Get to Know the Grantee: Kun-Yang Lin/Dancers

This week, we are in conversation with Katie Moore, Business Director at Kun-Yang Lin/Dancers (KYL/D) about how they have pivoted their school residencies in the virtual classroom. You can also check out their short mindful movement videos here.

Your CHI Dance program focuses on mindfulness through movement, primarily for elementary school children. You have created a really robust program since COVID moved programs online, led by your Education Coordinator, Sophie Malin. How are you navigating through five schools, all with different needs?

Teaching virtually is definitely different – program development and delivery takes longer to accomplish and technology can be tricky. We had to figure out what was essential to each class we would usually teach in person, and how we could capture that online. We had to keep our focus on mindfulness which is the core of our program and so important right now.

Sophie did an incredible job developing several different components to the program to make for a robust online experience. All of the content is available through a password protected network of pages on our website. On the homepage, there is a survey for students to complete to ensure they set-up a safe dance space with visuals for context. There is also easy access to supplemental content, such as short meditation videos, called CHI Time videos (linked above). Sophie engaged KYL/D dance artists, some of whom are CHI Dance teachers and some of whom are not, to create these additional videos that provide a mindfulness break that a teacher or student can use any time. Then, the website allows the user to select their school to access their classroom specific content.

Prior to starting the fall session, school partners were given the option to pick from three program offerings: 1) all pre-recorded classes for 9 weeks; 2) a hybrid of 6 pre-recorded classes and 3 live classes; or, 3) 9 live classes. Alongside this weekly class content, we also provide a weekly workbook that directly relates to that week’s lesson, which a teacher can use as they like. To provide additional context, teachers are also given a workbook guide.

How did you coordinate all this with the school?

Sophie set-up meetings with principals, teachers and other school administrators at each partner school to explain the three program options in detail to determine each school’s needs before the fall session started. We already had a plan in place for the curriculum to focus on one of KYL/D’s recent works, Fish & Girl, but allowed flexibility within learning sections of the choreography and inspiration behind the piece to also include components that reinforce classroom topics.

The CHI Dance Workbook provides a different method to engage students with dance and mindfulness. Each week contains pages with emotion check-ins, education tips, guided meditations, mindfulness activities, challenges, coloring pages, journal prompts and free thinking pages. The workbook was edited by retired Elementary School Principal, Teacher and Editor, Sheila Lunger. Sheila helped Sophie develop grade specific versions for our two main age groups Grades K-2 and Grades 3-5 along with the teacher guide book that helps classroom teachers understand the intention behind each exercise and how to adapt it for their needs.

Since our program takes place during the school day, we are using Google Classroom and other online platforms which involves getting permissions for KYL/D’s teaching artists to access the virtual classroom. It helps that the classroom teacher is there to refocus children as needed and to provide their own classroom structure to our work. We were also able to do a survey with our 4th grade students that the teacher assigned to them, which has given us great insights into what type of online learning students feel most comfortable with, what their interests are and feedback on how to improve the program next session. Surveys are also provided to teachers before and after each session to help serve as part of our program evaluation. Sophie has frequent check-ins with teachers and principals throughout the course of each session to ensure that the program is meeting everyone’s expectations.

What did you do out of necessity during COVD that you may keep even after COVID has passed?

Our biggest challenge is that we have a long waitlist of classroom teachers within our current partner schools, let alone other schools who want the program; however, we have a limited amount of human resources and internal capacity with our staff and teaching artists.  We are thinking about how we can expand the pre-recorded video program to facilitate in nourishing engagement with our current partner schools and providing an entry point into a potential partnership with a new school. The recorded content could be used as the first step before having classes in person, or maybe be combined with a group of students coming to one of the company’s performances or rehearsals. We all know that the purpose of dancing is to be and move together but maybe these virtual programs are a way to begin to deepen current relationships, build new relationships and expand our reach.

How are you caring for yourself and your teaching artists during this time?

The amazing thing about CHI Dance is that the focus on mindfulness requires you to focus on mindfulness, which is a stress relief tool in and of itself. The videos Sophie and the other dance artists have been developing I’m starting to watch more consistently to provide my own meditation breaks throughout the work day.

