Tag: education

My Full Experience at the International Teaching Artist Conference

By Heleya de Barros

It’s been two weeks since I walked out of Carnegie Hall, after three jam-packed days at the 4th International Teaching Artist Conference (ITAC). I walked out a bit dazed, very tired, invigorated, and incredibly—amazingly—full. I ambled towards the subway with a colleague I’d met, but couldn’t quite bring myself to get on the train and just “go home.” It seemed crazy to follow my typical pattern after an experience like ITAC.

Instead, I walked passed the 59th Street subway and into Central Park. I needed to digest. Two weeks later, after more time contemplating, sorting through notes, listening to recordings, and many conversations with colleagues both at the conference and not, it is still hard to put this experience into words. I keep coming back to that fullness I felt as I walked into the park.

Over the 3 day conference I attended 9 break-out sessions representing 7 countries on 5 continents (Australia, Cambodia, Columbia, Guatemala, UK, USA), 3 keynote addresses (by a dancer, photographer, and theatre artist), 1 site-visit, 1 live performance, and 1 live podcast recording. And I met a lot of teaching artists. Sure, the name of the conference might suggest this, but my past conference experiences have taught me to expect to be one of few TAs in a sea of administrators. There was something very special about walking into a room of 300 people who do what you do. These were my people. I immediately felt seen and understood at ITAC. The conference’s final report quoted nearly 300 attendees (whom they call delegates) representing 28 countries.

I spoke with many others who expressed the same feeling of belonging, and the power that can come from that. One visual artist teaching artist (TA) from Vermont, Alexandra Turner, told me it had been empowering for her to claim the title of Teaching Artist, “I’ve been putting together part-time jobs for so many years and I didn’t know there was a name for it, or a community of people doing it. When I owned this title of Teaching Artist it changed my whole perception of myself and my work to someone who belongs to a community of amazing and impactful people.” Others wondered if they were missing out on finding a larger community in their field at home because different titles were used across the field. Is a teaching artist the same as a community artist or a participatory artist? Many were impressed with New York for having a very clear community around the single title of TA.

It isn’t surprising to me that the feeling of belonging was so desired and celebrated. Much of what we do as TAs can be solitary and we can often lose sight of the fact that we do belong to a community of artists who—do what we do. One conference organizer Eric Booth (who jovially refers to himself as the oldest living TA) kept referring to the delegates as leaves on a tree. This analogy was referenced frequently throughout the conference. We leaves sometimes forget (or lose sight) that we are rooted on a branch with other leaves, which is rooted on the trunk of a tree with many other branches. To that end, one of the collaborative projects launched at the conference was the Global History Timeline an online record of the history of teaching artistry. There is power in naming your history as well as your title. This is a living document. You can submit entries here.

I wondered before the conference if my experience as a TA in New York City was comparable to others in the US or around the world; or did we live in our own microcosm here? I almost feel silly for questioning this now. Of course there were similarities, particularly in the approaches to, and the challenges of, the work. The specifics of the settings or social, cultural, and institutional challenges in the 28 countries represented may be different, but our strategies were not. Active listening. How to enter a community as an outsider? How to leave a community? Recognition of the links of systemic oppression and working towards dismantling them through our art. How to fund the work? How to sustain the work? How to tell another’s story? Should you tell another’s story? How to communicate what we do?

In his keynote address photojournalist Aaron Huey spoke of his many years working in the Pine Ridge Native American Reservation in South Dakota, “When you leave a community like Pine Ridge they are left wondering not IF, but HOW you will misrepresent them.” Dancer and choreographer Liz Lerman posed, “I’m curious how we listen. I’m wondering how we listen with our whole artist self,” in her keynote. James Miles, Executive Director of ArtsCorps in Seattle, WA seemed to answer during the live-recorded podcast of Teaching Artistry with Courtney J. Boddie when he said, “Artists must listen to other people’s stories with love.”

Edie Demas, Sobha Kavanakudiyil, Penelope McCourty, James Miles and Courtney Boddie at the live podcast recording of Teaching Artistry with Courtney J. Boddie. Photo credit Christopher Totten.

In my last session, facilitated by Santiago Gonzalez from Corporacion Otra Escuela in Colombia, we were handed a handful of coffee beans. After each exercise exploring conflict Santiago had us take out the coffee beans, smell them, and bring ourselves back into the room and into our own bodies through the smell. He ended the session by saying, “You don’t HAVE a body, you ARE a body.”

I am a body. I am an artist. And we are a body of teaching artists in NYC, in the Northeast, in the US, and around the world. Although, I was left wondering if the question was not that we forget we are leaves that make up a tree, but that many of us don’t know we are part of a tree to begin with. While we seem to have the nomenclature of teaching artist settled in NYC (if you disagree, let me know), we still struggle to see, and actively engage, the entire tree of our teaching artist community.

While at the conference a NYC TA colleague mentioned she’d just come from a training for an arts education organization and was surprised when very few TAs in the room were aware of the Roundtable or the Teaching Artist Affairs Committee. TAs were discussing the complications of signing up for healthcare through the Affordable Care Act as a freelancer and my colleague mentioned our bi-annual workshop on this very topic. No one knew what she was talking about. (Open enrollment starts Nov. 1st you can watch the video of our tutorial with The Actor’s Fund from last year here, or go to an in person workshop here).

