How important are activities like painting, band, choir or dance in Oregon’s cash-strapped schools? As budgets are cut around the state and student performance on standardized tests is prioritized over more creative tasks, making time for the arts has become a controversial issue. Why do we continue to teach the arts as classes get bigger and budgets continue to shrink? Or, from a different perspective, do we lose something as a community if our children aren’t learning creative thinking skills in the classroom? In “Teaching Creativity: Is Art the Answer?” OREGON ART BEAT looks closely at the relationship between arts education and creativity in our public schools.

This half-hour special airing on Thursday, May 27 at 8pm investigates arts education in three situations around the state:

•Milwaukie choir director John Baker fears that his award-winning choir program will not be around for long. He’s taught at Rex Putnam High School for 30 years. His choirs have a reputation as among the best in the state, but enrollment is dropping in all the art and music classes. His choir is declining in size, but still winning at state. If it eventually disappears, he worries about the impact on the school community.

•Michael Geisen uses music, theater and drawing to keep his students engaged with science at Crook County Middle School in Prineville. His teaching strategies helped him earn the National Teacher of the Year award in 2008, but he’s struggling with increasing class size and decreasing budgets.

•Young Audiences has provided artist-in-residence programs around the state for decades. In Portland we follow two artists who provide intensive instruction in mask making and drawing during their one week in “residence” in the classroom. For some students, it may be the only formal art education they receive all year. 

Advocates say that the arts can be a bridge to help students understand complex material across many different subjects. Others argue that creative thinking is a critical skill for the workforce of the 21st century. While Oregon has art education standards and benchmarks that students must meet, finding the time to teach creative thinking skills is a challenge in classrooms across the state. Why are we trying to find time to teach these skills at all? “Teaching Creativity: Is Art the Answer?” explores these questions and makes some surprising discoveries.

More on Special Website
At, find original video featuring stories of how art influenced the lives of some Oregon celebrities, links to resources, a place to share your story of how art education affected your life, and more.

THINK OUT LOUD Looks at the Arts in Education
On Friday, May 28, THINK OUT LOUD will continue the discussion on the arts in education. Tune in to the stations of OPB Radio at 9am and go to to join the discussion.

ART BEAT at School
Bring OREGON ART BEAT into your school or home classroom. Visit our new and improved site to find more than 700 streaming video clips and improved search tools, plus teacher’s notes and lesson plans with related activities, resources and projects. It’s a great way to engage kids in learning and creating.

You can watch entire ART BEAT broadcasts at Video of the stories featured on ART BEAT can be viewed online immediately following the broadcast at

Check out the ART BEAT blog at

OREGON ART BEAT, Oregon Public Broadcasting’s Emmy-Award winning local arts series, is in its 11th season. ART BEAT profiles Northwest artists, musicians and artisans — from an operatic baritone to a bit-and-spur craftsman to everything in between. The program airs Thursdays at 8pm and Sundays at 1am and 6pm. In the Mountain Time Zone of Eastern Oregon, the program airs at 9pm Thursdays and repeats at 7pm on Sundays. Funding for OREGON ART BEAT is provided in part by James F. and Marion L. Miller Foundation and the Kinsman Foundation. More information is available online at

About OPB
OPB is the largest cultural and education institution in the region, delivering excellence in broadcasting to more than 1.5 million people each week through television, radio and the Internet. Recognized as a national leader in public broadcasting, OPB is a major contributor to the program schedule that serves the entire country. OPB is one of the most used and most supported public broadcasting services in the country with more than 120,000 contributors.