Our work requires a lot of collaboration and openness. With CHI Dance sessions, the first step is to always check-in with our teaching artists and have an honest conversation about how many classes they would like to teach and understanding their thoughts on how to improve the curriculum each year. For the digital programs, we understand there will be opportunities to learn how to deliver the program better with more experience. We stay open minded and in frequent communication with each other. Also, I provide Sophie with flexibility to adapt the programs if there is too much on her checklist or if we realize another approach works best. We have a weekly phone call to debrief and learn about what’s going on outside of CHI Dance too. This year, Sophie and I are working on developing more movement training and professional development opportunities in connection with her youth education work. For the other staff and dance artists, I am planning on programs to also focus on training and wellness.

Best. (COVID) Snack. Ever.

Salted pumpkin seeds.


Part of a continuing series featuring our 2020 Bartol Grantees.

Get to Know the Grantee: Young Artist Program

We are excited to share news from our grantees as they continue to provide great programs despite all the challenges we are facing.  This week, we welcome Kristin Hill, an alumni of the YAP program who runs the instagram account @theyoungartistprogram.

 

Your organization works with a small group of young people from the LGBT community over multiple years.  How were you able celebrate your graduates last year and then to reach out and engage new participants for your new cohort during COVID?

Sadly, we had to celebrate separately because of COVID, but Mel and Sam (Lead Teaching Artists at the time) did drive-bys with decorated cars and lots of honking. Each of us got flowers, balloons and a little goodie bag of gifts with self care items. We took socially distant photos in our caps and gowns..it was cute! 

Recruiting primarily happened over social media, particuarlying instagram. Our hope is that our caring and kindness for others would shine through on our social media–and it did! We were able to recruit and get a whole new cohort of 8 students.


What approaches are you using to create community among these new folx in our socially-distant/virtual universe?

We still hold the program on zoom from Tuesday-Friday, which is a space where people can come to play games, work on their individual and group art projects, and connect with each other. Mental Health Mondays; a story series where we ask questions in our stories to our followers and respond and share back, has been a great way too. We really want people to know that we care about them and that we’re always open to chat, so we started asking our followers questions about self-care and mental health on Mondays. It’s been really good to hear people’s answers and to help us all feel like none of us are in this alone. 

Having to do things virtually has also brought us some really fun new ideas! We’re currently doing a virtual art auction, something we probably never would have done if there wasn’t a pandemic. We had an opening night over zoom and played games and shared space virtually with the community, it was so fun and sweet!


What have you learned during COVID that you will use even after COVID has passed?

It’s still possible to find connections and to care for people virtually. Virtual hugs are still valid!

How are you caring for yourself and other program members during this time?

For myself, I try to take at least one day a week for myself. That can mean making art and jewelry or watching Bob’s Burgers. I’m trying to maintain some sense of normalcy and make sure I’m living the life that I want. 

We’re all really trying to do our best to care for people over text and zoom calls. I think compliments go a long way! I try to uplift everyone in the program and spread the love and joy. 


Best.  Snack.  Ever.

Dominos Lava Crunch Cakes with a little ice cream on top.. Best thing in the world! I encourage everyone to try it 🙂

 


Part of a continuing series featuring our 2020 Bartol Grantees.

Get to Know the Grantee: ArtWell

We are excited to welcome Briana Clarke as the new Program Manager at ArtWell. Check out this interview to learn more about her journey.

Tell us a bit about your journey that brought you to become the new Program Manager at ArtWell.

My background consists of diverse community and arts involvement independently and within Philadelphia organizations, including Providence Center, Spiral Q, FAB Youth Philly, and Camp Sojourner Girl Leadership Camp. I’ve been involved with ArtWell since 2016. I started as a Teaching Artist, then Artwell experienced organizational changes, and the Program Coordinator position opened. Because I truly believed in the work of Artwell, there was a strong foundation and sense of community, and I was committed to supporting youth, Teaching Artists, and my community, I  wanted to support the strengthening of the organization. So, I applied for the position to have a greater leadership role and impact on ArtWells growth and direction. I was later promoted to Program Manager, and the journey so far has been fulfilling.


You have had to adapt your programs to teach different disciplines virtually in your school residencies.  What has worked well and what has been challenging?

Overall, trial and error, shifting expectations, and operating with the sense that business is personal and allowing human connection to exist in the workspace has helped and has been the driving force. Our school partnerships are extremely relational, and it played a big factor in adapting our programs. We have centered our teaching around social justice, identity, and the social-emotional learning component of our program during this time. We have coordinated supply distribution to as many partners as possible. The art is still happening virtually; however, students’ opportunities to participate in dialogue about topics they care about, connect, and express have been crucial and our priority.

