Wednesday, March 31, 2010


At the recent CommonGround Conference in Albany, I learned about animation software that allows young people to turn text into movies, instantly. During a terrific workshop on Improving Literacy through creative engagement, Middletown Ecsd Teacher Matt Wentworth introduced his take on an effective "21st century learning approach to education."  Online resources, and text to animation software were a part of the formula. Xtranormal is one of the pioneering websites in the text to animation field--with a free online interface that allows nearly anyone to make an animated video in minutes.

Recent research indicates that Mr. Wentworth is onto something. Teenagers  in the U.S. apparently spend nearly every free moment tethered to the virtual world through their mobile devices, computers and video games. As the New York Times reported "If Your Kids Are Awake, They're Probably Online".

In the future, which is seems inevitable that more Teaching Artist gigs will revolve around technology. Here's one. I wonder if employers will provide older teaching artists with training in the uses of technology, online software, and social media? Is a new kind of teaching artist specialty emerging?

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Math Problems

Question: If a professional teaching artist with an undergrad degree, earns $20 per hour, and  somehow manages to book 40 hours worth of work each week, how much would they take home in a month?
Answer: $3200 per month, but deduct taxes, and student loan payments, and health insurance from that total.

Question: How much is the monthly rent on a New York City one bedroom rental apartment?
Answer: The least expensive one-bedroom rental apartment in Manhattan can be had for $1538 per month. (Data published by the Real Estate Group) Also, it's lovely in Staten Island, and I bet they need teaching artists in every borough.

Question: How much is $3200/month in earnings minus $1538/month in rent?
Answer:  $1662/month, but deduct taxes, and student loan payments, and health insurance from that total.

Question: How much does that undergrad degree cost, on average?
Answer: Private four-year $26,273. Public four-year $7,020. (Data published by the College Board)

Monday, March 29, 2010

Music and Spectacle

New York City Opera has apparently survived its recent brush with financial ruin. When people ask me why, and they do, I say there are lots of reasons to love Opera--music and spectacle are just the two most obvious answers. I dig the out of control narratives--it's life made ludicrously large, and gorgeous.

On April 3rd, New York City Opera is giving us another chance to love opera.

A Family matinee of L’√Čtoile. (Est il possible?) And tickets start at just $6!

Details from their website are below:
APRIL 3, 2010
Introduce your children to the music and characters of
L’√Čtoile, Chabrier’s hilarious opera about a madcap king whose destiny is linked to one unlucky peddler. Together they try to escape a grim fate foretold in the stars. Sung in French with English dialogue and supertitles, this special one-hour version of the opera will follow an interactive program for families, featuring the New York City Opera Orchestra and select cast members.

Ticket holders are also invited to a special pre-performance concert at 12:00pm on the Promenade by the New York City Opera Children's Chorus and the InterSchool Orchestras of New York. 
Sung in French with spoken dialogue in English, all with English Supertitles.

Saturday, April 3rd, 2010 at 1:30pm

Friday, March 26, 2010

Only the Good

CommonGround, the annual gathering of New York State Arts Educators, is wrapping up today in Albany. David Steiner was there, giving a speech which I heard like music from another room. Afterward,  there was talk among the group I was in about how we as arts educators need to start assessing our work the same way the teachers over in the math department do, which sounds perfectly reasonable, until you realize it's impossible. We all decided that the assessment tools we use are going to look different than the ones used over in the math department, and I think everyone agrees that we're going to need a few more minutes to talk about it.

I took a terrific workshop on planning with John Bertles of Bash the Trash, and chatted with Kaya Chwals of Urban Arts Partnership, and with Laura Reeder of Teaching Artist Journal. I felt lucky to be there. Presenting with colleague Annie Montgomery,  I had productive conversations with fellow Teaching Artists from across the state, and some of my takeaways are below. 

I think, perhaps:

  • Teaching Artists need to be trained in assessment, and we need to start making the process of creating assessment tools a more routine part of the job;
  • Teaching Artists need to understand the role of the arts administrator, because we can help. Also, many of us are dual role TA/administrators in small organizations with big workloads. Help.
  • Providing ongoing professional development and training to TAs is vitally important, and  budget cuts have reduced the amount of TA trainings organizations are able to provide. Are Apprenticeships part of the answer?

Despite what seemed like low attendance overall, teaching artists were there--I saw them--and I think we still have a future in this business.

It's Friday, and ATA is on Facebook with Teaching Artists galore.

Live it up!

Also: Days Go By - D. Vegas

Thursday, March 25, 2010


Nick Rabkin's Teaching Artist Research Project (PDF) reports that 67% of the TAs who responded to the survey hold their highest degree in their art form. Only 13% of those who responded said they had their  highest degree in Education.

