Wednesday, November 26, 2008

How Far Have We Come In Ten Years?

Hi Glenn,

Thanks for the invitation to have a public conversation around these issues and for setting up a framework. You've posed some challenging questions and I'm afraid I'm going to have to use your own Dale Davis, Executive Director of ATA, as one of my lifelines right off the bat.

Dale posted an interesting historical document on ATA's yahoo list serve last week under the heading "Are We As Teaching Artists Ready?". Since the holiday is upon us, I'm going to let that post serve as my doorstop of an answer until I get back to my laptop on Monday.

Here's a quote and the link.

Class Acts 99: The Artist’s Voice in Arts Education, was a four-day participatory, professional conference for teaching artists. Produced by ArtsConnection, and held at ArtsConnection’s Center and public schools throughout New York City, Class Acts 99 gave participants a chance to focus on the skills teaching artists need to address today’s issues of pedagogy, partnership, and standards, and provided a forum for teaching artists to respond to changes in the field. A panel of policy makers, arts administrators, and teaching artists set the stage by addressing the question, "What do you expect of a teaching artist today?

The conference attendees produced a set of recommendations for addressing critical issues that reads like a roadmap. Dale prefaces her post with another provocative question "How far have we come in almost ten years?"

There's a good question to ponder over the weekend.

Happy Thanksgiving!


Developing a Professional Community of Teaching Artists

Dear Teaching Artists,

In recent emails sent to ATA staff, Michael Wiggins, a NYC-based teaching artist identified some of the hottest issues facing the profession of teaching artistry. With increasing economic pressures on our work, teaching artists need to carefully assess our challenges and needs in order to build a more sustainable profession in the coming years. Over the next week or so, I will be blogging with Michael on several of these key issues. My hope is to crystallize these issues for our readers so that we may work together on surviving the current economic downturn and raising our profession. This week we start our conversation with Michael on topics surrounding the training of teaching artists.

Dear Michael,

You outlined several key areas of professionalization that must be addressed by teaching artists. In our first conversation, I would like to explore some of your ideas on the training of teaching artists.

Training emerging TA's to enter the field-
Cultural organizations have internal training programs. They range from occasional, topic-based training, to multi-week programs that may also include mentor/apprentice relationships. What are some of the most effective training programs you have seen? What are the unique challenges of new TA's?

Providing Professional Development opportunities for experienced TA's-We also see cultural organizations offering professional development for experienced TA's in the form of workshop sessions, supporting conference attendence, peer-to-peer support, etc. How can we best train and inspire those teaching artists that are already working in the field?

Managing the Risks and Rewards of Professionalization for the Teaching Artist– TA's have enjoyed a great deal of automony in the development of our work. This has been one of the defining elements of our profession, especially as K12 education has become increasingly standardized. However, this does not come without a price. Without certification, accreditation, and other trappings of the education field, TA's are vulnerable to a host of threats to their livelihood. Clearly, a move toward professionalization of teaching artistry must include sequential training of some kind. We see some universities experimenting with various training schemes that combine Arts Learning with other fields. This is a pivotal step toward building the necessary labor structures and protections enjoyed by workers in other professions. How can we balance the emerging needs of standardization, certification and job security versus the more flexible freelance arrangements?

Glenn McClure
Association of Teaching Artists