Creative Placemaking Links Art and Community Revitalization

As sculptor Dee Briggs walked through the vacant house that she planned to have demolished next to her studio, she was struck by the evidence of the many lives that had been spent there. As she looked through the personal items left behind and pondered those lived experiences, she changed her original plan and decided to paint the house gold and carefully deconstruct it, saving those materials to eventually be reborn as a coffee house with the goal of providing jobs and a gathering place. Her sense of connection and commitment to her local community in Wilkinsburg, Pa, and the steps she took to enhance the location were labeled creative placemaking, a phrase which is linked to a wide network of programs aimed at revitalizing vacant properties in ways that also model inclusive community development. As a result, it can expand equitable development opportunities for low-income people living in disinvested communities.

With this idea in mind that art can fuel community development, Power House Productions, an artist-run neighborhood-based nonprofit in Detroit, Michigan, was created with the intention to build relationships in the community and revitalize neighborhoods. Instead of breaking down a vacant house as Dee Briggs did in Wilkinsburg, here vacant, abandoned, and fire damaged homes were renovated in collaboration with local artists and turned into centers for neighborhood creativity. With these projects, Power House seeks to “integrate contemporary art and artistic practices into the daily life of (its) diverse Detroit neighborhood, creating public spaces for the exchange of ideas, opinions, and experiences.” Currently five house have been renovated for community use, along with a public park that now combines skateboarding, public art, and green space.

As the Trust for Public Land (TPL) indicates, though, the focus of creative placemaking goes beyond vacant properties. TPL describes it as “a cooperative, community-based process that leads to new and rejuvenated parks and open spaces that reflect local identity through arts and culture. It has five components: equity, arts and culture, community engagement, partnerships, and stewardship.”

The Mid-America Mural Project was developed in 2010 with the intention to create “meaningful and high quality works through a collaborative process driven by local people.” Each mural project includes the guidance of professional artists, with every stage of the project connecting community members with an opportunity for hands-on experience in research, design, and execution of major public artworks. Two months after a devastating tornado, residents of Joplin, Missouri worked together to create a mural focused on rebuilding, remembering, and moving forward. “Inspired by the metamorphosis of butterflies, the poetry of Langston Hughes, and the capacity for renewal expressed in the imaginations of children, the mural captures the story of Joplin’s unbroken spirit and hopeful outlook after the storm.” The Mural Project has helped the communities of Arkadelphia, Arkansas; Waco, Texas; Hastings, Nebraska; Newton, Kansas; and Tonkawa, Oklahoma to create their own similarly meaningful community murals.

The impacts of creative placemaking can be seen from Los Angeles to Denver, New Jersey to Chicago, and Nashville to Philadelphia along with many other communities. Whether it is protecting “sacred spaces,” recovering the potential of abandoned land, revitalizing neighborhoods, or just bringing people together, creative placemaking offers exciting cooperative opportunities to blend art and diverse communities.

Read more about these projects and about creative placemaking here:

Has Your Doctor Taken an Art Class? Why That Could be Important

Medical school training for physicians is all about chemistry, anatomy, and the ‘ologies (biology, physiology, pathology, endocrinology, etc.)…right?

Wrong. There are nearly 70 medical schools in the U.S., as well as in Canada, Australia, and Italy, offering courses in the arts for their students, some of which are part of the mandatory curriculum. The reason? Recent research shows the arts can enhance skills essential to effective and compassionate patient care.

Painting courses may be designed around exercises focused on visual art observation, written assessment, and even attempting to paint in various styles. The instructors, usually doctors themselves, report that this training contributes to developing critical thinking and observational and communication skills, as well as bias awareness and empathy. For example, Dr. Michael Flanagan teaches an “Impressionism and the Art of Communication” seminar to fourth-year medical students at the Penn State College of Medicine. He argues that as a physician, “Our job is to elicit information from our patients. By communicating more effectively and establishing rapport with patients, so they are more comfortable telling you about their symptoms, you are more likely to make the diagnosis and have higher patient satisfaction.” A 2019 study concludes: “Art training in isolation can help teach medical students to become better clinical observers.”