Also: A new law says that Yoga teachers in New York State do not have to get licensed.  A bill signed, just yesterday, by still-Governor David Paterson adds yogis to the list of instructor-types who are exempt from state requirements.

In case you were wondering, the state treats independent teaching artists just like teachers of religion and martial arts--we are also exempt from licensing requirements. I assume the feeling is that our work is beyond the understanding  of a state bureaucracy--unquantifiable, mysterious and potentially irrational.

All I know is they don't let you cut hair without a license.  In fact, the regulations for cosmetologists say "You must complete a 1,000-hour, New York State approved course of study and pass both the New York State written and practical examinations to get a license to operate in this state."

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Make Work

Summer is coming, and, when school is out, there will be fewer jobs for teaching artists who enjoy the feeling of being able to afford luxuries like food and rent. 

TAs who weary of the seasonal job search, and the  anxiety that comes with an annual brush with poverty, might consider starting their own small business as a way to  earn income. Here's a primer on how-to open your own summer camp posted over at

They make it look easy.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Sing Out

Teaching Artist Bill Harley keeps a spectacular blog, and those who seek inspiration, and information, might want to visit.

Mr. Harley, "storyteller, singer, author", shares about his work in a way that is useful and fun to read. In a recent post, he  shares a simple process for helping young people write  their own song lyrics. The entire article is terrific--Mr. Harley even includes an audio link--but I especially like the part where he says "this is not rocket science – it’s something a teacher could do, even without a guitar."

Music is for everyone.


Also: The Carpenters - Sing

Monday, March 22, 2010

With Care

Although earlier Presidents have tried to rectify the situation, they all failed, and millions of our fellow Americans, many of them Teaching Artists, still don't have health insurance

On Sunday, there was an historic vote in the United States House of Representatives on the latest health care legislation. The bill passed and the political parties are gearing up for the next round of vicious partisan attacks.

In the meantime, thankfully, there's always the Actor's Fund.

Also:  Star Wars - A New Hope

Friday, March 19, 2010

More, Or Less

It is kind of an open secret that New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is one of the non-profit sector's most reliable anonymous donors. Through an arrangement with the Carnegie Corporation, the richest man in town annually gives millions of dollars away to arts and cultural organizations across the city--usually without requiring groups to submit huge amounts of onerous paperwork.

A recent New York Times article reveals that some questioned the mayor's altruism all along, and confirms that nothing lasts forever:
"Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, New York City’s richest man and biggest philanthropist, is quietly pulling the plug on an unusual program that has poured nearly $200 million of his fortune into nonprofit groups across the five boroughs."
In Politics: President Barack Obama postpones a Pacific trip, because a Sunday vote on the "health care" legislation is likely, and he wants to be here to take the blame or credit.

Plus: It is Friday and ATA is on Facebook!

Also: Jill Scott - Hate On Me

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Sunday, Go To Meeting

The Teaching Artist Union would like you to know about their next "big old meeting." It's in Brooklyn and the details are below:

Ideas to research to art practice to education and back again.
Sunday, March 21, TAU will have a big old meeting. 
Starting at 2pm!

At 2:30pm Allison Faye will speak:
'A presentation of ideas about research and art practice': Alison is a member of the research team for TAU's first project:
Allison Faye:

At 3pm Erica Magrey and Jennifer Sullivan will present some independent and collaborative work involving performance, karaoke, costuming, music videos, and feelings.  We might be able to steal some of their performance skills and take em to the classroom.  Afterwards, we'll talk shop-- what are Jen and Erica doing to engage people in their performances that educators can absorb and experiment with?  What do we know as teachers that could inform the way they integrate their art into the public realm?

We've got a grocery list.
1. Teaching Artist Apprenticeship Program: (First Meeting 3/16)
Need leadership?  Want experience?  OR Need some assistance in your class from a devoted teaching artist-to be? 
We are designing our pilot TA apprenticeship program to kickoff this spring. 
2. Teaching Artist Manual: Are you an information designer looking for a cause?  We are beginning work on a manual for and by and in support of Teaching Artists.  We need you!
3. School of the Future @ TradeSchool: An opportunity to teach and learn more about education--
4. School of the Future Action Plan: Outreach
We are currently designing the building for the School of the Future and meeting community members around the site of the school.  Come hear updates and find out how to get involved!
Hope to see you!
March 21, 2010
Splinters and Logs || 4th Floor
1013 Grand St. || L Train to Grand St.

