Monday, August 31, 2009


It is Monday.

I have no idea how this happened.

I am reading Chapter 5 of Asking Better Questions. The authors propose three broad categories of questions. The book, which totally qualifies as a classic teacher resource, also suggests that instead of asking "What type of question should I ask?" it is probably more practical to ask, "What do I want this question to do?" Download and read Chapter 5 here (PDF).

Also: The Mamas and the Papas - Monday, Monday

Friday, August 28, 2009


I think today might be your last chance to see Theaterworks USA's Click, Clack, Moo at the Lucille Lortel in the Village. Tickets are free and it goes up at 10:30 AM and at 1:00 PM.

I saw it, and my one word review is "Hilarious."

All day long Farmer Brown hears "click clack moo, clickety clackety moo..." The cows are typing and protesting their working conditions! The world premiere of a hilariously "moo-ving" new musical about compromise, based on the award-winning book by Doreen Cronin and Betsy Lewin.

JULY 21 - AUGUST 28, 2009
All performances are at the Lucille Lortel Theatre,
121 Christopher Street, between 7th Avenue and Hudson Street.


Gosh, they were all so funny.

The Cow. The Chickens. The Duck!

The Duck.

Seriously, rush. Experience the Duck.

About the Weather

Happy Hurricane Season!

It's Friday.

I am on Twitter.

ATA is on Facebook.

Maybe you'll visit.

Plus: From Florida, Professor Stanley Fish worries about the demise of American culture, again.

Also: Outkast - The Whole World

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Radical Love

Over at Unlocking the Classroom, I am following a series on Friere and the concept of love, as it relates to doing the work of a Teaching Artist.

In my experience, when someone starts talking about love in the classroom, people get nervous--which is kind of the point of the essay:

How appropriate is it that we, as teaching artists, theatre practitioners, actors, and educators explore and create our own vocabulary of love? Or are we too, ashamed of something that appears to be too gushy, silly, or emotional?"

I write this paper is because I want to know what love means for Freire, other educators, and me. Perhaps my exploration of my own definition of love will help you to agree, disagree, and ponder the meaning and concept of love within your own educational practice.

Must read.

Something To Talk About

As you may recall, the University of Chicago Survey Lab is carrying out a large scale survey of teaching artists in specific cities. The Teaching Artist Research Project (TARP) is supposed to "deepen our understanding of the lives and work of teaching artists" in order to inform policy-makers.

In a recent email reminder, TARP says:

Despite all of the interest generated by the Teaching Artist Research Project, we have heard from surprisingly few of you. We know that teaching artists lead hectic lives, but we keep encouraging you to take our survey about your work for very good reasons. TARP will help us understand your perspective on how to shape new strategies to expand arts education and train teaching artists so that they work best for artists. So, please give us fifteen minutes of your time now..."

The study sites are Chicago, Boston, Seattle, Providence, and eight California communities.

Did you answer?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


Grist has been publishing environmental news and commentary since 1999. They call themselves a "beacon in the smog." Their website is sleek, cheery and filled with useful information about environmental issues, including sections on food and art.

I think they must be from Seattle.

A recent post presents an educational comic strip developed by the coal industry for school children.

Good for a laugh.



Occasionally, I will exclaim about a book or some other piece of art that I think is astounding.

For instance, Caryl Philips' short story collection, Crossing the River, opens with this amazingly economical line:

A desperate foolishness. The Crops failed. I sold my children. I remember."

I kept reading.

Also: A cartoon short about economic, social and cultural rights is posted on the website of Amnesty International.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Literary Events

Last week, when we were doing an informal listing of the best short stories around, I failed to mention the Moth--New York's most alive, live literary event.

I went, and I can report that the storytellers were unbelievably good.

Also: Listen to the Moth podcast.

Or: Host a Moth in your living room.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Culinary Arts

I think cooking is an art form, but I never see chefs at any of the industry meetings.

Anyway, sometimes you get peckish.

If you are really hungry, don't visit Zen Can Cook.

It's too delicious.


When a TA goes on vacation, it's because they saved their pennies.

We don't usually get vacation days.

Or health care.

Or a pension.

Or a guaranteed amount of work.

Anyway, Jones Beach is free and it's named after a pirate.

Friday, August 21, 2009

New ATA Board Members Announced

From Glenn McClure, Board Chair, The Association of Teaching Artists

I am proud to announce the new class of the Board of Directors of the Association of Teaching Artists!

Tina Lapadulla- Arts Corps of Seattle, Washington

Jeanette McCune- Kennedy Center, Washington DC

Godfrey Simmons- EPIC Theater in NYC

We have not only have added some top-notch talent to the Board, but we have also expanded the Board's membership to include a vital national perspective that is vital to our current services. Though ATA was born with a small band of Teaching Artists in New York State eleven years ago, we reach Teaching Artists across the nation.

