Bringing the Arts Back to Lane County Classrooms

Lane Arts Council in-school Artist Residencies re-engage students throughout the county

Eugene, Ore.— The 2022-23 school year has seen a major resurgence of the arts in classrooms across Lane County. As schools support students recovering from a challenging couple of years, many teachers have turned to the arts for their ability to engage their students’ hearts and minds at school and in their learning experience.

Through Lane Arts Council’s Artist Residency program, schools bring professional Teaching Artists into classrooms to engage students in new ways of thinking and expressing themselves. Schools choose from dozens of Lane Arts Council Teaching Artists who introduce visual, performing, literary, and multimedia artforms that educators would not otherwise be able to provide to their students.

Artist Residencies include a wide range of creative possibilities, from ceramic sculpture and mask making to fiddle playing, West African drum and dance, and much more.

Over multiple visits to a classroom, Teaching Artists introduce students to new creative skills and techniques as well as opportunities for design-thinking, collaboration, creative-problem solving, reflection, and other skills depending on the Teaching Artist’s focus.

After a recent Artist Residency in Eugene, a teacher shared that their experience “was just the right mix of instruction and letting students experiment.”

As pressure on academic benchmarks and funding has reduced or eliminated arts programs and instructors over time, Lane Arts Council has grown its programs to fill the arts learning gaps in Lane County schools. For many students in Eugene and Lane County, Lane Arts Council’s arts education programs are one of their only opportunities to experience high-quality arts learning.

Lane Arts Council has seen an increase in the number of requests for in-school arts programs during the summer and school year, demonstrating the need to re-engage students in hands-on learning and arts programming that supports their overall engagement and wellbeing. Just halfway through the school year, the number of Artist Residencies scheduled has already surpassed pre-pandemic levels.

  • Artist Residencies have been scheduled in 10 Lane County school districts including Pleasant Hill, Junction City, South Lane, Eugene, Springfield, and others
  • 21 Teaching Artists have worked with 6,265 students in 28 Lane County schools
  • In Eugene alone, 23 Artist Residencies have been scheduled at 12 Eugene 4J elementary schools

Artist Residencies are made possible through investment by schools, districts, corporations, individuals, granting organizations, and foundations. Lane Arts Council works with schools and community partners to secure funding, with an emphasis on primary low-income and rural schools, helping to bring to fruition the creative goals that teachers and principals have for their students.

  • In the Mapleton School District, Teaching Artist Alex Ever is working with the Mapleton art teacher in a collaborative three-week residency. During this collaboration, students from pre-kindergarten through high school are exploring the intersections between art, nature, and community identity.
  • In Springfield, students at the Academy of Arts and Academics High School are working with Teaching Artist Alejandro Sarmiento to create a mural reflecting the history and future of the labor movement funded by contributions from labor unions, representatives, and individuals.
  • Funds committed by Eugene School District 4J, along with funds raised through the ArtSpark initiative, allow Lane Arts Council to offer up to two full-school Artist Residencies to every elementary school in the Eugene 4J district. ArtSpark is a collaborative effort between Eugene School District 4j and Lane Arts Council, and was founded in partnership with the Rotary Club of Eugene in 2016 to ensure that 4J elementary students have access to high quality arts education as part of their learning.
  • Teaching Artist Tom Miller is leading the Mohawk High School Spanish classes in Marcola through an exploration of Alebrijes, paper sculptures inspired by the art of Oaxaca, Mexico. In addition to learning about Mexican art and culture, students are creating their own mythical creatures with personal significance. 

“We know that the benefits of arts learning are far-reaching and have a broad impact for students,” shared Stacey Ray, Lane Arts Council Executive Director. “Having arts opportunities in school not only exercises student creativity, but it provides a whole range of benefits that help young people be successful in all areas of their lives, from building cohesion and school community to helping students learn how to express complicated ideas. Especially during the pandemic, we consistently heard how arts experiences were supporting student mental health and social-emotional wellbeing, keeping them engaged, and helping students feel heard and that their voice mattered.”

Learn more about Lane Arts Council’s Artist Residency program at