BEND, Ore. – The newest member of the Oregon Arts Commission is passionate about seeing Oregon revitalize art education in the state’s public school systems.
Henry Sayre, a noted Oregon State University art historian who is based on the OSU-Cascades Campus in Bend, was appointed to a four-year term on the commission by Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski. He brings to the commission a diverse professional portfolio that includes a widely used textbook, a 10-part PBS television series, and his latest effort – a children’s book – that garnered him an Oregon Book Award last year.
Sayre said he is excited about the opportunity to influence art education and appreciation throughout Oregon.
“I’m particularly committed to helping people understand how important the arts are to their communities – not only the positive impact they can have on our children and our schools, but the major role they can play in promoting social vitality and economic growth across our state,” Sayre said.
As art education in Oregon public schools has declined precipitously over the past two decades – a victim in most school districts of budget cuts – Sayre came upon the idea of developing a children’s book that would introduce them to some of the classics. His book, "Cave Paintings to Picasso: The Inside Scoop on 50 Art Masterpieces," was aimed directly at school children in an effort, he says, to help rekindle interest in the arts.
For his effort, he was honored with an Oregon Book Award, winning the Eloise Jarvis McGraw Award for Children's Literature.
"I had a hard time selling it to publishers," admitted Sayre, who carries the title of distinguished professor of art at OSU. "They thought it was too sophisticated of an idea for younger kids. But I know from experience that kids have an interest in art and they can do remarkable things with it. It is something I feel quite strongly about.
"Art is incredibly important and it pains me to have watched its presence in Oregon classrooms decline over the last 20 or so years," Sayre said. "It used to be that almost every school had an art teacher and every kid had art instruction. Then, as budgets got tight, the teachers got eliminated, and districts hired a traveling art teacher to spend a half-day at 20 different schools every two weeks. And even that has begun to disappear.
"Unfortunately," Sayre added, "art is seen as decorative instead of fundamental."
Sayre, who has been with OSU since 1983, has won numerous awards for teaching and service, has served as president of the OSU Faculty Senate, and as an administrator with the OSU-Cascades Campus in Bend. He is perhaps best known for his art appreciation text, "A World of Art," and for his production of a multimedia teaching package for art appreciation. The latter project, funded by a $1.2 million grant from the Annenberg Foundation at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, includes a 10-part television series that aired on PBS in 1997.