Learning and participation in music, dance, theater, and the visual arts are vital to the development of our children and our communities. Through advocacy, research, partnerships, and professional development, Americans for the Arts strives to provide and secure more resources and support for arts education. Visit AmericansForTheArts.org for more information on the Arts Education Network.
Gang banger or set designer? Bored and disconnected, or improvising jazz on a Duke Ellington tune? YOU are in a position to change a life, and maybe one day save a life with art. So let’s look at five important ways to maximize your potential, your influence and your long term success as a Teaching Artist.
1) You Gotta Have Chops
2) Hit The Gym (aka Professional Development)
3) Autopilot is a Killer
4) Strong Relationships With Teachers and Administration
5) Keep Your Inner Artist Alive Read the rest of this entry »
On Saturday, February 1, I had the wonderful opportunity to watch Young Audiences/Arts for Learning teaching artist, Max Bent, work. We were not in a classroom and we were not in an official Young Audiences program at a school or community organization. Instead, we were joining our neighbors, Single Carrot Theatre, in welcoming the neighborhood to our new home at 2600 North Howard Street in Baltimore. Max was offering a musical demonstration to anyone who walked in to say hello and hear more about Young Audiences. After an hour of recording sounds visitors played on a small steel drum and various other eclectic instruments, Max created a symphony of sounds by layering impromptu measures of four beats on top of each other. As he taught, I was struck by one phrase he kept repeating: “We have to re-harness the things that happen by accident.” I instantly connected this idea to my research as a graduate student. Read the rest of this entry »
The role of a teaching artist is often different in every organization. Here at the Guggenheim teaching artists are at the core of the Learning Through Art (LTA) program. As a non-artist who has now spent 20 years in the arts, working with teaching artists, is without question the best part of my job and I hold them in the highest esteem. LTA teaching artists are a dedicated bunch and their commitment to the program goes well beyond the one day a week they technically “work” at their assigned school. Jenny Bevill, who has been with LTA for 10 years, says the following:
“I feel my main role is that of translator, using all the resources I have to teach students to speak visually. First I try to connect my students with artwork that they will be interested in and curious about. Then I give them materials and teach them techniques that they can master and use in service of their own ideas. In collaboration with their classroom teachers and museum staff, I try to ask good essential questions so that students will be inspired to respond creatively rather than correctly. Lastly, I act as their guide through the art making process, reflecting their thinking back to them and offering suggestions to deepen their learning.” Read the rest of this entry »
In preparation for the launch of our new Youth Orchestra of St. Luke’s – a music for social change initiative inspired by El Sistema—the Community & Education department of Orchestra of St. Luke’s was looking for a team to teach string instruments to a group of 10 year olds, to shape the students’ leadership, focus, and collaborative skills, and to help build a sense of community among OSL and participating families.
This was a tall order, but we were optimistic. After all, we worked in New York City, where extraordinary music teachers abound. But as we finished the job description, we were stuck: Is this a Music Teacher position, or a Teaching Artist position? Read the rest of this entry »
My colleague, educator, lecturer, and etymologist, Eric Booth, defines a teaching artist as “a practicing professional artist with the complementary skills, curiosities, and sensibilities of an educator, who can effectively engage a wide range of people in learning experiences in, through, and about the arts.”
At the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra’s OrchKids program we define our staff as Teaching Artists and look for three qualities:
1. Effective Pedagogy
2. High Level Artistry
3. Ability to ADVOCATE for the musical art form.
My mission in the following paragraphs is to create a series of arguments that may lead to other questions growing out of the query – “Are universities doing enough to train performers to be Teaching Artists?” Read the rest of this entry »
Whether we are working on education policy or we are teaching Art Education in the classroom we face chaos, frustration, isolation, and uncertainty every day. The statistics for teachers to abandon the profession after just one year are staggering. We are all racing to keep up with the new technologically-plugged-in-student, new tests and standards, and to find the time to actually teach. We feel like there isn’t anyone there to catch us when we fall and yet we have this untapped source: each other.