Also at Penn State, Dr. Paul Haidet, professor of medicine, humanities, and public health sciences, teaches a course entitled “Jazz and the Art of Medicine.” Haidet said of the course “Fourth-year medical students learn to use jazz music as a metaphor for improvisational communication with patients….The hardest thing for doctors-in-training to grasp and learn is the ability to connect with the experience of patients.” Jazz music allowed the students to develop new and creative ways to communicate with patients.

As a medical student at Yale, Robert Rock integrated his background in art history to co-develop a workshop called “Making the Invisible Visible (MIV).” According to Rock, “It uses in-depth art observation to challenge and enhance participants’ objectivity in analyzing what they ‘see’ in a painting, and subsequently explore topics of bias, identity, and hierarchies of power in patient-provider interactions.” Dr. Rock also conducted tours of the Yale University Art Gallery with first year medical students and alumni to examine the art with clinical objectivity—the same way physicians examine patients to form a diagnosis. They were challenged to curb their tendency to make quick assumptions, and to consider how their assumptions may be based on biases that persist in society. The MIV course has been incorporated into the mandatory curriculum for all Yale medical students, and Rock is now a family medicine resident at Montefiore Health System, in the Bronx.

These are only a few examples of how the arts are recognized as providing creative and powerful opportunities to enrich and strengthen important skills for future physicians. In our own backyard, the Oregon Health Sciences University course catalog includes “Narrative Medicine” as a training area focused on the ability to listen, absorb, and be moved to action by the stories of illness. Included in elective experience options, students may use visual art or film to consider the experience of illness from multiple perspectives. The intersection of the arts and medicine has a bright future—and one that can greatly benefit patient care.

So, has your doctor taken an art class?

To learn more, read:

Med Schools Requiring Art Classes:

The Art of Medicine:

Haidet, Colleagues to Study How Arts, Humanities Elevate Medical Education:

Robert Rock, art, justice, and medicine:

OSHU MD Program Curriculum:

Get to Know the Hillsboro Symphony Orchestra!

The Hillsboro Symphony Orchestra (HSO) comprises more than 70 members and includes volunteers of all ages, backgrounds and occupations. The Orchestra had big plans for this season, including preparations for our 20th anniversary celebration next year. COVID-19 may have put an intermission on our in-person activities, but that doesn’t mean HSO has stopped striving toward our primary purpose of bringing music to the community.

Though rehearsals and performances were on a pandemic time-out for the spring and summer, the HSO board has continued to meet regularly to build a dual strategy for this coming season.

The first part of the plan focuses on the community of musicians that makes up the Hillsboro Symphony Orchestra. The ban on large gatherings, and the initial stay-at-home order followed soon after, created an abrupt and indefinite suspension of HSO activities. Many of our members expressed a sense of loss for a structured time to meet and make music together. Though full, in-person rehearsals are still not feasible for the fall term, weekly gatherings have returned via virtual meeting spaces. Sound delays and synching issues unfortunately makes a traditional rehearsal impractical through online means, but our members enjoy listening and playing along with pre-recorded tracks of music we might perform in the future, viewing short presentations from fellow orchestra members and guests, and having a chance to interact with each other after the long hiatus.

The second part of the plan focuses on engaging with the community at-large. With the support of internal teams made up of member volunteers, HSO is creating content for our new and loyal patrons alike through social media! Members are recording themselves playing in their driveways and on their front porches, telling stories of HSO, and sharing pictures depicting the lives of musicians, which will all culminate in a virtual concert on November 20, 2020.

Hillsboro Symphony Orchestra is looking forward to performing together again. To learn more, visit our website at, like us on Facebook (@HillsboroSymphony), and Follow us on Instagram (@HillsboroSymphonyOrchestra).

Professional Theater, Symphonies and a Cultural Arts Center — Oh My!

Did you know that Hillsboro is home to not one, but two local orchestras—the Hillsboro Symphony Orchestra and the Westside Community & Youth Orchestra? Did you know that we have a national award-winning theater company, Bag&Baggage Productions, right in Downtown Hillsboro? Or that you can attend an art opening, live performances, and art classes, all in one place, at the Walters Cultural Arts Center? These are just a few of the arts and cultural opportunities you might be missing right in your hometown.