I had a similar conversation on this struggle with the staff from the National Arts Council Singapore. They are looking at creating a Teaching Artist Handbook for their artists with opportunities for professional development, healthcare and legal aid, resources for artists, and work and funding opportunities. I thought that was an interesting idea, so I brought it back to TA Affairs.

If you come to our “Sip & Create” TA Meet-Up on November 2nd 5pm-7pm we’ll have a plethora of TA resources. Our committee is compiling them now. Do you have an idea of something that should be on the list? Do you have an idea of how to reach more NYC TAs? Hit us up.

I also had questions about how to sustain global connectivity after this conference and between the next one in 2020. ITAC answered this for me on the first day when they launched the ITAC Collaborative. I’ve already submitted the Roundtable’s TA Affairs Committee as an ITAC Collaborative Catalyst to help disseminate global information to our NYC TA community. ITAC Collaborative will also have small funding opportunities for projects between nations. Do you have an idea for a project? Hit me up.  

So, what was ITAC like? It felt like home. It felt like recognition. It felt like being full. The theme of the conference was “Artist as Instigator.” I’m instigated to create this feeling for the NYC TA community. Wanna help me?

 

Heleya de Barros is an actor and teaching artist in New York City. She is a Board Member of the Roundtable and Co-Chair of the Teaching Artist Affairs Committee. @Heleya_deBarros

*(TopPhoto credit DreamYard Media Interns.

 

Confessions of a Teaching Artist Parent By Justin Daniel

When I received the news that twins were on the way, my thoughts went from “Oh my god, that’s amazing!” to “Oh my god, how do you take care of twins??!”, with every other thought in between.  After six months of twin daddy hood behind me, I can confidently say it is a joy to raise two amazing little humans, and as I continue to figure out the balance between raising children and maintaining a career as a teaching artist, I thought I would share with you some takeaways I’ve picked up along the way.

I AM TIRED… all the time! And to be specific, I am more tired than teaching five movement workshops in a row to incredulous 6th graders after taking two trains, a bus, with a walk. Honestly, I did that for an entire school year, and that doesn’t even begin to compare to the exhaustion I feel after a full day with infants! But somehow I find a way to give my all to my infants AND to my students. Who knew?

I am lucky to have the FLEXIBILITY OF TIME. Because the organizations I work for are so incredibly parent friendly, I have been able to find a great balance between my work life and home life. For the first three months, I taught very little in order to stay at home, but as I slowly eased my way back into my teaching I’ve been able to control the amount of hours I’m away from home and the general days I work. This makes childcare easier to book, and allows me to find the right balance for my family.

I am a NYC SCHOOL SLEUTH! I have always been interested in the inner workings of the DOE, but now that my kids will be part of it in just a few short years, I’m keenly aware of the inner workings of the schools I visit. I feel like a teaching artist detective, figuring out what makes a positive school culture, student engagement, and how parents are best involved.

PARENTING MAKES ME A BETTER TEACHING ARTIST, and vice versa. Even though my kids are still in the infant stage, I am becoming more attuned to how to engage their innate creativity, how to best use non-verbal communication, and tuning in to their subtle (and not so subtle) cues. I find myself using these same techniques in the classroom, and I’m constantly bringing my experience into the nursery as well. That being said, if you ever see me rocking back in forth for no particular reason, please tell me!

Teaching Artists are an INSTANT SUPPORT SYSTEM. I often find myself reaching out to my colleagues for parenting advice and to swap stories. It is an invaluable resource, and truly makes me feel like I’m part of a community, even when I’m on my own.

It’s much HARDER TO ACCEPT WORK as a parent. When I receive an offer for work, I have to weigh a slew of pros and cons to determine whether it’s a YES. Obviously, the financial reward needs to meet my childcare costs, but even then, is it worth spending time away from the babies? Sometimes, the answer is a definite yes, but sometimes even if it makes sense financially, it doesn’t make sense as a new parent. And I haven’t even begun to figure out the balance of new artistic pursuits beyond my teaching artistry!

Teaching Artistry is an extremely rewarding career for me, and I’m finding this even more true as a parent.  It’s not without its challenges, but I’m always inspired by the many teaching artist parents who consistently make it work.

For anyone expecting, or expecting to be expecting, here are some online resources I’ve found useful as a new parent!

p.s. If you have any tips for other teaching artist parents, please share them in the comments below!

Mommy Poppins – Great resources and articles!
www.mommypoppins.com

NYC Dads Group – While most blogs tend to skew female, here is an awesome resources for dads of all walks of life.  And they schedule great meetups!
http://citydadsgroup.com/nyc/

A Child Grows (parenting blog with an emphasis on my home Borough of Brooklyn.
http://achildgrows.com/

Park Slope Parents (even if you don’t live anywhere close to this parental enclave, there’s great advice here!)
www.parkslopeparents.com

Baby Bargains Book (thanks to fellow teaching artist Jamie Kalama-Wood for this recommendation.  Great deals can be found in this book!)
Link to Amazon