Collaboration and building partnerships in our field can provide the support system that we need. It has the capacity to end isolation and frustration, and to provide experience and resources. As a collective, we have the capacity for rapid advancement and a more powerful reach. The importance of interaction and interdependence whether in the classroom or a county, a state or a nation, is a simple idea but generally not sustainable – unless we model it on what has proven successful in today’s market. Read the rest of this entry »
One of today’s challenges for arts organizations is to bring our teaching artists’ best work to the “shared endeavor” of making the arts a part of every child’s PK-12 education. My experience suggests that arts organizations can offer the best work to that shared endeavor when we invest in long-term professional learning for our teaching artists.
INVEST (in-vest) verb
to use, give, or devote (time, energy, funds, etc.),
to achieve something that offers potential appreciation in value
When we invest in the knowledge and skills of our teaching artists, we increase the value of their work with schools. But, what kind of investment is needed?
Over many years, I’ve watched the Kennedy Center invest in professional learning for its teaching artists and have seen that investment’s positive impact on the quality of the work that is offered to schools. Their investment in professional learning includes five components:
- Ongoing communication, and
- Peer exchange Read the rest of this entry »
Three years ago, I made a significant shift in my teaching artist career. After a decade of TA’ing in K-12 settings, I felt stuck in a rut and wanted to try something new…I just wasn’t sure what that was. I threw a lot of new options up against the wall, and the two that stuck were an unlikely pairing: working with older adults on memoir-writing, and leading creative play classes for babies, toddlers, and their caregivers.
My days are now a mix of encouraging parents to get down on the floor and create acrobatic tricks or dance routines with their one-year olds, and nurturing the creative impulses of older adults who have always believed that they had a story to tell – but until this point, never felt ready to pick up a pen. While the energy, laughter, and frequent tears in these two settings are very different, one common theme ties them together:
We are all artists, and we can help each other create art. Read the rest of this entry »
The next time you hear yourself justifying inclusion of the arts in an educational setting stop and ask if this could be true:
ART IS THE MOTHER OF ALL LITERACY.
EACH ARTS DISCIPLINE IS A DISTINCT LITERACY IN ITS OWN RIGHT
Then back up and ask yourself:
- Is my art form a vehicle for communication?
- Does my art form support personal engagement and community participation?
- Does it distill my insights and synthesize my meanings?
- Do I use a symbol system that emerged to support my art form?
- Does my discipline support idiomatic expression for me and my community?
- Does my art form invite engagement and gain meaning from critical interpretation?
- Is it guided by particular structures, rules or agreed-upon [cultural] customs?
- Does my discipline adapt with relocation or change over time?
Let us assume, for now, that the answers to the above are all yes! Read the rest of this entry »
The concept of “practice” has always been a word attached to my own personal art form of music. But the very verb-ness of that word has taken on a completely different dimension as a noun of serious proportions in my current work with visual artists to develop curriculum to support the new Next Generation Science Standards.
At my work at the Armory Center for the Arts in Pasadena, California, I have the incredible opportunity to work with a brilliant faculty of highly trained and creative teaching artists in a program called, “Children Investigate the Environment.” While this program has existed in a variety of forms since 1986, it was the release of the new Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) in April of 2013 that prompted an idea to increase the rigor of the science content of the program.
Working in grade level teams with the teaching artists to create the curriculum, it took a while for us to wrap our heads around each of the aspects of the NGSS – Performance Expectations, Disciplinary Core Ideas, Cross Cutting Concepts, etc. However, the first thing that resonated with all of us was the focus on Scientific and Engineering Practices. In reflecting on our own various practices as artists, we realized that we had found an important connection. It was there that we started. Read the rest of this entry »
I facilitate arts education workshops and conversations nationally. Teaching artists often ask me why it’s important to discuss arts education and social justice. I’m still honing my response, but here’s my current thinking:
We live in a country with undeniable barriers in education and the arts. I’m not even going to get into the differences between private and public schools, or the historic divide between formal arts training and cultural and community arts in this post. (Although, you should take a moment to read this great piece from the The National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy and Helicon which makes the case that more foundation funding in the arts should directly benefit lower-income communities and people of color). If we accept the idea that social justice is a vision for a society in which all people, of all identities, are treated equitably then we also have to admit the landscape is currently inequitable. Read the rest of this entry »
I have been a teaching artist for many years—long before the profession had this name.