When the City of Hillsboro was working on our Cultural Arts Action Plan, we surveyed hundreds of community members online and in person at farmers’ markets, libraries, and parks. The surveys revealed a tremendous interest in having arts resources available locally. Survey respondents asked for everything from a children’s museum to more late night dance clubs. Most surprising was how many people asked for resources that already exist! Our everyday lives are so busy, and sometimes the more there is—more sources of information, more things to do—the harder it is to find out about the events you would really like to know about. Our local arts and cultural groups are trying to reach you, through websites, social media, and email lists. They post flyers, send mailers, and buy ads in newspapers—online or in print. Even with all of this effort, there is no way  to reach everyone who may enjoy what they have to offer, whether that be a concert, play, festival, art show, or class.

October is Hillsboro Arts Month and this year, though you may not be able to attend an in person event, celebrate Hillsboro’s arts community by getting to know some of the fantastic local organizations and art-based businesses in your backyard. Some are taking a necessary hiatus from public programs during the pandemic, but you can still learn about them on their website, join their mailing list, or follow them on social media to hear about new events when they are able to return.  Others groups are offering online events—many for free—that you and your entire household could enjoy right now.

We are listing many of the organizations active in our community here. Check them out, start following the organizations that interest you, and, if you are able, consider donating now, to ensure they survive and thrive in our community.

Hillsboro’s Historic Downtown Reveals Its Stories

When you walk through Downtown Hillsboro, you might notice the quaint historic facades, the inviting boutiques, and the tantalizing restaurants, but the Hillsboro Historical Society (HHS) wants you to look beyond that cozy first impression. After years spent in dusty records rooms and leafing through old newspapers, HHS is nearly ready to invite you in, to learn the story of our town—through all the colorful, inspiring personalities that built this community we love.

The first phase of the “Stories on the Streets” project will install 23 signs on the buildings of East Main Street between Second and Third Avenues, featuring a playful spin on Victorian silhouette art, coupled with quirky stories from the past.

Through the “Stories on the Streets” project, you will have a chance to get to know:

  • Orange Phelps: The oldest of the original theater men, a semi-pro baseball catcher, and former Hillsboro mayor.
  • Emma McKinney:  A widowed mother turned newspaperwoman and the namesake of a major national newspaper award.
  • Dr. F.A. Bailey:  A pioneer doctor so dedicated to his patients that he would build rafts during flood season just to reach them.

The Historical Society hopes to offer you the chance to connect with your community through the story of our shared Hillsboro heritage—the story we, ourselves, contribute to every day as we live, work, play, and endure an epidemic…together.

Our hope is that by sharing these tales of our collective past, we can draw people together under a common bond, one of community pride and involvement. We hope, too, that this project will give travelers to the Tualatin Valley a similarly clear sense of this place—a gorgeous town that has inspired generations of entrepreneurs, statesmen, organizers, and artisans.

And, of course, we hope their stories will inspire you, too!

If you would like to sponsor a sign or get involved in the “Stories on the Streets” project, we would love to hear from you. You can reach our President, Dirk Knudsen, at You can also support our work with a membership at

Creating an Art Habit

Art can be used as a coping tool to diminish, accept, or express strong emotions as they arise, or it can be used as a preventative measure to develop stronger physical and mental health practices before difficult emotions arise (because they will). Developing your own arts practice can be a good way to develop both coping tools and preventative strategies, to improve your wellness in a multifaceted way. It is important to note that improving wellness is not necessarily the absence of mental and physical health conditions, but gives us an increased ability to manage them when they arise. Art engagement is a way to build resilience and improve overall wellbeing to help as we approach personal challenges.

Like any habit, practice makes perfect! You may want to start by simply exploring what forms of art you want to incorporate in your life. Maybe you love movies and music—try spending more time watching local theatre productions or attending live concerts. Maybe you enjoy being outside in nature—try expressing the way that nature makes you feel through writing or drawing. Some people enjoy more hands-on activities, such as cooking or pottery. You may want to consider a culinary or pottery class. Part of art is exploration! The first step to developing an art habit is to explore what activities are exciting and engaging for you. Make a list of activities big or small: What do you want to create?

Once your list is created, pick your favorite one and make a plan on how you’ll get started. Maybe you’ll need to make a supply list and collect your artistic tools. Or do some research online to gain inspiration by watching instruction videos by people interested in similar activities, or check out local classes, performances, and artistic resources in your community. Decide when/where you can engage in your art habit throughout the week, so you make a commitment to developing your art habit.

