Friday, October 30, 2009

The Last Sad Song

It's been a rough year for employment. For those teaching artists who depend on money for things like food and rent, gigs may be harder to come by.

Luckily, it's both necessary, and possible, to think that things are getting better all the time, and no one can stop you. Next week, the plan around here is to post more jobs, and daily links to resources and information about things that we professional teaching artists can do to not starve, all while delivering high quality teaching and learning in the arts.

Also, today is Friday!

Here are some random items, and a terrific disco hit to hum while polishing up the résumé.

In Politics: Next week, if you live in NYC, it's time to vote. Voting in citywide elections is a great way to show how much you care about arts education.

In New York State: Please respond to the latest NYS Arts Advocacy Action Alert! Gov. Paterson proposed billions of dollars in spending cuts in the current 2009-10 budget seeking to close a deficit for this year that he projects at $3 billion. Tell your politicians how you feel about their priorities. Send a letter.

In the Health-care Debate: The New York Times says hopeful Democrats present their health-care legislation. Republicans disagree completely. But the San Francisco Chronicle says the "Public option isn't much of either."

In Books: The miraculous Marilynne Robinson tries her best to rehabilitate John Calvin, and she nearly does. The Death of Adam: Essays on Modern Thought

In Education: At Education Week, a new report (pdf) questions Secretary of Education Arne Duncan's presiding over the closing of dozens of failing schools during his tenure in Chicago. He's touted this as an achievement, but the actual students saw no benefit, says the study.

In Disco: Donna & Barbra - No More Tears (Enough is Enough)

Thursday, October 29, 2009

360° is a photography site that can take you places you may never go.

See the world in 360°:

The Great Wall of China

The Taj Mahal

Mount Everest – also called Sagarmāthā

Also: The Jerome Foundation, created by artist and philanthropist Jerome Hill (1905-1972), makes grants that support emerging artists in the creation, development and production of new works. The economy has taken a toll its toll. The Foundation will announce whether or not it will offer a 2010 Travel and Study Grant Program in early December 2009 in a posting on the Foundation’s website.

Find out if you are eligible to apply for a grant using the Jerome Foundation's interactive eligibility worksheet.

Get information on the foundation's current funding status (pdf).

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

From Memory

Artist Stephen Wiltshire is drawing a panorama of New York City from memory in a gallery at Pratt, and it's astounding. The whole thing reminds me that I need to finish reading The Colossus of New York, Colson Whitehead's hymn to the city in his mind. A brief excerpt from the book's opening essay City Limits reveals that Mr. Whitehead prefers not to let the rules of punctuation cramp his writing style:

No matter how long you have been here, you are a New Yorker the first time you say, That used to be Munsey's, or That used to be the Tic Toc Lounge. That before the internet cafe plugged itself in, you got your shoes resoled in the mom-and-pop operation that used to be there. You are a New Yorker when what was there before is more real and solid than what is here now.

He doesn't even use quotation marks!

Freewheeling passages like this inspire giddy questions.

How strict do teaching artists need to be about enforcing the rules of grammar and punctuation?

Should I toss out my copy of the Elements of Style?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Real World

Real World Educators for Action Learning posts an interesting dialogue between Dr. Alice E. Ginsberg & Dr. Raquel Rios on building relationships that transcend race, class and gender.

Ms. Rios argues that transcendent relationship-building may be riskier for individuals who do not belong to a "privileged group" than it is for others.

"One of the primary risks of forming such alliances across race, class and gender etc. is the risk of vulnerability. I find that the greatest vulnerability for those of us who do not belong to a privileged group is that of livelihood. Survival is one of the most powerful human basic needs and forming alliances across race, class and gender really puts into question our fundamental belief system about survival. Many individuals and groups, especially within the context of a capitalistic and patriarchal society, begin to adopt a polarized perspective of lack vs. abundance. Individuals and groups that have historically been victimized by oppression often see the world through the filter of scarcity, or the fear of lack. This simply means that if a person is concerned with their basic needs, it is difficult for them to engage in an alliance across privilege because they will constantly feel dependent and needy on the relationship for personal gain. This relationship can be within the context of an organization. If there is a threat to the individual’s job stability, the “alliance” to the issue of social justice will often take back seat. If the person is coming from a position of privilege, speaking up and fighting for an issue of social justice is less risky. The level of risk involved will often dictate how each behaves facing adversity."

Monday, October 26, 2009

The Work

I am not kidding when I tell you that I just went to and entered the search term "Teaching Artist" and there were only five actual jobs listed.

