COOS BAY — The students at Sunset Middle School, in Coos Bay, are wrapping up their first year in a unique grant program focusing on the arts.

In May 2014, they found out that they would be taking part in just one of 18 Studio to School grant projects to be selected by the Oregon Community

Foundation. This week those students made a visit to their lab partner in this scholastic experiment, the Coos Art Museum.

Museum executive director Steven Broocks said during a brief break in the process that they were helping an average of 100 students a day who visited last week get a better appreciation of what the museum has to offer.

Some foundation reviewers were even on hand to check on the progress with the local program.

“It is a $70,000 a year, annual, renewable grant for three years, and maybe beyond that,” Broocks said. “So, this is a very important, and active, part of what the museum is doing for the next three years.”

According to the foundation’s website, oregoncf.org, the grant was to allow the Coos Art Museum to “deliver sequential arts instruction, art exposure opportunities and arts integration for disadvantaged students grades 4-7.”

Sunset principal Dale Inskeep said he is feeling a little guilty these days about getting an opportunity that so many other schools in the area would welcome.

But, school and museum officials are working to set those feelings aside, as they effort to make the most of the program — an effort that could help those other schools, down the road.

“The arts, in general, there is great research that it supports brain development,” Inskeep said. “And our teachers, as well, have gained the knowledge and the skills, starting with things like symmetry, shading, watercolor, and (other) things that our teachers can expand on from here with their exposure. Then we can move into new content areas around the artistic skills, too. So, it is pretty cool.”

While the focus last week was on the museum, the grant covers all the arts. Students at Sunset have also been exposed to other areas, like music, dance, and dramatic performance.

“It’s been outstanding,” Inskeep said. “Resident artists have come into the school and actually provided instruction, so that as our kids are appreciating art they are also getting the knowledge and the skills to participate in it themselves.”

That replication is a big part of the overall grant’s objective, according to OCF.

“Through this project,” it states, “the Oregon Community Foundation aims to increase arts opportunities for underserved youth in grades K-8 and to support communities in strengthening their networks and capacity to offer year-round arts education.”

Another big part of this process is making sure it is running at an optimal level, so feedback is needed from participants.

A small price to pay, said Sunset’s principal.

“The Oregon Community Foundation is a very generous organization in supporting the arts around the state of Oregon, and also being kind of unique in trying to eliminate a lot of barriers that oftentimes come with those kind of things,” Inskeep said. “While there is certainly some accountability, and feedback and surveys, and those kinds of things to be involved with, it’s been a really fairly easy process.”

Reporter Tim Novotny can be reached at 541-269-1222, ext. 235, or by email at tim.novotny@theworldlink.com. Follow him on Twitter: @novots34.

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