Also: Blue Tail Fly - B. Bunny

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


In the Daily Digest, ATA Executive Director, Dale Davis reports that Partners for Arts Education has posted the following message on its website:

TAP and art$tart funding
no longer available

TAP and art$tart funding, formerly administered by PAE, has been returned to the New York State Council on the Arts.  The Partners for Arts Education offices are closed and the organization has gone dormant.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Useful Things

From ATA Executive Director, Dale Davis:
There are some new resources on the ATA Homepage.

Thanks to ATA Board Member Russell Granet, The Dana Foundation's and VSA arts of Texas' webposium for teaching artists, moderated by Russell Granet, conducted at City Hall in Austin, Texas on Friday, January 29, 2010 is now available on the ATA Homepage. The webposium is a not to be missed opportunity for Teaching Artists to view an online discussion about the challenges and successes of working with students with disabilities.

In response to the many, many inquiries in regard to conferences of interest for Teaching Artists, the ATA Homepage will list Conferences of Interest to Teaching Artists. Your input is needed to build this important resource. Have you attended a conference in the past that was extremely helpful to your work as a Teaching Artist, please let me know and we can post this year's conference.

Also please let me know: (1) What do you look for in a conference; (2) What do you like to come away with from a conference; (3) How far are you willing to travel to attend a conference.

Thank you! With resources so tight right now, shared information on conferences is important!

And lastly, the results from the Teaching Artists and Their Work Survey will be posted on  the ATA Homepage in May.


Dale Davis
Executive Director
The Association of Teaching Artists

Friday, March 12, 2010

Off the Shelf

Reading is fundamental:

bell hooks - Teaching Critical Thinking: Practical Wisdom

Mike Rose - Why School? 

Marcia L. Tate - Shouting Won't Grow Dendrites: 20 Techniques for Managing a Brain-Compatible Classroom

Finally: It's Friday, and ATA is on Facebook.

Plus: Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong - They All Laughed (Gershwin)

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Standard Issues

A brand-new set of Core Standards may soon replace the patchwork quilt of local standards that Teaching Artists have to consult when planning in-class workshops.

A panel of educators convened by the nation’s governors and state school superintendents proposed a uniform set of academic standards on Wednesday, laying out their vision for what all the nation’s public school children should learn in math and English...

The comments section of the article is already on fire and you might want to join in if you can stand the vitriol. The first reader calls for the abolition of the Teacher's union and the NEA, while the second insults the text-book writing skills of Texans.

Teaching Artists who would like to share their opinions on this matter may want to complete the official feedback form for the proposed set of Core Standards online.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Honoring a Teaching Artist

From Philip A. Alexander, Ph.D.

Honoring a Teaching Artist
As some of you have learned already, Rochester-based teaching artist Barnetta Carter passed away last Thurday, at age 53, after a battle with diabetes and vascular dementia. She was part of the ESP community for several years, as a theatre teaching artist with Young Audiences of Rochester and as a participant at several Summer Seminars on the Sarah Lawrence campus. Her work demonstrates so much about the powerful influence of a dedicated and thoughtful teaching artist: she was known for inspiring students with her unflagging support, while also pushing herself and her colleagues to do their best. She was one of those people who provided the vital support system for creative kids that Michael Giacchino referred in his Oscar speech.

Barnetta’s experiences outside the classroom also reflect the breadth and depth of what it means to be a teaching artist. Her continued employment as a teaching artist through NYSCA’s ESP program gave Barnetta the financial stability to buy a house. Regrettably, when her health care necessitated a 24-hour facility, Barnetta’s savings were quickly depleted and her family and friends developed a grass roots internet campaign. Many in the arts-in-ed community responded, including the ESP program (which donated proceeds from the sale of Summer Seminar merchandise to the cause, which ultimately raised over $10,000.

Barnetta’s family plans for her internment in Nashville, TN. For updated information, and to share any memories you might have of Barnetta and her remarkable spirit, please log on to:

And for those who didn’t know Barnetta:

In her honor, I’d like to ask you to find some way to honor and celebrate the contribution of a teaching artist over the next few days. While some sort of financial compensation or health care coverage would be welcome, I’m sure, I think they’d also appreciate any creative ways that you might acknowledge their impact on your life and the lives of people in the schools and the community.

Reminding artists how valuable they are to all of us: “It’s not a waste of time. Do it.”


