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Methow Arts Alliance proves size of vision matters most

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Amanda Jackson Mott
Amanda Jackson Mott
I'm impressed with the far-reaching positive impacts the Methow Arts Alliance is having throughout Okanogan County. This is an organization that sees the arts as a catalyst for economic development, improving civic life and engaging students in the discovery of learning. They're not just promoting art for art's sake.   Started in 1983 to support artists in the valley, the organization has deepened and broadened its influence in the region. The fact that Executive Director Amanda Jackson Mott sits on the state Arts Commission and also the Okanogan County Economic Alliance demonstrates the priorities of this tiny nonprofit.
Mott, who has a graduate degree in social service administration and public policy, understands that the future of rural Okanogan County depends on building vibrant communities that are more economically stable. She sees the arts as an integral part of any community's success. 
That broader purpose inspired the development of the alliance's arts education consortium, a program in seven school districts and 17 schools that pays for professional artists to spend time teaching in classrooms. Mott said the effort has a trickle-up impact in communities, starting with kids who find greater expression in the arts and extending to their parents who see the positive impacts on academics.   When school budgets started getting chopped back in places like Tonasket, Oroville, Pateros, Tonasket, the alliance stepped up to fill the shocking void of primary school art programs. Studies consistently show that playing music or creating art engages students to use both sides of their brain and enhances their academic performance. It's anything but a luxury.
Allowing kids express themselves in art starting at an early age inspires their creativity and gives them a different way of looking at the world, said Mott. "It allows them to improvise, be unique, and problem solve in a way that other subjects don't teach.
Creativity is the currency by which students will be successful in the world, so it's vital to support programs that give them this kind of access.   The Methow Arts Alliance also is making a difference with its ARTscapes project, which has gotten a lot of publicity lately.  The program fills vacant buildings with working artists, providing a space for people to create and show their work, fills up vacant buildings to help property owners sell their spaces, and gives tourists a great reason to visit the community.    The ARTscapes experiment in Omak has been a success and they're looking to expand to other communities. Tonasket has shown a lot of interest, Mott said. Along with space for artists to work and display work, there are plans to use the spaces as resource areas for community members and artists alike.   This effort also fits the theme of having art as a catalyst for building stronger, more resilient communities.   The Methow Arts Alliance is a tiny organization making huge impacts in Okanogan County, proving that it's the size of the vision that matters most.