Our listserv, the resources on our web site, Facebook, and the blog reach beyond US Borders to include teaching artists in Italy, Belgium, Pakistan, Australia, and more. ATA's new class of board members represents the leadership necessary for ATA to continue to expand and support the needs of our burgeoning profession.

Continue to let us know what you are thinking and keep sending entries for the listserv. We continue to build this profession together with Teaching Artists and those who support them in every corner of the world. I look forward to seeing what we can build together in the coming years!

All the best,

Glenn McClure
Board Chair
The Association of Teaching Artists

Now or Never

A special report at Edutopia lays out the case for saving Arts Education.

I found out on Twitter.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Panacea

In the New York Times Sunday Magazine, the indefatigable Nicholas Kristof and company put in an extensive report on the new crusade for women's liberation.

"The world," says Mr. Kristof, "is awakening to a powerful truth. Women and girls aren’t the problem; they’re the solution." According to the article, addressing more resources toward freeing women from brutal oppression may be an effective way to solve other intractable, global problems, like poverty:

"Women hold up half the sky,” in the words of a Chinese saying, yet that’s mostly an aspiration: in a large slice of the world, girls are uneducated and women marginalized, and it’s not an accident that those same countries are disproportionately mired in poverty and riven by fundamentalism and chaos. There’s a growing recognition among everyone from the World Bank to the U.S. military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff to aid organizations like CARE that focusing on women and girls is the most effective way to fight global poverty and extremism..."

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

In Diapers

The New York Times' Alison Gopnick delivers an editorial in support of experiential learning approaches. The writer points to new research on the behavior of young children and babies:

"Three recent experiments show that even the youngest children have sophisticated and powerful learning abilities. Last year, Fei Xu and Vashti Garcia at the University of British Columbia proved that babies could understand probabilities. Eight-month-old babies were shown a box full of mixed-up Ping-Pong balls: mostly white but with some red ones mixed in. The babies were more surprised, and looked longer and more intently at the experimenter when four red balls and one white ball out of the box — a possible, yet improbable outcome — than when four white balls and a red one were produced."

Also: Everything But the Girl - Apron Strings

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Hear the Bells

In the ongoing "debate" over health care reform, people who already have excellent health care are signaling that ditching the public health care option is not a deal-breaker.

“The president is going to continue to try to persuade everyone of the great value of having a true public plan,” said this Democrat, who spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid discussing strategy publicly. ”But at the end of the day, I believe he recognizes that there are other, arguably less effective, ways to achieve greater coverage, more choice, better quality and lower cost in our system.”

Instead of a new government health insurance plan, which is what so many of the public in question thought they were promised, it seems likely that a network of low-cost health care cooperatives will be the proffered solution.

I think they mean group insurance plans like those available through membership in the Freelancers Union/Working Today.

Also: Peter Paul and Mary - If I Had A Hammer

Monday, August 17, 2009

From the Start

Hurrah, it's Monday!

Quick, before the shock wears off, ART!

Nearly anything will do.

How about a collage?

Or a poem?

I found this lesson plan on collage at Art Blueprint from Studio In A School. It's designed to help second-graders begin to experiment with the layering and placement of colorful shapes. After reading the description, I can't wait to start.


The unit begins with students making observations about an Eric Carle collage illustration. Youngsters note that the figure is composed of several shapes; they explore making a balanced composition of shapes. After making observations about collages by Alex Katz and Romare Bearden that feature a figure in an environment, students create a collage that incorporates a figure in a setting. The unit concludes with a display of work accompanied by signage.



I had as lief be embraced by the portier of the hotel
As to get no more from the moonlight
Than your moist hand.

Be the voice of the night and Florida in my ear.
Use dusky words and dusky images.
Darken your speech.

Speak, even, as if I did not hear you speaking,
But spoke for you perfectly in my thoughts,
Conceiving words,

As the night conceives the sea-sound in silence,
And out of the droning sibilants makes
A serenade.

Say, puerile, that the buzzards crouch on the ridge-pole
and sleep with one eye watching the stars fall
Beyond Key West.

Say that the palms are clear in the total blue.
Are clear and are obscure; that it is night;
That the moon shines.

-- Wallace Stevens

Friday, August 14, 2009

The Birthday of the World

The next winner of the award for Best Short Story writer is Ursula K. Le Guin. On the author's website, she describes her short story collection The Birthday of the World:

These seven stories share a pattern: they exhibit in one way or another, from inside or through an observer...people whose society differs from ours, even whose physiology may differ from ours, but who feel the way we do. First to create difference — to establish strangeness — then to let the fiery arc of human emotion leap and close the gap: this acrobatics of the imagination fascinates and satisfies me as almost no other.