Oh, and lastly, be easy on yourself! Part of the process is trial and error. You don’t need to be a professional artist to experience the benefits of creativity because all sorts of art projects result in “feel good” hormones, regardless of outcome.1 You may want to consider developing an art habit as an experiment. What works for you and what doesn’t? What excites you and what tires you out? Finding your creative passions is part of the process of developing a strong, effective habit.

Some Ideas to Get You Started:

  • Painting, drawing, coloring
  • Listening to music, creating a playlist
  • Playing an instrument
  • Nature walks, dance, yoga
  • Visiting museums, galleries, and public art pieces
  • Join a group or take a class
  • Journaling, poetry, storytelling


  1. Alban, D. (2020, May 06). The Mental Health Benefits of Art Are for Everyone. Retrieved July 01, 2020, from

Arts and the Economy

The coronavirus pandemic has caused a major disruption of our national economy and financial markets globally and has resulted in painful impacts on the lives and welfare of countless communities.  The arts, so often dependent on social gatherings, were devastated almost overnight as venues were forced, for health and safety reasons, to close public galleries and cancel performances. Some people might assume that the arts sector failing is not a critical issue, howcever, consider the contribution the arts made to the national economy in pre-pandemic times and the potential for arts education to provide much needed workforce preparation into the future.

The 2015 Arts & Economic Prosperity: National Study reports that non-profit arts and cultural organizations not only provide employment opportunities, but also contribute significant revenue to local governments and communities.  On the national level, arts organizations “pumped an estimated $63.8 billion into the nation’s economy, supporting 2.3 million jobs, providing $49.4 billion in household income, and generating $11.9 billion in total government revenue.”

Arts education is also gaining recognition as a key component of student’s success in the workplace. As detailed in The Importance of Arts Education in Workforce Preparation, “nearly 45 percent of business executive think that Americans lack the deeper learning skills needed for success in the 21st century workforce—communication, creativity, collaboration, and critical thinking.” These critical skills for economic growth are linked to arts education, with numerous studies showing that children who study the arts are more likely to be recognized for academic achievement, more likely to participate in a math or science fair, and more likely to elected to class office within their school, while increasing their creative and strategic thinking and problem-solving skills.

Read more about how the Arts Impact the Economy:

Arts & Economic Prosperity: National Study:

The Importance of Arts Education in Workforce Preparation:

Meet the Westside Community & Youth Orchestra

Westside Community & Youth Orchestra (WCYO) is a unique blend of approximately 65+ adult community players and youth musicians who join together for rehearsals and concerts from September through May in Washington County. In addition, WCYO is the only orchestra combining both the mentorship of seasoned adult musicians and up and coming youth musicians. Each musician is dedicated to performing together to the utmost of their ability while also continuing to evolve into better and better musicians. WCYO encourages leadership and mentoring on an individual level for all participating members.

Orchestral music is carefully researched and selected for each series by our Conductor/Artistic Director Collin Heade, with the Orchestra’s specific strengths and skills in mind. The carefully chosen pieces are a combination of orchestral and occasional choral classical pieces with everything from show tunes to movie themes to contemporary music designed to challenge our musicians and entertain our loyal audience. Music is researched and purchased and then provided at no charge to our members each series. There are no monetary fees to join WCYO and members bring their own instrument, along with the enthusiasm to collaborate with others, as we grow the music into a memorable experience for our patrons. We are also fortunate enough to rehearse at Liberty High School, using their state-of-the-art Band room and extensive collection of percussion instruments for optimum use of time and talent.

Originally named the Intel Orchestra and led by Rob Archibald to accompany the Intel Singers, the Orchestra coalesced into a larger group with logistics requiring more space and easier rehearsal space access. Rob Archibald was able to realize a long time aspiration by moving the ensemble from secured areas of Intel to Liberty High School in October 2007. This began WCYO’s journey in its new venue, as well as an innovative new blend of both adults and youth musicians in one artistic endeavor.

In normal, virus-free years, we are presently able to offer two free concerts per year, one as our Fall/Holiday Concert in December and the second as our Spring Concert in May. These concerts are free to the Hillsboro community and beyond, with family and friends being the majority of those in attendance. During each of our series, our weekly fast-paced rehearsals reflect intense preparation for upcoming concerts as we learn to collaborate, learn, and lead. In addition, we offer performance opportunities for WCYO musicians in smaller, classical chamber music ensembles which perform in the community and at schools. We presently have a Woodwind Quintet and a String Ensemble in String Quartet format. With incoming donations and grant awards, we have recently been able to offer resources for WCYO musicians wishing to take private lessons to precipitate personal artistic growth with WCYO and beyond. For more information, please contact our website at – Thank you!

