Caldera Arts was one of 12 nonprofit organizations to receive the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Awards. It's the first time an Oregon nonprofit has received the award, and Executive Director Tricia Snell and Caldera Arts student Alena Nore traveled to the White House on Nov. 17 to accept the award from First Lady Michelle Obama.
Nore, a high school senior, was selected to accept the award on behalf of Caldera after "completing a few essay questions and being interviewed," she says. "I actually didn't know details about the award, including that we would be traveling to Washington."
Nore says receiving the award from Michelle Obama was surreal.
"When I went onto the stage with Tricia, I had to tell myself not to cry because it was overwhelmingly joyous," she says. "When I hugged the First lady I said, 'Thank you,' because I knew that she not only cared for every single person in that room, but also for all of the people who work behind the scenes."
Nore's portfolio contains a range of watercolor, oil on canvas, and digital prints of portraits and animals. After graduating from high school, she says she wants to attend college.
"I plan to major in psychology and either double major or minor in studio art. I will then get certification for counseling and therapy and begin to practice art therapy," she says. "I aspire to help people understand how they think, encourage free-artistry, and facilitate therapeutic activity."
Caldera Arts pairs students with outdoor-arts experiences and hosts multiple programs offering students a chance to participate at no cost. The organization works within middle schools in Central Oregon and Portland, and they also make college scholarships available to students who have been members of a program for two years or more. Caldera was awarded $10,000, which will be used to fund the organization's arts programs.
During the ceremony, Michelle Obama said, "Arts education is not a luxury; it is a necessity. It's really the air many of these kids breathe, it's how we get kids excited about getting up and going to school in the morning. It's how we get them to take ownership of their future."
Nore says, "I would absolutely love to return to Caldera in the future as staff or as an artist in residence."