It was challenging to move forward with some of our school partners this year due to schools and teachers adapting themselves. And although we have seen an increase over the months, and students express excitement for classes, student engagement is still one of our challenges. Youth are Zoomed out!  


We are hearing from our grantees that some things you did out of necessity during COVID, you will continue to do even after COVID has passed.  What might you continue to do even after COVID?

When the pandemic hit, and through the racial unrest, we reached out to our partners and connected with them individually to determine what supports they needed. In response, we began customizing engagements. This involved lots of meetings with principals, classroom teachers, teaching artists, and other community partners. We worked to involve everyone as much as possible throughout the process, which we already do; however, I believe there is a higher level of grace and involvement. For some of our partners, we are carrying out our traditional programs virtually. However, for other partners, we have gone deeper. We are offering additional program supports like clubs, office hours, and school-wide town halls. We have also offered virtual engagements for the general public during COVID. This time has highlighted the deeper involvement we can have from our community. Not just at the beginning and end, but throughout. We hope to preserve this level of community involvement post-COVID.

You have your own creative practice outside of your work with ArtWell.  Tell us more!

Yes, I’m a painter who primarily focuses on highlighting the joy and pain connected to Black Lives through vibrant colors, juxtaposition, metaphors, and symbolism. I also spend time designing social media graphics and fliers.

How are you caring for yourself and your teaching artists during this time?

Checking in with Teaching Artists personally, professionally, and consistently. Holding more team meetings, having compassion, patience, calling, texting, and allowing people to just be sometimes. In addition to one on one check-ins, we have monthly skill builds for our Teaching Artists. This has been an important time to connect, preserve the sense of community virtually, enhance online teaching toolkits, play, and promote self and collective care. 

As far as me, I try to paint as much as I can. It’s unfortunate because we rely on technology more than ever to stay connected to people; however, I also try to take breaks from social media, texts, and calls for brain breaks and self-care. Youtube rabbit holes and music, period. 

Best. Snack. Ever.

Not a healthy one, but I love salami! Cured meats…a well-made charcuterie board, is loooove.  

Part of a continuing series featuring our 2020 Bartol Grantees.

Get to Know the Grantee: Al-Bustan Seeds of Culture

In 2020, we made our selections for the grantee winners just as the COVID-19 pandemic closed all schools and community programs. In recognition of these difficult circumstances, we enabled each organization to define how they could use the funding to strengthen their programming during the shutdown (e.g. developing curriculum, delivering remote programs, etc).

We are excited to welcome Mohannad Ghawanmeh as the new Executive Director of Al-Bustan.  Mohannad will be the second Executive Director of Al-Bustan, taking over from its founder Hazami Sayed. 

Tell us a bit about your journey that brought you to become the new Executive Director of Al-Bustan Seeds of Culture.

The journey began with cofounding the Twin Cities Arab Film Festival in 2002, in response to the Sep 11 attacks, as an effort to affirm the breadth and complexity of Arab culture and to defy malign and then intensely propagated stereotypes of Arab and Muslim people. Thus the festival was founded in the same year as Al-Bustan and was motivated by similar impulses and was programmed by Mizna an Arab American Arts organization that does work similar to Al-Bustan’s. I went on to direct/curate four editions of this festival and led the first edition of two others, including the film festival organized by the Arab American National Museum. I continued to work with both of these Arab cultural organizations for years to come, including as I attended PhD school for a degree in Cinema and Media Studies, which I acquired in June.

You moved from California to take on this role. What drew you all the way across the country to become part of Al-Bustan?

Al-Bustan is such an accomplished, impactful organization and I am so committed to cultural production that empowers and inspires that applying to lead Al-Bustan, to succeed its venerated Founding Director Hazami Sayed was an “all-brainer”!

What are you most excited to do or learn in the next year?

Arts and education programming is the facet that most excites me about my work, I do admit. However, guiding Al-Bustan through the unpredictable, choppy waters of the months to come and preparing the organization for a transition to serving a constituency no longer threatened by COVID19 is what commands my attention most.

Part of a continuing series featuring our 2020 Bartol Grantees.

Get to Know Board Member: Wit López

Our staff and board is run by a group of esteemed and dynamic people from all over the arts community of Philadelphia who are passionate about using art as a way for all to connect to joyful, creative lives.

