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VanGo!

Mobile art studio spreads lessons throughout Central Oregon

by: Photo By Susan Matheny - Debra Fisher, at back, with Madras Boys and Girls Club members after they completed their masks last week.

On Thursday afternoons, Debra Fisher drives the colorfully decorated Van Go to the Madras Boys and girls club to teach two sessions of art.
   The Van Go is a project by Arts Central in Bend to bring art to rural communities.
   "Van Go brings art programs free to the site, complete with art supplies and materials," said Fisher, who call herself the "pilot artist" of a "pilot program."
   The idea was originally conceived by Cate O'Hagen, Arts Central Executive director.
   The idea became reality when O'Hagen and Ingrid Lustig, Arts Central Education Director wrote grants and secured the funding needed to buy the van and supplies and to hire the artist.
   Van Go was made possible due to donations from the Ford Family Foundation, the Collins Foundation, Oregon Arts Commission, the Roundhouse Foundation, the Templeton Foundation, Deschutes County, Sign Pro, Bob Thomas Car Company, Cascades Arts & Entertainment and may individual donors.
   At the Madras Boys and Girls Club, children gathered to the cafeteria for the first art session Fisher would teach that afternoon.
   "The kids are starting a 3-d mask making project which will take several weeks to finish," said Fisher.
   Fisher instructed the children on how to make a nose for their masks which they started the week before. She then let them work, assisting them when they needed.
   When asked about what she thought of the project, Ariana, one of the children said, "It's fun. I like how we're gonna paint it, and that you can wear them."
   "And you get to hang out with a groovy art teacher," Fisher jokingly added.
   Fisher plans on doing another project before the end of the summer, such as a relief mural or a 3-d fish.
   "We'll probably see 200-250 kids this summer," said Fisher, "When we start with after-school programs, more kids will be involved."
   In addition to Madras, the Van Go serves children in Terrebonne, Prineville, Sisters, LaPine, and Juvenile Justice in Deschutes County.
   Although the Van Go program works mainly with Boys and Girls Clubs, it also brings art to SOAR (Sisters Organization for Activities and Recreation) and Juvenile Justice.
   "There is a lack of arts in Oregon," said Fisher, "Oregon is one of the lowest funded states for art."
   To Fisher, art is important because it does more than teach a child how to create something. "It's a wonderful opportunity. I think that getting a child involved with their creative side expands their personalities and abilities."
   "The kids are excited on Van Go days," said Angie Madden, director of the Jefferson County Boys and Girls Club, "It's awesome. It has been able to bring fine arts to a rural community."