The Arts & Wellness

When you think about wellness, what is the first thing that comes to mind? Is it yearly check-ups at the doctor’s office? Is it making sure you’re taking your medications? Is it taking an art class, listening to music, or attending a theatre performance? What would your life be like if the ARTS were considered a part of your wellness? While Western medicine has provided our world with many powerful tools to promote wellness, the medical system has been increasing their scope of practice to include more holistic views of care. Health care systems are acknowledging the benefits of including art and creativity as a part of overall physical and mental wellbeing. The value of art, in its many forms, has proven time and time again its ability to enrich and promote a healthy quality of life.

For example, listening to music has been shown to calm neural activity in the brain, leading to decreases in anxiety and pain along with improvements in immune system functioning.1 Cultural engagement, such as going to the theatre, museums, concerts, or galleries, have been proven to increase cognitive resilience and decrease memory decline in older adults.2 Engagement in art-related activities is also a useful tool for encouraging health-promoting behaviors such as movement, connection to others, and emotional expression—all of which are related to improved mental and physical health outcomes.3 Creating art has also proved useful in improving physiological indicators of health, such as decreasing high blood pressure and reducing the production of stress hormones.

So while you continue to visit your doctor for your health and wellbeing, add in some creative self-care strategies! Visit a museum or gallery, attend a live performance, or find some time to write, draw, paint, or play music. Developing an arsenal of self-care strategies, including art-related activities, can better help you to express yourself emotionally and physically. Your health will be better for the time you spend caring for yourself through art.

Stay tuned for more ideas, examples, and tips for creating your own art habit.


  1. Stuckey, H. L., & Nobel, J. (2010). The connection between art, healing, and public health: a review of current literature. American journal of public health, 100(2), 254–263.
  2. Finn & Fancourt, D. (2019). What is the evidence on the role of the arts in improving … Retrieved June 10, 2020, from
  3. Raschke, H. (2017, February 10). Did You Know the Arts Can Lower Your Blood Pressure? Retrieved June 10, 2020, from

Take the 2020 Hillsboro Arts Month Challenge

October is Hillsboro Arts Month and as we all stayed home to save lives this year, music, movies, books, and binge-watching television shows became an even larger part of our lives. But as we safely hunkered down, actors, authors, musicians, and muralists struggled for their economic survival. Many artists are part of the “gig economy” with income that is dependent on being hired to play music in restaurants or at public events. Visual artists lost sales from galleries, art festivals, and show openings. And most arts and cultural organizations planned and rehearsed for months for spring and summer shows that were cancelled. It’s estimated that in Oregon, cultural organizations lost over $40 million dollars by the end of June.

There has been a lot of focus, rightly, on essential services recently. But as the scope of our lives has narrowed, it has brought the power of the arts into sharper focus for many. Music makes our hearts sing in a way that is almost primitive. Enjoying a theatrical production or a good book can transport us from our daily life, challenge us to look at an issue with new perspective, or give us the opportunity to escape. Whether we are a viewer or a maker, visual arts provide new vistas and opportunities to take part in a creative dialogue. Participating in creative expression reduces stress, promotes connection with family and friends, and creates understanding and empathy—something we can all use more of right now.

If you enjoy living in a city with galleries, theaters, chorale groups, orchestras, dance companies, and cultural celebrations take the 2020 Arts Month Challenge and support them today. Additionally, consider matching your donations to the Oregon Cultural Trust and donating the Hillsboro Arts & Culture Endowment Fund to maximize your charitable impact. These cultural entities have been here for us for years, now it’s our opportunity to be here for them.

Support these Hillsboro based arts and cultural organizations:

Airlie Press

Bag&Baggage Productions

Golden Road Arts

HART Theatre

Hillsboro Historical Society

Hillsboro Symphony Orchestra

Hillsboro Tuesday Night Market

The Immigrant Story


Oregon Chorale

Sequoia Gallery + Studios

STAGES Performing Arts Youth Academy

Westside Community and Youth Orchestra

Westside Quilters Guild