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.
This was the mantra I was given during my time at the famed d.school at Stanford and it has stuck with me as we began the process of redesigning a pedagogy for an entire organization.
The West Michigan Center for Arts and Technology (WMCAT), located in Grand Rapids, Michigan, is taking the fundamentals of design thinking outside of traditional school classrooms and piloting a best practice of infusing an after school arts and tech program with this innovative method of teaching and teen engagement. Under this model WMCAT teen students are working in cohorts to explore and tackle a pressing community issue using arts and technology as a basis for inquiry, critical thinking and practical application. We are serving 144 teens from Grand Rapids Public Schools on 12 design teams that are each connected to a local community partner. It is arts education through a 21st Century skill development lens. This is the exciting, innovative and proven world of project-based learning where students learn through exploring real-world challenges and issues. It is grounded in student experience and driven by student interest. Read the rest of this entry »
Let’s be honest, when an art project goes long, or a class is a little crazy, structured reflection is the first thing to go. This happens in spite of the fact that we KNOW reflecting makes all the difference when it comes to students retaining their discoveries and being able to apply their learning in other contexts. In the words of John Dewey, “We do not learn from experience…we learn from reflecting on experience.”
Like most things that are of paramount importance, creating an environment in which meaningful reflection can happen is difficult, especially if you are a teaching artist who only temporarily inhabits another teacher’s classroom. I am currently in the middle of teaching an 8-week, 5th grade residency for the Rainforest Art Project. My students are a perfectionist group, bordering on unruly. Some of the students are so worried about making a mistake, it’s difficult for them to even start working. They are very critical of themselves and their artwork. Read the rest of this entry »
Why do some artists decide to teach? For many, the attraction is a desire to connect students to a creative process and to the larger arts community. For others, teaching fuels their work as artists. The South Carolina Arts Commission’s Roster of Approved Artists includes more than 900 artists who have been approved to conduct residencies and performances in schools. Many have been teaching for as long as they’ve been artists. We wanted to know more, so we asked four Roster artists about their experiences.
The artists, the number of years they’ve been teaching, plus a brief description of their work with students: Read the rest of this entry »
Everyone I know who works as a teaching artist has amazing success stories of student learning experiences with, through, and in the arts. There are stories about reaching the “unreachable” student, motivating whole groups of resistant learners, creating breathtaking products, deepening understandings about curriculum subjects, and engaging the minds, bodies, and imaginations of young people in extraordinary ways.
This is great stuff. This is the kind of information that should be shared.
- How do effective Teaching Artists get the results we get?
- What are our methods?
- What precisely do we do in a class session or series?
We know that what we do works and we know why it works. But are we sharing this information with a wide enough audience? I don’t think so. Read the rest of this entry »
It’s good to shut up sometimes. – attributed to Marcel Marceau
Many years ago, I was at a dinner party peopled mostly by academics (graduate students in the humanities and newbie assistant professors) and their life partners (I was one of the partners). I was relaying a set of dramatic stories about the education theater program I’d been working with, aimed at high schoolers and focused on HIV prevention. This was in the late 1980s, when teens had recently been identified as having different risk factors than adults and were identified as a fast-growing at-risk population. Read the rest of this entry »
Being a teaching artist is hard work. There are the sticky, dirty germs and the immune system that can’t keep up at every new school site. Then there’s those Friday afternoons with a hyper class of third graders. Sometimes, there’s the not so great classroom teacher who sits disengaged in the back of the room grading papers, eating, or even worse, napping. Yes, I said napping. But it’s not always like that. The teacher napping incident was a one-time thing. Most of the time being a teaching artist in a school setting is an inspiring and invigorating experience. I learn from my students and their classroom teachers as much as I hope they learn from me.
At San Diego’s Museum of Photographic Arts I split my responsibilities as a teaching artist for CARE (Collaborative Arts Resources for Education) with other administrative responsibilities. The pedagogy of teaching artistry has made me a better administrator and I would like to share these four tips with you. Read the rest of this entry »
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 »
How to work together….using successful business practices as a model for sustainable collaborations in art education
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 »