I work with students and teachers in all grade levels integrating drama with oral language development and reading comprehension skills and like all teaching artists try to stay abreast of educational shifts and trends so that my work can be relevant and meaningful to students and to teachers. I have written two books on drama and the classroom and one book on integrating drama with reading comprehension skills.
After 35 years of performing, directing, presenting, writing, and teaching, I am still amazed by the joy and passion I still find daily in my work. When a student tracked as “low ability” unexpectedly utters a jewel of dialogue during a drama that demonstrates the student not only understands the text explicitly but implicitly I still often get the feeling that I had better sit down quickly or I may fall down. When a teacher after a professional development workshop or after observing a demonstration lesson looks at me in amazement and says, “This is the way I know I can reach my students.” I again feel so lucky to be able to do this– amorphous, hard to define, and difficult to quantify– work. Read the rest of this entry »
If School of Rock taught us anything, it’s that art can have a major impact on students’ lives, and that even a slacker musician can inspire the next generation. What it also showed us was that maybe the world of teaching artists is too ad hoc and doesn’t really have any form or professionalization to it – someone can just walk in to a classroom, hook up an amp, and start jamming (ahem, teaching).
Well, that film debuted over 10 years ago. In the last decade, we’ve surely seen a surge not only in the professionalization of teaching artists, but also in the field as a whole. With organizations such as the Association of Teaching Artists (of which I am a board member) providing resources and research to the field, and certificate programs popping up through university continuing ed programs, teaching artists have far more resources available to them than they had even five years ago. Even within many arts organizations, programs led by education directors are focusing on the training of teaching artists as opposed to the simple execution of lesson plans. Read the rest of this entry »
I am a Teaching Artist. Teaching Artists are theater artists, visual artists, writers, filmmakers, poets, video artists, photographers, dancers, storytellers, musicians, puppeteers. We work alone in isolation from a national community to bring us together to share the excitement and challenges of our work, ideas, concerns, and resources. We work as employees of arts organizations, on rosters of arts organizations, and as independent contractors. We work in schools, libraries, prisons, jails, juvenile detention facilities, museums, homeless shelters, cultural organizations, senior citizen centers, and in our communities. We work in urban, suburban, and rural areas in densely populated and sparsely populated states.
How does this translate into a practical career track? Liability insurance, independent contractor or employee, health insurance, retirement, intellectual property, copyright, certification, master’s degree programs, fellowships, career track – these are high up in Teaching Artists’ concerns. Read the rest of this entry »
I graduated conservatory in 1988 and my first job out of school was as a teaching artist. I moved back to New York City after completing my studies at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. I was looking for work and had no interest in returning to my previous life in college as a bellman – a gig that paid well, but this was before luggage had wheels. I asked a buddy of mine from high school, who had also moved to NYC to pursue a career in professional theatre, what he was doing and he said he was a teaching artist. I had never heard the term before so I asked him what it was and how I could become one. He said the job had three requirements and in this order:
1. You had to like kids
2. You had to be a morning person because school started early and you couldn’t be late
3. You had to have an expertise in an art form
Sounded reasonable. I applied for a position at the same organization where my friend worked. I got the job. My first assignment was to co-teach with a woman from Schenectady NY, neither one of us had ever stepped foot in a NYC public school. I was given a name of a teacher, room number, and grade level and so began my career as a teaching artist. Read the rest of this entry »