Category: Arts NYC

Ten Tips for a STABLE Teaching Artist

By Justin Daniel, Teaching Artist and member of the NYC Arts in Education Roundtable Teaching Artists Affairs Committee.

Teaching Artists are the ultimate multi-taskers!  Not only do we bring our artistry into classrooms around the country, we are also our own advocates, agents, researchers, and administrative assistants.  While giving ourselves a well-earned pat on the back, let’s admit this often leads to an unbalanced, sometimes chaotic work-life.

We reached out to teaching artists currently in the field, and have compiled ten ways to bring more stability and sustainability to your teaching artist practice.  If you think something is missing from this list, we encourage you to respond in the comments and add to the dialogue!

1.  SYSTEMS

Finding an organized system that aggregates your various employers, keeps you on-task and on-time, and allows you to access your various pay-rates and income sources is essential for a stable work-life.  For those of you digitally minded, web apps such as Evernote (for staying organized), Invoice2Go (for payments), and Mint (for finances) are a fantastic start.

2.  THE ART OF SAYING “NO”

This may seem counterintuitive, since many of us equate stability with meeting financial goals.  However, it’s incredibly important to consider the value of your time.  If an organization is taking up too much of your time (and not properly compensating you for it), it may be time to reconsider your options.

3.  SET A TEACHING / ARTIST RATIO

Every Teaching Artist’s work/art balance is different, but be mindful of what you need to feel successful.  For some, the goal may be to devote 50% to their teaching and 50% to their art-making, for others it’s heavily weighted towards one or the other.  Whatever it is, check in with yourself periodically to assess whether you are meeting your ideal balance, or if it’s time to adjust.

4.  FIND THE JOY IN TEACHING

Is this one obvious?  Perhaps, but ask yourself if you are finding joy when you are trudging through a blizzard to get to a school three boroughs away (a common NYC predicament!).  Some suggest keeping a journal of funny/sweet classroom experiences to remind themselves of the magical moments.  Regardless, what we do should ultimately be a positive and joyful experience (at least most of the time!).

5.  FIND AND UTILIZE OUR COMMUNITY

Take advantage of the larger teaching artist community wherever you are based. From the Roundtable events, to educational conferences, to more informal get-togethers, find a way to share your experiences and gain insight from others.

6.  THINK AHEAD

Strive to book your teaching artist work as far ahead as possible.  While every organization is different, the more advance notice you get, the better chance you have at organizing the logistics and feeling wholly prepared.

7.  BE PASSIONATE FOR YOUR ARTS ORGANIZATIONS

Most organizations have distinct mission statements.  Make sure the mission statement aligns with your core values, and ensure that the mission is reflected in the operations of the organization.  If the mission doesn’t align with reality, perhaps this isn’t the organization for you.

8.  KEEP IT FRESH

Don’t get stagnant in your teaching practice.  Continue to mine for new methods, new points of view, and new activities to innovate your teaching artistry and to keep yourself inspired.

9.  BUT… DON’T CONSTANTLY REINVENT THE WHEEL

While we continue to expand as teaching artists, it’s also important to trust in the methods that have taken you this far.  Always keep your prior lesson plans saved (I use Evernote for this) so you can quickly pull activities for the future, yet be willing to set ones aside that no longer feel fresh or inspiring.

10.  ASK FOR HELP

Most arts organization have dedicated administrations who are passionate about enabling their teaching artist to fully succeed.  If you are feeling overwhelmed, or just need a fresh set of eyes, reach out to the organization for guidance and perspective.  They can help you see the forest from the trees.

Click here to find out more about Roundtable events.

Justin Daniel, Teaching Artist

Cultural Data Project – Friend or Foe?

When the Cultural Data Project (CDP) reporting process was rolled out some years ago, it seemed a great idea – arts organizations could complete one comprehensive online report that would work for a slew of grant makers. It didn’t take long for reality to set in. We would in fact be digging really deeply into all aspects of our organization to conduct a comprehensive survey AND the rest of the reporting work didn’t seem to go away. Then there were the scary e-mails from CDP outlining all the errors in our reports and worse than that were phone calls from extremely perky and helpful CDP staffers asking about the intricacies of long-forgotten calculations.

But CDP has been working diligently to turn what was perceived as a burden into a valuable resource. Becoming an independent organization a year ago, CDP is reinforcing its goal to be a “powerful online management tool designed to strengthen arts and cultural organizations.”

New tools have made the online system easier to use and expanded educational offerings help the field use data more effectively to tell the organization’s story.  In addition, CDP is now the holder of a vast collection of original data from the field, which is available for cultural research projects (by application).

CDP is promising more great things ahead, while “building critical information resources and skills that will advance the sector in the future.”  The field will eventually find that what was once a burdensome drain will actually help us tell our stories to funders, audiences, and stake-holders, and will enrich the field. And in any case, those of us who are in New York State now have Grants Gateway to deal with. One day, perhaps, we will appreciate having all our documents in an online vault and realize that it’s good for the sector.

Cultural Data Project

 

Reused Materials for Creativity and Learning

This morning, I was looking at images of last night’s Halloween parade in the Village, marveling at the creativity of costumes, puppets, banners, and art on display. It seems as if Halloween brings out our passion for creating an altered persona and world, weaving together creative imagination and a variety of repurposed materials.

These images led me to thinking about the greatest NYC resource in our field for repurposed materials of every conceivable kind, and that is Materials for the Arts (MFTA). If your organization is not registered and you haven’t engaged in MFTA programs or visited the warehouse in Queens, a review of programs and services is highly recommended.

The MFTA warehouse is operated by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs with additional support from the City’s Departments of Sanitation and of Education. MFTA collects unneeded items from businesses and individuals, and makes these donations available for free to its recipients: nonprofit organizations with arts programming, government agencies, and public schools.

On any visit, you can expect to find stacks and stacks of useful supplies – bolts of fabric, every kind of paper and card, buckets full of buttons, boxes of feathers, paint, wood, furniture, equipment, and almost anything you can think of.

Friends of Materials for the Arts is the nonprofit partner that guides and supports educational programming, warehouse operations, programmatic initiatives and other goals of MFTA. Visit the Friends website to find out more about classes, p-credit courses, and useful resources such as sample lesson plans.

MTFA’s educational programming focuses on creative reuse: making art with readily available materials and the ever-changing MFTA warehouse inventory. The Center hosts programs in two studios, organizes exhibitions of recipient artwork at MFTA Gallery, and sends teaching artists into the community to share the art of reuse. Some examples of programs:

♦ Professional development for teachers workshops help educators learn engaging projects for lessons in all content areas.

♦ Field Trips:  Tour the MFTA warehouse.

♦ In-school residencies: Bring Materials for the Arts to your school or site to enhance and reinforce curricula in math, science, social studies, and language arts.

♦ Art booths and Family Engagement Nights: Creative reuse program or art booth designed for a large audience, or a series of in-class art workshops linked to your curriculum

♦ Public Programs: Exhibitions, open studio nights, and workshops open to the public

♦ Teambuilding Workshops: Volunteer and then work together to create large-scale collaborative art pieces such as quilts, sculptures, or mosaics

There is an application process and applicants need to meet eligibility requirements. Visitors need to make an appointment prior to shopping at the warehouse. Click here for eligibility and application information.

Materials for the Arts is located at 33-00 Northern Boulevard, 3rd Floor, Long Island City, NY 11101. Click here for hours and directions

For teachers, teaching artists, schools and non-profit arts organizations, the MFTA warehouse is a treasure trove! Enjoy your visit!

The warehouse