Here are the results of this weekend's impromptu, and statistically irrelevant, survey of the number and type of job postings on

  • "Coach" 129 results found

Friday, October 23, 2009

Who Knows?

The College Board is a not-for-profit membership association whose mission is to connect students to college success and opportunity. Perhaps their best known, and least loved program, is the SAT--but they do much more. For example, they have an annual conference for professional educators that focuses on something important. This year, the conference is about "Education and the American Future."

As part of a session on ways to motivate students to stay in school, Dale Davis, ATA Executive Director, read a few stunning poems written by young men who were not actually adults when they were "tried and convicted as adults."

As educators, we need to find more effective strategies for keeping young people engaged, and in school. Perhaps, as the New York State Literacy Center has already done, we should ask a few of the thousands of children in our prisons what they think about the schools, institutions and adults that failed them?

Imagine the answers we'd get.

Also: A Quick History of the Young Lords - Documentary

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Events Unfold

Unfortunately, we live in interesting times. Luckily, Teaching Artists on both coasts are taking charge of their professional lives, and spectacular things are happening--many of them free.

Hold tight!


The New York City Arts in Education Roundtable presents
By Teaching Artists for Teaching Artists

A chance to examine best practices & work one-on-one with fellow TAs to share & strengthen your lesson plans.

Join us for a professional development presented BY Teaching Artists FOR Teaching Artists


4:30 – 7:00pm

Wednesday November 18th

Brooklyn Arts Council
55 Washington Street
Suite 218
Brooklyn, NY 11201

Click Here to Register!


Second Workshop (part one took place Oct 3rd: Mind Your Own Business)

Saturday November 7th 9:00 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.

Online and In-the-Know: Educational Resources for Teaching Artists

A half-day workshop (including breakfast snacks) led by Megan Simmons of the Institute for the Study of Knowledge Management in Education. This interactive, hands-on workshop will engage participants in finding, using, and modifying high-quality, free, and freely available online resources. Participants will reflect on their own processes and experience how Open Educational Resources (OER) can impact their teaching, using OER Commons ( and web-based collaboration tools, such as wikis and nings. Web resources from such services as the National Endowment for the Humanities, Library of Congress, Lincoln Center Institute, Kennedy Center’s ArtsEdge, and other arts-rich, education based sites.

About ISKME The Institute for the Study of Knowledge Management in Education is an independent, nonprofit research institute located in Half Moon Bay, CA, that helps schools, colleges, universities, and the organizations that support them expand their capacity to collect and share information, apply it to well-defined problems, and create human-centered, knowledge-driven environments focused on learning and success. ISKME's OER and Arts Education Project, supported by a grant from the Ford Foundation, engages teachers and teaching artists in trainings around collaborative learning strategies and shared online resources and processes.

Fee: $35 for TAO Associates/$15 if you already attended TAI Workshop on Oct 3rd Mind Your Own Business..


Also: Janis - Get It While You Can

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Your Share

Over at Arts Ed 411, the blog of the Califonia Alliance for Arts Education, an article by Mark Slavkin of LA's Music Center blasts the "arts as charity model" and makes some other fine points. Mr. Slavkin says it's time to " embrace a vision for a “shared delivery model” in which classroom teachers, arts specialists, and community arts resources collaborate and coordinate their efforts so that kids gain access to a truly comprehensive program."

In the midst of an economic crisis that has devasted school budgets in California, and the rest of the country, sharing does seem to be the best course of action.

Quick, someone tell the Lords of Equity. Maybe they can be convinced to give back some significant portion of their recent astronomical earnings?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Sing Out

Yesterday, the Center for Arts Education released Staying in School (pdf), a highly anticipated report on New York City Public School graduation rates. A summary indicates that you may indeed be doing something meaningful with your life in art.

"High schools in the top third of graduation rates were more likely to have offered students an opportunity to attend an arts activity, such as a theater performance, dance recital, or museum exhibit, than schools in the bottom third."

The CAE report indicates that it is the simple things that matter. It recommends that all schools hire certified art teachers, "dedicate resources to support arts instruction," and "ensure school compliance with existing state regulations for Arts Instruction."

This report collides head on with Governor David Paterson's massive $3 billion deficit reduction plan for New York State. Education will take the force of the blow—losing $480 million of its budget between now and the end of the fiscal year on March 31, 2010.

Tell everyone.

