HeART of Portland wall boxes.

A celebration of Portland Public Schools artists, performers, and educators

The Museum and Portland Public Schools have been working together for nearly 100 of the Museum’s 125-year history—providing educator resources, facilitating field trips, and for the past three years collaborating on The HeART of Portland, a Portland Public Schools (PPS) arts showcase. Launched in 2015, the event is a way to recognize the positive impact of the Portland Arts Tax and honor the educators and students who are at the heart of the arts programs across the district. This year’s event on April 11, 2018, drew nearly 1,000 student artists, performers, parents, teachers, and community members. Every PPS art teacher selected one visual artwork, and nine music and dance performances were presented in the Kridel Grand Ballroom.

Dancers on stage performing for an audience.

The HeART of Portland is especially meaningful for members of the Museum’s Teacher Advisory Council, a group of educators across disciplines and grade levels (kindergarten through college) who collaborate with Museum staff to promote meaningful student and teacher engagement with the Museum and to support arts integration across the curriculum.

“Having the opportunity to showcase our students’ art at the Portland Art Museum during the Heart of Portland is a great honor,” said Nicole Penoncello, who teaches art in Portland elementary schools. “My students, whose work has been on display in past years, still speak of the time ‘they had their art hanging in the museum’ with tremendous pride and joy. It has also brought students and families who had never before been to the museum into the building, which is exciting because it gave them a new and rich experience.”

Group of children smiling for the camera.

Six hundred students also participated in a district-wide project connected to Common Ground: Photographs by Fazal Sheikh, 1989 – 2013, a photography exhibition that looks at the stories of displaced people throughout the world. Students discussed experiences of displacement and reflected on their understandings of home, then created small shadow boxes in response to the prompts, “If I were leaving, I would take…” and “If I were leaving, I would miss…” The boxes are mounted in the HeART of Portland visual art exhibition, forming a beautiful and profound collaborative work by students of all grade levels.

When asked about the value of creative expression and exposure to the arts, Lincoln High School art teacher Lilly Windle said, “Students who are encouraged to engage in arts classes are critical thinkers who are able to see various ways to solve problems, learn firsthand the growth mindset, and who don’t fear the ability to learn and grow from mistakes. Students who are encouraged to take arts classes create with joy and curiosity about making meaning in their world.”

Father and daughter viewing a sculpture.

The Portland Arts Tax, passed in 2012, provides funding for at least one certified art teacher in every elementary school in Portland’s six school districts—91 teachers total. The Museum also receives general operating support from the Arts Tax, which is used to maintain and strengthen education and outreach programs and to further expand access to underserved groups across the region.

The HeART of Portland visual art exhibition will be on view in the Miller Gallery, Mark Building, through April 22. Admission is free and open to the public during Museum hours. Join us for the closing day festivities: a Miller Family Free Day celebrating youth and education in the arts on Sunday, April 22, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.