Arts expand at Ashland Middle School

An empty kitchen at Ashland Middle School will again serve as a classroom for the culinary arts — as part of a new program to revive and strengthen art on campus.

Funded through a $280,000 Oregon Community Foundation grant, the Studio to School program will bring together artistic organizations in the region with existing school programs and provide funding for new materials and equipment.

Part of a statewide pilot program, Ashland's Studio to School program will be managed by Denise Baxter, executive director of the Ashland Art Center, a nonprofit gallery that hosts arts education classes.

Baxter, who wrote the grant proposal, said the money will go toward improvements in film and video classes, visual arts, the band and orchestra, along with reopening the culinary arts kitchen.

"They had a kitchen, and it's just been sitting there empty for years," said Baxter.

She said students would talk about recipes but didn't have the cooking supplies to actually use the kitchen.

Other programs also needed new equipment, while some needed the money to staff classrooms during lunch or after school.

For the visual arts, Baxter said they had the staff to teach classes, but not updated cameras and software.

"They just don't have the proper equipment," she said.

The money will also be used to bring professionals from local organizations into classrooms to work with students, Baxter said.

The organizations involved include the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Ashland Independent Film Festival, Rogue Valley Symphony, Rogue Valley Symphonic Band and Southern Oregon University.

Baxter applied for the five-year grant last year and expects to receive the first check for $70,000 sometime in early June.

She hopes the money can be used to begin strengthening art programs by the time students return to Ashland Middle School in the fall, she said.

Baxter is participating in a webinar with grant recipients from other schools to learn more about the Studio to School program later this month.

Studio to School is a new statewide arts initiative that the Oregon Community Foundation is beginning that pairs nonprofits with schools to strengthen already existing art programs.

Ashland Middle School was one of 18 schools and 53 other applicants around the state to receive money.

Teresa Ristow is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Email her at

Share This Story