Philip A. Alexander, Ph.D.
Senior Program Officer
ESP Office of Partnership Support and Research

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

On the Town

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan's calls for accountability are always in style, mainly because someone has to take the fall. Still, last week's news that a Rhode Island town had decided to fire all 94 of the faculty and staff of the local high school because of poor student performance was kind of surprising. The Washington Post's blog,  Higher Education, calls it a "sad, desperate" decision--reporting that the "school committee in Central Falls, Rhode Island's smallest and poorest city", voted to fire all of the faculty members at local Central Falls High School as a response to scandalously low levels of student proficiency in core subjects. Among other statistical atrocities, in 2009, only 7 % of the town's 11th graders were proficient in math.

President Barack Obama threw his support behind  the vote to throw the teachers out, saying "If a school continues to fail its students year after year after year...then there’s got to be a sense of accountability...And that’s what happened in Rhode Island last week.” 

Also: Pete Seeger - The Fox

Monday, March 8, 2010

Remembering Barnetta Carter

Remembering Barnetta Carter

ATA Executive Director, Dale Davis informs us that her dear friend, Barnetta Carter, a former ATA Board Member, died on Thursday. 

A tribute from Eric Booth:

"When I met Barnetta, she was feisty, insistent and fierce on behalf of young people and their creative identity. As I worked with her for a couple of years, I had to bring her into working with some approaches she initially resisted, with appropriate and empassioned caution. Over time, she found her own way to working with "assessment and evaluation instruments"--as boring as that sounds--because she discovered how it helped young people learn and take ownership of their creativity. She learned more about this work, and faster, than any teaching artist I ever worked with. She was one of the most naturally gifted teaching artists I ever met, and her heart was as big as Montana. If teaching artistry is an art form, as I think it is, she was a master. It was a delight to know her, and be slapped into shape by her, and see the beautiful work that she midwifed forth from so many grateful learners."

To record your thoughts about Barnetta, go to

Friday, March 5, 2010

Shadows and Fog

Playing with Shadows an Introduction to Shadow Puppetry is an instructional video site hosted by ArtsEdge, the arts education wing of the Kennedy Center. It's so lifelike. You can even make your own virtual puppet show. The graphics and the historical information make this a valuable, virtual resource.

If you prefer the tangible, Teaching Artist Debra Wuliger, our TA of the day, has posted a terrific shadow puppet lesson plan here, under the auspices of Young Audiences, Northeast Ohio.

Grades 3-4
Language Arts & Social Studies - Visual Art
By Deb Wuliger

Also: It is Friday, and I am gone from here.

Join ATA on Facebook.

In Politics: The honorable Governor David Paterson is under fire and may resign, any minute now. Representative Charles Rangel is in a similar predicament.

Health Care: President Barack Obama pushes the health care debate to a vote. (CBS News)

Mass Transit: The New York Times reports on yesterday's protests against subway and bus service cuts. Critics of the MTA showed up in force to cry foul.

Also: Frank Mills - Hair, the Musical

Thursday, March 4, 2010

The March

Teaching Artists who care to know, might want to know about the following March 4th Actions in defense of Public Education. More information is located on the website of the local organizer, and below:

MARCH 4th Actions


Rally at Gov. Paterson’s Office @ 4 pm

633 Third Ave. @ 41st St.

Then March to the MTA Hearings at FIT

Seventh Ave. @ 27th St.
  • Stop the school closings and privatization of public education
  • Stop the cuts to K-12 and higher education
  • Restore the free student MetroCard
  • Full funding for all educational needs
  • Education is a right – Free, high-quality education for all

And: Nina Simone - Go Limp

    Wednesday, March 3, 2010

    Defend Education

    March 4th is a National Day of Action to Defend Education, which, you may have noticed, is dying the death of a zillion budget cuts. 

    The crisis is nationwide. The reasons are numerous and varied, but the main cause is fallout from the economic apocalypse and blatant disregard for the facts.

    To those who believe that public education is the foundation of our democracy this is the time to say something, such as "stop!"

    The call to action for this national day of protest originated in California, which is now threatening to eliminate art teachers entirely, as part of a broader strategy to fill huge holes in the statewide education budget.

    At her self-titled blog, Writer/Activist Arlene Goldbard, examines the issues in her usual clear-eyed fashion; setting the crisis in education within a larger conversation about the importance of fostering a "hunger for learning" in a society which encourages apathy, and undermines democracy.

    Teaching Artists who care to join the struggle, can  check the national organizer's website to find links to protest events in their state.

    The New York event planning committee website is here.

    Also: Woody Guthrie - This Land Is Your Land

    Tuesday, March 2, 2010

    Hue and Cry

    Teaching Artists who take the subway or bus may be interested to know that yet another round of fares hikes and service cuts is on the horizon.

    Public hearings on the reductions start today.