Sing-along: Hedwig & the Angry Inch - Wig in a Box

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Shock of the New

On the ATA listserv, I read with excitement a posting about something called an Emerging Leaders Salon at ARTSBlog:

"Join the Arts Education and Emerging Leaders Council of Americans for the Arts and the 20UNDER40 anthology for the Emerging Leaders Salon on ARTSblog the week of October 19-23. Fifteen diverse arts professionals from across the country will discuss the question of generational leadership in the arts and it is through your comments and questions that this dialogue can grow."

Gosh, it all starts today.

Also: Good Morning - Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds and Donald O'Connor.

Friday, October 16, 2009

In Performance at the White House

This week, PBS will broadcast In Performance at the White House, a concert hosted by President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama. The show will be on the South Lawn, and performers include: Marc Anthony, Jimmy Smits, Gloria Estefan, José Feliciano, George Lopez, Los Lobos, with Sheila E. as the musical director.

Check local listings and read more about the program at PBS.

Starting tomorrow, you can also view the show online.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

After the Fall

The New York Times reports the obvious--the number of affordable apartments in New York City has fallen precipitously as a result of gentrification and rent deregulation. The number of apartments considered "affordable to low-income households" decreased to 991,592 from 1,189,962--a drop of nearly 17 percent--from 2002 to 2008.

FYI, according to the study quoted in the Times, a "low income household" is one that earns less than $37,000/year. Last year, about 42 percent of the city’s households could be categorized as "low income." Who knows? Perhaps you are living in one of them? Or, maybe you are new to the city--just graduated.

Let's say you have been educated, graduated, done the round of interviews, and been offered a gig as a TA. Now, you are a lucky professional teaching artist with a respectable, imaginary, nearly full-time gig at a leading cultural organization in New York City. You might have middle class aspirations, or even be from a middle class background. That would explain your expensive college degree, and your fortitude. Now, in a city in which the average monthly rental is $2801 per month, suppose you earn $125/day for a five-hour workday as a TA. That's $25 per hour, or $625 per week, before taxes. Imagine, if you had this imaginary job, and worked 52 weeks out of a year--which is unlikely, because it's imaginary--you would earn $32,500, before taxes...

You're going to need another imaginary job.

Also: City of Aspiration (pdf) - A study released by the Center for an Urban Future

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Candidates

If you live in New York City, you might be following the race for mayor. In case you aren't, you should know what the candidates are up to.

First, in order to clear the way for his attempt at a third term, incumbent Michael Bloomberg urged the city council's controversial decision to do away with voter approved term limits. Mr. Bloomberg has already spent more than $65 million dollars on this campaign, primarily because he can afford it. His opponent, Democratic mayoral candidate, and NYC Comptroller, Mr. William C. Thompson, has not spent anywhere near as much money as Mr. Bloomberg, mainly because it's so much money and where would he get it?

At their first televised debate, video of which is posted at NY1, Mr. Bloomberg criticized Mr. Thompson's tenure as president of the Board of Education, saying he spent his time "arranging deck chairs on the Titantic." In turn, Mr. Thompson reminded voters that by pushing to overturn term limits, Mr. Bloomberg failed to "adhere to the rules."

The Green Party Candidate, in case you were wondering, is Mr. William Talen, otherwise known as Reverend Billy. Mr. Talen has spent much less money than both of the other candidates, and I suppose that may be partly why he was was not invited to debate.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Life's Work

Over at Glitter & Razz Blog, teaching artist and entrepreneur Lynn Johnson writes a terrific post about a recent panel she sat on for Teaching Artists Organized (TAO). Ms. Johnson reports that she joined a gathering of teaching artists at California Shakespeare Theater to "share our visions, our story of becoming artists entrepreneurs, our marketing strategies, and the professional paths that have led us to the place we are now."

At the start of event, which was part of TAO's annual Teaching Artist Institute, facilitator Sabrina Klein offered participants a series of reflective prompts--one of which was to "Describe the time in your life when you realized this would be your life’s work."

That reminds me, have you taken the latest ATA Teaching Artist Survey yet?

Also: Tracy Chapman - Give Me One Reason

Monday, October 12, 2009

New Money

Over at Arts Journal, Richard Kessler reports on U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan's announcement of a $650 million dollar Investing in Innovation Fund. says that "School districts and nonprofit groups would have to team up with private-sector organizations to qualify for $650 million in stimulus grants..."

It appears that the administration of Nobel Peace Prize Winner, President Barack Obama is looking to solve the most intractable problems of our broken school system, once and for all. Mr. Duncan describes the kind of innovators our new leaders are looking to invest in:

"Some will find ways to establish a network of new schools or develop models that turn around low performing schools. Others will find new ways to use technology. Others might explore how to engage children in the arts to help them improve. We want the best ideas to move us forward. We will be investing in great work to scale up existing programs that have already shown success, can validate ones that need to establish evidence of their success or to develop new ideas to determine their potential."
Also: 16-year-old Derrion Albert's beating death was captured on video last week.

