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Museum Supports Youth Art Experiences This Summer

This month the Portland Art Museum will begin to distribute several thousand art kits to youth throughout the Portland region as well as into more rural communities of the Columbia River Gorge. The art kits complement Journal On!, a recently launched community art and writing project developed in partnership with Portland Public Schools and Create More, Fear Less

The Journal On! project, which launched online in June, is a way to channel children’s energy, creativity, and emotions during this extraordinary time. An art journal provides release, connection, grounding, and the opportunity to develop a meaningful and enriching creative practice during this time of confusion, anxiety, and distance from the people and activities we love. It is an ongoing reminder that we have it in us to get through difficult times. A call to us all to find our way forward and keep going. The bilingual Journal On! website is available in both Spanish and English.

The abrupt transition to distance learning during the Spring, and greatly reduced options for summer activities has thrown into relief the immense inequities that students in our region experience. Many parents and families are struggling to work and look after their children, and families for whom English is not the first language have been particularly hard hit. 

Teachers have told us that it’s essential to provide students with both hands-on materials and digital resources. When schools closed this spring, PPS Arts teachers created 3,750 art kits to distribute at the 15 nutrition hubs, where families in the free and reduced lunch program picked up meals. The kits “went like hot cakes,” according to the district leader. Demand was much greater than the district budget could supply, and that is where the generosity of the Miller Family Foundation comes in. Through a recent $50,000 donation from the Miller Family Foundation, the Portland Art Museum will be able to assemble nearly 2,000 high-quality art kits over the coming months to continue to provide to students in need.  

The kits are meant to support participation in the Journal On! project and include an artist-quality sketchbook, graphite pencil, eraser, pencil sharpener, glue stick, colored pencils, origami paper, and pastels. “We are so grateful to the Miller Family Foundation for providing us with the resources to work with our partners in communities across the region to get art materials to kids and teens and encourage them to share their experience of this time through Journal On!,” said Hana Layson, Head of Youth & Educator Programs in the Department of Learning & Community Partnerships at the Museum. Art kits will be distributed through community partnerships with Portland Parks and Recreation’s Summer Lunch & Play, SUN Schools, REACH programs, and Centro Cultural, among others.  

The donation from the Miller Family Foundation continues their long-standing support for broad access at the Museum and arts experiences. The Museum’s quarterly free days are supported by the Miller Family Foundation. “We are so glad to be able to help kids access art beyond the Museum walls this summer,” said Mark Miller. “The pandemic is causing such upheaval for so many members of our community, and we are grateful to work with such caring and creative partners to offer this resource.” 

Students are encouraged to visit journalon.org to watch video prompts by local artists to spark their creativity and get ideas for their own art journals. They can upload photographs of their art for inclusion in the Museum’s new online Journal On! gallery, creating one enduring art journal, made up of many, to capture our shared story of this unique moment in history.