    One significant item is the planned gradual elimination of free subway fares for New York City Public School students. According to a recent article in Streetsblog, The Metropolitan Transit Authority offers about 585,000 students free and low-cost fares to and from school, but all that is scheduled to change by 2011, because now there is no money for anything--excepting war without end, apparently.

    An article in the New York Times shows how lower-income students may suffer if their families cannot afford to pay full fare on the subway. Drop-out rates are likely to increase as a result of the elimination of free and low-cost fares for students.

    Teaching Artists and students who feel inclined, can let the MTA know how these  service cuts and fare hikes will affect their daily lives.  Submit testimony by email here or by regular mail: MTA Community Affairs, 347 Madison Ave, New York, NY 10017.

    If you have time to attend one of the public hearings live and in person, the borough by borough schedule is located here.


    Messages on the ATA Digest today include the following items posted by ATA Executive Director, Dale Davis.

    Are you on Dale's List?

    From the ATA Digest:

    • A Call for Teaching Artists With Disabilities Fellowship Program
    Application deadline: April 23, 2010

    VSA recognizes the positive influence of the arts to advance teaching
    and learning in the classroom. Because a skilled teaching artist can
    foster creative engagement and help build an inclusive environment,
    VSA is seeking outstanding teaching artists with disabilities for the
    Teaching Artist Fellows program.

    The VSA Teaching Artist Fellowship program seeks to identify, engage,
    and support teaching artists with disabilities in the visual and
    performing arts.
    Find more information on this fellowship @ or email

    • Announcing the 2010 VSA arts Playwright Discovery Call for Scripts
    The VSA arts Playwright Discovery Program invites middle and high
    school students to take a closer look at the world around them,
    examine how disability affects their lives and the lives of others. 
    Find more information on this call for scripts @ or email

    •Building A Creative Life as a Teaching Artist
    Panel Discussion presented by the Stockton Rush Bartol Foundation and
    Moore College of Art and Design
    Friday, March 19, 2010, 6:00-8:00pm
    Moore College of Art and Design, 20th Street and the Parkway,

    Find more information on this event @

    Monday, March 1, 2010

    Take Aways

    On Monday, everything starts over.


    In her speech to the delegates, NEA rep Sarah B. Cunningham, the keynote speaker at last week's Face to Face conference, talked and talked. I enjoyed  it awfully, especially the part where she argued for the inclusion of artists in decision-making processes around public policy, education and the use of public space. There was a groovy slideshow and at the end, they let us ask a few questions.

    I love the idea that we're important enough to listen to. It's so much better than being ignored. It makes me think that if professional teaching artists were consulted, about the design of all new school buildings for instance--then slop sinks, dance floors, and blackbox theaters with lighting grids would be de rigueur. Future teaching artists would have to spend less time trying to commandeer space, or transform unsuitable spaces into workable arenas for art-making and art-related instruction.

    Sarah B. Cunningham is right. We need more simple machines. Like feedback loops within organizations to inform planning.

    On the flip side, I think it is fair to say that TAs who demand a voice at the table should have something credible and useful to say.

    I have a few more questions:

    Shouldn't professional teaching artists be informed on the critical issues?
    If we don't understand the mission statement of the organizations we work for, are we really doing our jobs well?

    Are we reflective practitioners, or hired guns?
    Do we know the state standards, or where to find them? Do we know the guidelines for arts learning for each grade PreK - 12 set by the powers that be? Do we even know who the "powers that be" are, and what they want from us?

    Is this just a part-time thing, or are you making a career out of this? I'm just asking, but seriously, is there room in this field for the both of us?

    Why is anyone just allowed to call themselves a teaching artist? You can't just call yourself a plumber, or a yoga teacher, can you? Aren't we carrying a skill-set as specific as a plumber, or a yoga teacher? Shouldn't there be rules about this sort of thing? I mean, this has been going on for decades, shouldn't we all have professional memberships with real benefits by now?
    Whose fault is it?
    What's the profile of a truly professional teaching artist? Is it the painter who shows all the time, or is it the visual art major with an advanced degree in education who has never had work exhibited outside of the university gallery? Is it the actor who's auditioning, or the actor who hasn't done a play in years? If you're not doing your art, can you still call yourself a teaching artist? Isn't teaching  supposed to be part of your art?
    Is perpetually juggling six jobs, and never really being able to hold onto health insurance the cost of freedom?

    What's the going rate?

    Who will find the answers to these questions and put it all in a book?

    In Politics: President Barack Obama sits down with the faithful opposition to find a compromise on health care, but the public option is still dead, like so many uninsured.

    Plus: Bob Dylan - Positively Fourth Street