Ms. Le Guin, is a myth-maker and a poet, she also pens award-winning novels for young adults. Her book, Powers won a Nebula award in April of this year. She's delivered 100 short stories, 22 novels, 7 poetry collections and 12 books for children, so far. At 79, she has earned a reputation as a writer's writer. Her extensive personal website offers free information and resources, both for readers and for aspiring writers.

Since she has already won 5 Nebula Awards, 5 Hugo Awards and a National Book Award, this one should come as no surprise.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Farm

Over at Community Arts Network, arts advocate and thinker Arlene Goldbard delivers a third installment in her nifty series on national service initiatives. The article, which was published in July, is lengthy, which means I won't be finished reading for about a week. I have skimmed it though, and I can tell you that Ms. Goldbard does a fine job reporting on some of the most worthy volunteer and artist corp initiatives percolating all around the country.

As she advocates, persuasively and relentlessly, for the return of the Works Progress Administration, Ms. Goldbard always reminds me of all the great artists that benefited from the program, like Dorothea and Zora. I am also reminded that low-paying survival jobs with no workplace protections and few guarantees are basically what we are talking about. Long after her time doing field recordings for the WPA, Zora Neal Hurston died in abject poverty and obscurity. She probably wasn't able to save any money while she was in her 30s because she didn't have a real job.

To her credit, Ms. Goldbard crisply points out that, for the most part, the efforts she profiles "fall short of sustainable fulltime salaries for artists working in public service," but, she says, they are "widely perceived as steps on the road toward that goal."

Anyway, if we're all going to volunteer for a living, then I think the administrators who run these worthy National Service Initiatives should also be unpaid volunteers. After they've paid their dues, they can join Mckinsey & Company and make all their lost earning potential back again, with interest.

The artists will have all that useful experience to put on their resumes.

Also: Animal Farm - George Orwell

Sci Fi

Octavia Butler's Bloodchild and Other Stories is our next notable book.

For those who missed yesterday's episode, we are on in the middle of a week-long series, featuring the best short stories around. There are no prizes, just praise:

Octavia Butler writes Science Fiction parables.

Disturbing, yet hopeful, stories with a feminist perspective.

How's that for summer reading?

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


Jamaica Center for Arts and Learning (JCAL) is hiring Teaching Artists to teach some things that I would love to learn:

Capoeira and Afro-Brazilian Dance

The starting pay rate $40 per hour, depending on experience.

Jamaica, in Southeast Queens, is a transportation hub, and one of the most diverse neighborhoods in the city.

Also: Om Shanti Om - Deewangi Deewangi

Subject for a Short Story

I love to read.

Luckily, I've been meaning to do a series on books and today is the day we begin our series on the best short story writers around.

The criteria for selection are very simple. I choose, because I type. There is no committee. No prizes will be awarded. It's all just for fun.

Our first winner is Jhumpa Lahiri; the well-known writer and thinker.

At GRANTA Magazine, a literary paradise, we find this entire article featuring Ms. Lahari and Mavis Gallant talking about the art of short story writing. Ms. Lahiri reads from her her collection, Unaccustomed Earth (2008), and Gallant, whose work I've never read, also shares one with the audience.

I recommend the reading highly.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


Today, we are doing celebrity sightings.

At the AATE/ATHE Conference: Risking Innovation, many important community leaders were spotted across a crowded room, including David Shookhoff, Russell Granet, Katie Koerner, Jen Strycharz, Lizzie Hetzer, and Courtney Boddie.

I took a session with Helen White, which was as crowded as a lunchtime yoga class, and just as fun.

Risking Innovation

American Alliance of Theatre and Education (AATE) connects and inspires people, who, let's face it, are probably already committed to transforming young people and communities. The Association for Theatre in Higher Education, advocates for theater artists within the university setting.

They are both great groups, and their terrific joint conference, which is happening right now, features more presentations than I could possibly attend, or avoid, in a lifetime.

Yesterday, there were so many learning opportunities, I could barely squeeze in lunch at Cafe Edison, the charming old-school diner on the first floor of the Edison Hotel, located at 228 West 47th Street.

Some of the most inspiring, and effective, members of the teaching artist community are there.

Maybe you can still catch a session.

Monday, August 10, 2009


Happy Monday!

It's unavoidable.

In any case, I'm not really here. I'm at the at the Tate Modern Museum, visiting the painting titled Ophelia.

Also: Hamlet by William Shakespeare

O, what a noble mind is here o'erthrown!
The courtier's, scholar's, soldier's, eye, tongue, sword,
Th' expectancy and rose of the fair state,
The glass of fashion and the mould of form,
Th' observ'd of all observers- quite, quite down! 1845
And I, of ladies most deject and wretched,
That suck'd the honey of his music vows,
Now see that noble and most sovereign reason,
Like sweet bells jangled, out of tune and harsh;
That unmatch'd form and feature of blown youth 1850
Blasted with ecstasy. O, woe is me
T' have seen what I have seen, see what I see!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Get There

When you are a professional TA, sometimes, you have to teach in Staten Island. That means you have to take the ferry.