Wit López (They/Them), is a visual artist, performer, and arts administrator. They are the Artistic Director of Till Arts Project, an arts-services organization serving LGBTQI+ artists in the Greater Philly area. Wit believes that marginalized artists should have support for their practices and equal access to resources as artists from privileged backgrounds. 

Wit Lopez

What keeps you busy in your work and life these days?

Art, art, and more art! I’m an artist, art critic, arts administrator, and arts services consultant, so my life revolves around the arts and I love it!

What intrigued you about being a member of the Bartol board?

The trauma-informed workshop for artists and the grants for teaching artists let me know that Bartol is an organization truly considering the wellness of artists in the community and trying to equip artists with resources. I’m a huge supporter of many organizations that view artists as whole humans and I also believe that artists work should be financially supported, and Bartol is doing both!

What do you hope to learn? What do you hope to contribute?

I’m open to endlessly learning, so I don’t want to put any limitations on my chances to learn by deciding on specific expectations now (or ever). I’m big on skill-sharing and giving out information freely, and I plan to apply those feelings to my contributions as well. I’ll learn and contribute in any way I can.

And our favorite question: Best. Snack. Ever.

I love this question, haha. I’m going to say french fries.

Part of a continuing series featuring our Bartol Board Members.

What You Told Us: 2020 Teaching Artist Survey

Thanks to the 116 teaching artists who took the time and thought to take our annual survey! And congratulations to TAHIRA who won the $50 gift card raffle.

This year more than ever, we really wanted to hear about your practice, how you have been affected by COVID-19, and how you envision your future practice in this new hybrid virtual world. We are already using this information to inform our board and partners, and to plan our free fall teaching artists workshops. Here are just a few things we learned.

The Effects of COVID-19

  • 72% of you transferred existing work with an organization to a virtual platform and 33% transferred your independent teaching artist work to a virtual platform.
  • 61% of you lost work with an organization and 50% lost independent teaching artist work.
  • 12% were able to get new work from an organization and 12% were able to get new work independently.
  • You lost from $300 to $30,000 in cancelled gigs for your teaching artist practice.

Teaching Virtually

  • You adapted your teaching by offering shorter sessions or simplifying your curriculum
  • You created online videos, activity workbooks, and art kits.
  • 68% of you think it is likely or highly likely that teaching virtually will be a significant part of your teaching practice in the future.
  • Only 3 respondents created intellectual property agreements for their new virtual work with an organizational partner.

Other Interesting Facts

  • 56% of you are receiving professional development through an organization you work with, increase from 36% in 2019.
  • 53% of you are securing work on your own.
  • 43% of you are working for organizations as independent contractors, a significant increase from 32% in 2019.
  • only 28% of you are working for an organization as an employee.
  • 34% of you are offering programs at organizations other than schools or cultural organizations.

We are continuing to read through all of your comments and ideas. Stay tuned for free professional development workshops over the next year that will respond to your requests including tools and practices for teaching online in different arts disciplines, trauma-informed practice training, approaches to talking about racism in the classroom, and creating safe and healthy environments for learning.

We appreciate everything you are doing to continue to bring arts to our communities. We will do our best to support you in this journey.

Get to Know the Micro-Grantee: Jasz The Poet

A blog written by one of our micro-grantees, Jasz The Poet about her experiences spiritually, mentally and artistically through quarantine.

Quarantine has been a game changer. Coming into this season, there were plenty of things I needed to do or cut but taking action on those tasks was not a priority. However, it feels like God strategically used this time to ground me on what’s most important through a period of personal, professional, and relational development. Since March, I’ve learned more about myself, gained a clearer perspective of my entrepreneurial journey, and have strengthened and shifted relationships. Above all else, I’m further understanding the connection between mind, body, and spirit, and for the first time in a long time, I’m moving in full alignment which has transformed the way I navigate art and productivity. 

Prior to quarantine, I struggled with having enough time. Even though I made my own schedule, I still found myself rushing through or skipping over activities that fueled my spirit in order to tend to tasks that drove my business or income. I often felt a tug to sit still, read regularly, or pray longer, yet an inner part of me would always be reluctant to the stillness. Ironically enough, quarantine took away many of my excuses for rushing and gave me the space to move differently. I now find that when I spend time walking outside, engaging in unlimited devotion time, reading a book, or being casually creative, the tasks that previously weighed on me suddenly seem like activities for which I’m even more equipped to handle. My ideas and inspiration flow abundantly and rushing now feels oppositional to the natural current of life.

