well as Powell’s Hawthorne, Spark Arts Center in NE Portland, Land Gallery and the children’s store Black Wagon. You can buy them online at Buy Olympia.

By aigaportland
Published April 28, 2015
AIGA encourages thoughtful, responsible discourse. Please add comments judiciously, and refrain from maligning any individual, institution or body of work. Read our policy on commenting.