Today is one of those days.

Not that there's anything wrong with Staten Island. I love Staten Island. I just don't know how to get there.

In situations like this, I used to use Hop Stop. These days, I rely on the mobile version of Google Maps, because it displays arrival and departure time for the subway, on the tiny screen of my mobile phone.

Never be late again.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

The Heartland

The mission of the Iowa Arts Council is to "enrich the quality of life for Iowans through support of the arts."

At their useful website, the resources include an "In-Box" for Artist Opportunities, regional news and a curriculum called Iowa Folklife, which celebrates the traditional artist.

From their website:

This online resource includes content pages, photos, audio samples, suggested readings, lesson plans, and a variety of online resources for students (k12) and educators. Use the whole curriculum or just one unit! Enhance your experience by inviting featured traditional artists or those from your community into your classroom. Consult the Folk & Traditional Artists link for each unit, the Iowa Folklife Roster , or Iowa Roots for artists' contact information, and apply for an Iowa Arts Council grant for artists' fees and other program expenses.

They also have an extensive funding program for arts education.

Which One?

Are you looking for a job, an internship, or artist opportunities?

Arts Opportunities is a new service provided by the Center for Arts Management and Technology at Carnegie Mellon University; which is more than just another place I've never heard of.

I like the way they talk; using some of my most favorite phrases and mentioning some of my favorite things, like jobs and other opportunities to make money.

When I visited the website, I noticed that they divide the world into two kinds of people: Opportunity Seekers and Opportunity Posters.

Which are you?

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Her Story

Russia's most famous museum, the State Hermitage, occupies six buildings along the River Neva, right in the heart of St Petersburg.

They offer a digital collection, as well as a "Virtual Academy."

I read somewhere that the Hermitage exists because of the avarice and foresight of Catherine the Great, who reigned as Empress in the 1700s.

She was a patron of the arts. She wrote a manual of education for girls and volumes of memoirs, comedies and other dramatic literature.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Can You Feel It?

On the ATA Listserv, Executive Director Dale Davis posts a slew of cultural policy tidbits.

Today's offerings include a link to an article at Grantmakers in the Arts. The results of recent surveys of arts funders are presented in an effort to give the community "real-time information about the impacts of the recession on funders and the arts field as a whole."

There's also useful guidance for fearless leaders of non-profit arts groups:

We asked funders to describe the characteristics of the arts groups they think are adapting most effectively to changing circumstances. No one we interviewed had a definitive list, but these qualities were mentioned most often:
  • Courageous leaders, willing to ask tough questions about the relevance of their organization to its community, face the answers honestly, and take informed risk.

  • Relentless focus on core mission and strategic position, and on capitalizing the core mission (that is, secure the necessary financial resources for the core before funding any ancillary activities).

  • Clarity about the function of structures, processes, and products, and flexibility (even heretical flexibility) about the forms those functions take.

  • Powerful connection to and genuine engagement with community.

  • Forecasting ability and a keen interest in the larger forces likely to impact viability — economics, demographics, technology, audience behavior, capitalization, environmental sustainability, and community priorities.

  • Strategic thinking, capacity to learn from previous experiences (both positive and negative), and nimbleness in integrating change strategies throughout the organization.

Of Teaching

The New York Times reports that New York State has a brand-new state education commissioner, courtesy of the New York State Board of Regents under the leadership of the fabulously wealthy and well-connected, Merryl H. Tisch.

Ms. Tisch says she hopes Dr. Steiner will continue to build on the work he has done at Hunter College where, she says, he “has pushed the envelope, challenged orthodoxy and developed rigorous evidence-based approaches that help prepare and support teachers in a diverse range of settings to lead their students to remarkable gains in achievement.”

Ms. Tisch used to be a first-grade teacher, whereas Mr. Steiner has taught only at the university level. His response when asked about this:

“I have had the pleasure of teaching about 2,000 students in the last quarter of a century,” he said of his time in universities. “Of course I have spent a lot of time in schools and I look forward to doing ever more of that. There are certain truths of teaching — some that transcend age, and some that are lost.”

Also: J.R.R. Tolkien - Ring Verse.

Monday, August 3, 2009

The Secret Life of Plants

Historically, many botanists were also talented illustrators; handy with a sketch pad.

E. J. H. Corner's classic book, The Life of Plants, is filled with many botanical illustrations and it's the most fascinating introduction to botany you are likely to find.

Also: Little Shop of Horrors - Da Doo