Methow Arts launches Youth Arts Initiative in Cascade School District

Methow Arts Alliance is expanding its art education programs into the Cascade School District which serves Leavenworth, Plain, and the Peshastin-Dryden area.

Thanks to a grant from Icicle Fund, Methow Arts will implement the Youth Arts Initiative program (YAI) this fall for students in grades K-5 in the Peshastin-Dryden and Alpine Lakes Elementary Schools in Cascade School District. The initiative is a three-year pilot grant that has a goal of increasing the dosage of high quality arts education. The program focuses specifically on sequential art learning in the principles and elements of art for early grade levels, establishing a foundation in the arts for later years.

The YAI program is aligned with Washington State Arts Learning Standards and mirrors one that was developed in the Methow Valley and Omak School Districts in 2019, serving more than 900 students in grades K-3. The YAI program was discontinued in Omak due to funding concerns, but will begin its third year in the Methow Valley in fall 2021, serving all enrolled Methow Valley K-6 students.

“Cascade School District recently completed the development of a strategic framework, in which Artful Creativity was identified as a core value. We are excited to announce a partnership with the Methow Arts Alliance in order to help align our actions as a district with our core values,” says Cascade School District superintendent Tracey Beckendorf-Edou. “We are especially excited to work with the Methow Arts Alliance in that they have experience providing quality elementary arts instruction.”

Like Methow Valley Elementary, the two elementary schools in Cascade School District—Peshastin-Dryden Elementary and Alpine Lakes Elementary—currently have no designated art teacher for the students who will be reached through this grant. For decades, the Cascade School District has relied on volunteers to provide arts education at the elementary level; this grant will extend the depth and breadth of arts learning available to students.

Lore Smart, Youth Arts Instructor/Peshastin-Dryden Elementary.

Lore Smart will instruct the YAI program at Peshastin-Dryden Elementary. An artist who is currently earning her Master’s degree and teaching certification at Central Washington University, Lore says that art class “is where magic happens and the world becomes anything you want it to be.” Lore has volunteered as an art enrichment teacher and art docent in the Cashmere School District, been involved in theater arts, and worked as a paraprofessional in both Cashmere and Cascade school districts. A mother of four, Lore is excited to share her passion and love of art with Peshastin-Dryden students.

Amber Zimmerman,
Youth Arts Instructor/Alpine Lakes Elementary.

Amber Zimmerman is the lead Youth Arts Initiative (YAI) Instructor at Alpine Lakes Elementary in the Cascade School District. Art is a way of life for Amber and her family. A fourth-generation artist, Amber earned her Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Art from Evergreen State College. Amber has taught art extensively in the Cascade School District,  developing and delivering both the KArt and LEAAP (Leavenworth Elementary Art Appreciation Project) programs in K-2 and K-5 respectively. She is active in the Leavenworth arts community, participates in gallery exhibits, and teaches community art classes for students and adults. She has participated in Washington State’s Teaching Artist Training Lab (TAT Lab) and Icicle Fund’s Conservation, History, and Art (CHA) residency. A mother of two, Amber refers to art as “the great problem-solver” and looks forward to helping students explore visual arts in a strategic, sequential way.

Implementation of the YAI program utilizes Okanogan County data from the 2017 Youth Arts Opportunities Study funded by Icicle Fund, which identified gaps and opportunities, as well as barriers and supporters of youth arts education in Okanogan County. Additional data emphasizing need for this grant is derived from Methow Arts Alliance’s evaluation, which collects quantitative and qualitative data annually from school districts across Okanogan County.

This project is a program of Methow Arts Alliance. Established in 1983, Methow Arts Alliance is a non-profit organization based in Twisp, WA. Methow Arts operates through an array of programs in Arts Education, Promotion of the Arts, Leadership, Public Art and a year-round performance series for schools and its community. Their mission is to enrich the lives of people in Okanogan County by making the arts an integral and dynamic part of public school education, economic vitality and community.

Thank you to Icicle Fund for supporting the Youth Arts Initiative project through a three-year pilot project grant. In 1998, the Icicle Fund was established by Harriet Bullitt and has since supported more than 100 non-profit organizations with $45 million dollars. The Fund values projects and initiatives that foster a collaborative atmosphere, connect people to place, and are aligned with the Icicle Fund mission to support art, environment and history in North Central Washington. The Fund believes that strong connections to the land and the communities in which we live are nurtured through artistic expression and imagination, an understanding of our past, and experience in and love for our natural landscapes and wildlife. In 2019, Bullitt gifted her ownership of Sleeping Lady Mountain Resort to the Icicle Fund. As locals and guests visit Sleeping Lady, the Fund will be able to award even more grants to community organizations.

CONTACT/INFO: Methow Arts Alliance,,