By spending time pouring into my spirit, I was able to declutter my mind. As an overthinker, this clarity has been monumental because I can now focus on goals without spiraling down a path of insecurities, obstacles, and distractions. For example, prior to quarantine, I started a 40-day accountability group through which I led Sunday calls and distributed weekly guides with journal prompts, guiding verses and self-care suggestions. I knew this was something that brought together a variety of my skillsets from teaching and facilitation to introspection and accountability. However, during quarantine I had numerous revelations about how this fit into the larger framework of my community work in addition to receiving the inspiration to create a complementary 40-Day devotional. My life purpose is more apparent and my various projects and skillsets are finally blending together in sensible ways.

The current challenges for freelancers and contract workers are great. With the unemployment rate higher than it has ever been, with small organizations being gravely impacted by the COVID-19 quarantine, with a society the systemically undervalues the arts, the art community at-large will have to fight tooth and nail for the financial support it deserves. Freelance artists and teaching artists will be uniquely affected at a time when art has proven to sustain emotional health but is still not given the recognition it deserves. Art is not a commodity, it’s a necessity. Access to the arts should not be a privilege when it should be a fundamental right. Where challenges abound so does enlightenment. Personally, I am taking this time radically re-envision art education. I know I am not alone in this endeavor.

The last piece of this fully aligned puzzle is my body. Being more in tune with the energy and flow of life, I’m able to pinpoint stresses and discord within my body. Unfortunately for me, there have been several moments where I learned this the hard way. A month into quarantine, I managed to pinch a nerve in my arm—possibly during a workout but the cause is still unknown- which resulted in me being ordered to complete rest for 10 days while my arm (my primary, right arm to be specific) rested in a sling. As if quarantine and intentional stillness weren’t enough, I was being forced to rest even more. The lesson about resting was driven home when I came back from the doctors with my arm in a sling only to find a book I ordered (Pursuit of Holiness) on my doorstep. God knew I wasn’t going to prioritize that book if left up to my own devices, so He made it so I’d be able to completely dive in with no distractions. My body told me what it needed, and my spirit and mind were able to be fed as a result.

As we slowly emerge from a period of forced hibernation and lesson learning, I am thoroughly convinced that many things cannot go back to how they were before. Once you know something, you can’t unknow it. I am much more aware of the divine purpose for the work I am compelled to do, and the ability to do it well is directly dependent on my submission to the natural order of things. In the Seven Spiritual Laws of Success which I read last year, the author speaks about the realm of infinite possibility that exists when we accept the uncertainty of life while tending only to what we can control. Though all of the lessons haven’t been easily learned, that is my new focus. I am grateful for what this time has taught me, and I’m confident that the routines, projects, and revelations gained or strengthened during this period will definitely be worth the process. 

And always our favorite question.  Best. (Quarantine) Snack. Ever.

My favorite quarantine snack has been the gummy wild berry life savers!

 

Part of a continuing series featuring our 2020 Bartol Micro-Grantees.

2020 Bartol Grant Awards

23 GRANTS TO PHILADELPHIA ARTS AND CULTURAL ORGANIZATIONS

Philadelphia, PA—The Stockton Rush Bartol Foundation announced today that it will distribute $115,000 in grants of $5,000 each to 23 Philadelphia arts and cultural organizations. The Foundation supports organizations in a range of artistic disciplines with an emphasis on arts education and community-based arts programs. A complete list with information on each grantee is available here.

The 2020 roster of grantees reflects the Bartol Foundation’s commitment to supporting cultural organizations that provide exceptional, sustained arts experiences to children, teens and adults throughout Philadelphia’s neighborhoods. The Bartol Foundation prioritizes community-based organizations which authentically connect to and represent the people they serve.

Two first-time grantees bring new perspectives and audiences to the roster of grantees.

  • Scene-N-Action Productions Company, Inc uses the performing arts as a tool to cultivate talent, creativity and self-enrichment, while simultaneously creating an inclusive community for youth.
  • The Young Artist Program centers BIPOC, LGBTQ+ identifying youth artists as well as adult leadership, using art as a tool for personal growth and social change by providing students with both art instruction & opportunities for political activism.

