Studio Latino program pairs PDXOS Artists with Kids from Underserved Communities

By Liz Smith

Starting in January, Portland Open Studios started a new partnership with the Latino Network, sending eight volunteer artists into public after-school programs to teach art to underserved students.

Jessica Lagunas, the arts and culture program coodinator for Latino Network’s “Studio Latino” program, is moved to count her blessings when speaking of this special program and the relationship between the students and Portland Open Studios artists.  “It’s not just that these artists are giving their time,” she says, “it’s that they are doing this with an understanding of the kids who are being served. Many are immigrants, and some have experienced trauma.  The artists have put so much work into this collaboration.”

The “Studio Latino” program works with SUN Community schools to support healthy child and youth development by exposing youth to new art forms while increasing positive skills and behaviors.

“We are so excited to be working with them,” says PDXOS President Leah Kohlenberg. “We believe at Portland Open Studios that art should be accessible and available to all.  This program is a natural extension of what we already do.”

Portland Open Studios thanks the participating artists and the Studio Latino program for faciltating this important collaboration. Below are the artists and participating schools:

Joanie Krug and Janie Lowe (also our education board member), are at Scott Elementary; Linda Sawaya and Robert Fortney are at Cesar Chavez Elementary; Heather Fields and Kit Carlton are at Bridger Elementary; and David Friedman, Redd Clark and Lai Mei are at Rigler Elementary.  Additionally, current open studio artist William Hernandez returns for his second year to Woodland Elementary.

Artists Kit Carlton and Heather Fields began their classes at Bridger School this week, and reported that their first day went “smashingly.”  “The kiddos really responded to the collage activity Heather put together—so much so in our enthusiasm we forgot to take pictures,” said Carlton. “Many of the kiddos today had remarked that they had wanted to sign up for a cooking course but were really glad the class was full, otherwise they wouldn’t have known that the mixed media arts were so much fun. One Bridger student remarked, ‘I wish this class was every day. It’s my first new favorite class.’ This is what art is about—exploration, breaking down social/emotional barriers to reach the heart of our humanity to build community. Really rewarding.”

Jessica Lagunas has the hope that more people will see what they are doing and be inspired to get involved. For more about Studio Latino, check out their page Studio Latino  “At Latino Network, we view arts and culture as essential elements of youth education. And we believe every child—regardless of race, ethnicity or class—deserves an arts-rich education.”