Arts for Learning Northwest was founded in 1958 under the name Young Audiences of Oregon as a local chapter of the nation’s largest arts-in-education organization.
In 1989, the Portland-based organization merged with a smaller chapter in Vancouver to become Young Audiences of Oregon & SW Washington.
During that time we steadily grew in scope and programming, evolving from presenting only classical music performances in our early years to currently offering a full range of educational arts programming in multiple disciplines and cultures.
In 2020, we took over full management of The Right Brain Initiative, the nationally-recognized arts integration program that has transformed school districts across the region. As a partner in this initiative for the last fifteen years, we are proud to continue providing the same high-quality partnership with our participating school districts, and have made changes to the funding structure to ensure long-term sustainability and greater access to services for low-income and rural schools.
In 2021, we officially revamped our long-running Run for the Arts jog-a-thon, a school-based fundraiser which provided dedicated arts funding for participating schools. This fundraiser was incredibly successful, bringing in over 18 million dollars in arts funding for schools over the decades, but had the unintended effect of contributing to an inequality in which schools in wealthy communities received the most funding. This program is now Fun for the Arts, a dance-a-thon that harnesses the power of community-based fundraising and equitably distributes funds across all participating schools.
Our professional learning cohort for artists working in schools and communities, Teaching Artist Studio, went virtual in 2021 during COVID-19 shutdowns. This led to the discovery that we could still provide robust training for adult learners through virtual platforms, and expand the participation in this program to include more geographically diverse participants. In 2022 we partnered with Lane Arts Council to serve teaching artists in Lane County, and in 2023 will be bringing in more partnering organizations to expand this impactful program statewide, addressing the regional need for training for artists working in arts education.
In 2023, after 65 years as the region’s leading provider of arts education, we announced a new, updated name and mission inspired by our commitment to accessibility and equity.
Young Audiences of Oregon and SW Washington is now Arts for Learning Northwest. This change reflects the evolution of our organization from a presenter of classical music for school audiences in the 1960’s to a champion for abundantly accessible arts education that includes artist residencies, robust arts integration, and features a diverse roster of over 70 artists and ensembles that bring innovative and inspiring art, music, theater, and dance experiences to over 50,000 young people every year. We no longer limit our vision of young people to being just passive audiences, we engage with them as creative artists and change-makers who are shaping the future of our region.
At Arts for Learning Northwest, we believe that the arts are a fundamental part of the human experience, and all children deserve access to diverse arts experiences as a part of their education. Our new name is one component of an organization-wide recommitment to equity and accessibility, which are the foundation of our work.