And: Eurythmics - I Saved the World Today

Friday, October 9, 2009

Visiting Day

Here is a set of links to blogs maintained by professional Teaching Artists. These have been compiled by ATA Executive Director, Dale Davis, and they represent a wide range of disciplines and perspectives.

I think it must be true that artists are individuals, or they aren't.

These are.

Teaching Artist Judith Tannenbaum
Prison Arts Coalition

Lizzie Hetzer's Unlocking The Classroom
Richard Kessler's Dewey 21C
Carrie Edel Isaacman
Carla Ching's Minutiae and Flux
Urban Arts Resources
Dennis Baker
Richard Jenkins
Georgia Popoff
Marty Kelly
Peter Markus
Dancing Perfectly Free
Community Arts Murals

Happy Friday!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009


I heard the other day that it might be a good idea to let go of the idea that students have to enjoy a particular art form, or experience.

Learning requires us to live through things we might not dig. I don't enjoy every play I see, or every piece of music I hear. Why should I expect students to appreciate everything equally?

I am liberated by this idea.

Also: The Aesthetic and the Artistic in Aesthetic Education by Maxine Greene

At the Creation

Sometimes, things are so daunting you just don't know where to start.

Say, for instance, that you want to create theater for young people?

In that case, I'd maybe take the The Field's upcoming workshop:

Pitching to Presenters
Laura Colby, Tuesday, November 10, 6:30-9pm
$40/$25-Field Members

Learn how to pitch your show to theaters, venues, and producers. What are the important elements that should be squeezed into this critical 30-second or 1-minute communication? What are the best practices for creating this opportunity and for following up? Participants will create and practice their own pitch in the workshop.

Individual artists might find money to seed a project from their local arts council:

Brooklyn Arts Council
Bronx Council on the Arts
Queens Council on the Arts
Lower Manhattan Cultural Council

The New York State Council on the Arts has a Presenting Program that encourages the presentation of innovative work for young audiences. They are interested to know what the critical issues are from the artists who are creating work in New York State. If they hear from you, perhaps your input can help them set their funding priorities? Who can say?

In related news, the deadline for The New York Foundation for the Arts 2009-2010 Artists' Fellowships in Playwriting/Screenwriting is November 2, 2009. Click here to apply.

If you are producing theater in New York, you should also know about Actors Equity Association, because we are theater professionals, and professionals have contracts.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Say Something

I know I've told you this before, but I worry. Recently, the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and the National Governor’s Association (NGA) Center for Best Practices released the first official draft of the college- and career-readiness standards.

Comments on the draft are only being accepted until October 21, 2009.

I hope you've told them how you feel.

To learn more about the common core standards initiative and provide feedback, please visit the Common Core Standards website at

Monday, October 5, 2009


Electronic books have become something of an everyday convenience because they are profitable. On the website of the New York Times, Lewis Hyde, who wrote The Gift, one of my most favorite books, says an upcoming copyright case will give Google an inordinate amount of control over the catalog.

Advantage Google By LEWIS HYDE Published: October 4, 2009 Nothing in the history of copyright permits the treatment of “orphan” works spelled out in the proposed settlement between Google and the Authors Guild.

I wonder how this, and other radical technological changes like the PC Tablet, will impact my future teaching practice?

Also: XBox LIVE

Friday, October 2, 2009

Public Art Network

Is there a public art problem you need assistance with? Do you have questions about best practices, or copyright law? Please don't ask me. I have no idea.

You should email the Public Art Network*.

They have the answers.

PAN Manager.

*Americans for the Arts' Public Art Network (PAN) is the only professional network in the United States dedicated to the field of public art.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

At the Zoo

The Central Park Zoo is uniquely exciting.

No other organization offers a Snow Leopard, and a Wildlife Theater for young people.

It's spectacular, and so close to home--especially if you live here.

A blurb on their website explains everything:

Wildlife Theater is…

  • a Central Park Zoo-based theater company that inspires audiences to learn—and care—more about our natural world.
  • a group that works with schools, community centers, hospitals, camps, special events, and private events.
  • an interactive and audience participatory performance using drama, puppetry, games, and songs.
  • a completely self-contained performance group. We provide our own sound equipment and necessary items for the show. All we need is a working electrical outlet.
  • a theatrical experience. No live animals are featured in our shows.