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Monday, October 20, 2014

Studio To School In Ashland

Studio to School in Ashland

Oregon Community Foundation gives arts education a boost with new initiative

Story by Cheri Hammons

This year the Oregon Community Foundation (OCF) celebrates its 40th year of enriching the lives of Oregonians through charitable funds. Locally, grants from OCF have aided community organizations such as La Clinica’s dental clinic, Kid Time! Discovery Experience and the Ashland Food Bank, to name just a few.

“We have two main missions,” explains Michelle Boss Barba, OCF’s program officer for arts and culture. “One is to improve quality of life in Oregon and the other is to promote effective philanthropy.”

OCF works with businesses, organizations and individuals to create charitable funds. Some donors send in recommendations on where they would like the money to go. Others set up funds as something the OCF board can use at its own discretion.

“We have different initiatives that help different sections of the population,” says Boss Barba. “Generally our grant giving is focused on underserved communities but we also have programs that support places and events and things that are for all Oregonians. We really have that statewide intent.”

OCF currently has over 1,700 funds supporting community causes statewide and awards more than $60 million in grants and scholarships annually. About 150 of those funds are in Southern Oregon, with over $5.5 million awarded to the region in grants and scholarships.

One of the newest OCF programs is the Studio to School arts education initiative.

In May 2014, OCF awarded 18 grants statewide to support collaborative projects between schools and community organizations.

“We’ve had a lot of community based organizations that have been doing some heavy lifting since the economy saw its downturn and budget cuts came through schools,” says Boss Barba. “We wanted to develop an initiative and a program where there would be some funding but more importantly there would be an opportunity for people to share expertise both from the community base, arts education and in school.”    

The Foundation is looking at these 18 different models with the anticipation that they’ll be able to expand the Studio to School idea across the state. Local awardee, the Ashland Art Center, has partnered with Ashland Middle School to bolster some of their arts programs. 

“The idea is that the lucky 18 of us that received the $280,000 will go into our schools and create this pilot program that would take place over a period of five years,” explains Denise Baxter, executive director of the Ashland Art Center and project manager for Studio to School in Ashland. “During that period of time we will essentially figure out how to improve the arts education for our public school and possibly learn enough between the 18 of us to actually take something statewide.”

Baxter’s program deals with five different arts departments—visual arts, band, orchestra, culinary arts and video and film.

“They used to be flourishing but now they’re cut back to almost nonexistent,” she says of the five programs, “so we’re going back in and we’re supplementing those programs financially and bringing in expansions to the current program.”

Baxter explains that while they work to increase the arts program, they also need to focus on bringing in the community to support it. “The most important part about this is there has to be a community component,” she says.

There are numerous volunteer opportunities within OCF and Studio to School. Anyone interested can fill out an application online at www.oregoncf.org.

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