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

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