“The Bartol Foundation increased its overall giving in 2020 by almost 40% over 2019, including emergency grants to our grantees to pay teaching artists unable to work due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Beth Feldman Brandt, Executive Director of the Bartol Foundation. “This year’s roster of grantees is working in uncertain and challenging times with very limited resources.  A third of our new grantees have budgets under $100,000 and the smallest has a budget of $14,000. The majority of these organizations requested and received general operating support which provides essential day-to-day dollars to keep these small organizations going.”

“This current round of funding supports organizations committed to bringing the arts to communities which have been historically marginalized and silenced,” added Sannii Crespina-flores, Chair of the Foundation’s Board of Trustees and Founder of the Un-Inhibited Muse Film Festival, the global youth initiative Do Remember Me and the art collaborative Yram Collective. “We are grateful for these community anchors as they use arts education to amplify these voices and nurture creative spirits when it is most needed.”

The $5,000 George Bartol Arts Education Award, given annually to an organization that exemplifies the Foundation’s priorities, will be announced later in the summer.  

Updated guidelines and applications for the next round of grants will be available in the winter of 2021 on the Foundation’s website at www.bartol.org with an application deadline of May 1, 2021.

The Stockton Rush Bartol Foundation works at the intersection of arts, education, community and philanthropy, grounded in our belief that deeply meaningful arts experiences strengthen people and communities. The BartolFoundation advocates for and facilitates partnerships in which cultural organizations, teaching artists, community partners, and funders work toward the common goal of providing high-caliber, equitable arts education to people in Philadelphia, especially those in the most under-resourced or under-served communities. We utilize our knowledge and resources to create more resources and opportunities for all. 

Get to Know the Micro-Grantee: Candy Gonzalez

While you originally applied to the Bartol Foundation Teaching Artist Micro-Grant for a specific project, we realized this project likely was postponed or perhaps changed altogether.  How are you adapting your project or using this grant differently to support your teaching artist practice?

When I applied to Bartol’s Teaching Artist Micro-Grant, the student leaders of Allianza Latinx and Black Student Union at MCAD and I were organizing an art critique for students of color. I was in the process of developing a trauma-informed, facilitator-led critique model that could be used at that event. This project was born out of a serious need for healthy, thoughtful and productive critique spaces for student artists. This event was, of course, canceled due to the quarantine but the heart of the project, the radical re-imagination of critique spaces, stills beats strong. I am continuing to develop the critique model I proposed in my application and will be creating a toolkit that art students can use to create/maintain healthy student organizations and to host trauma-informed critiques themselves.

Has the quarantine resulted opportunities to take your practice online in any way?  If so, tell us about it.

These days, I am feeling grateful that I have been able to start a trauma-competency certification program through the Lakeside Global Institute online, as well as the opportunity to complete the Group Facilitation course I started before the quarantine. I am taking this time as an opportunity to polish the tools I need to help create sustainable support systems for art students of color. Additionally, I am continuing to teach visual art online, which presents a unique set of challenges–the result of which has been me learning to be more clear with verbal directions during art demos. 

When do you know your work is making a difference?

The current challenges for freelancers and contract workers are great. With the unemployment rate higher than it has ever been, with small organizations being gravely impacted by the COVID-19 quarantine, with a society the systemically undervalues the arts, the art community at-large will have to fight tooth and nail for the financial support it deserves. Freelance artists and teaching artists will be uniquely affected at a time when art has proven to sustain emotional health but is still not given the recognition it deserves. Art is not a commodity, it’s a necessity. Access to the arts should not be a privilege when it should be a fundamental right. Where challenges abound so does enlightenment. Personally, I am taking this time radically re-envision art education. I know I am not alone in this endeavor.

There is also value in sharing challenges.  If you are comfortable doing this, what are some of the challenges that you are dealing with? Short-term? Long-term? Who knows?

The current challenges for freelancers and contract workers are great. With the unemployment rate higher than it has ever been, with small organizations being gravely impacted by the COVID-19 quarantine, with a society the systemically undervalues the arts, the art community at-large will have to fight tooth and nail for the financial support it deserves. Freelance artists and teaching artists will be uniquely affected at a time when art has proven to sustain emotional health but is still not given the recognition it deserves. Art is not a commodity, it’s a necessity. Access to the arts should not be a privilege when it should be a fundamental right. Where challenges abound so does enlightenment. Personally, I am taking this time radically re-envision art education. I know I am not alone in this endeavor.

Have you found moments of creativity or grace in the past few months?

The imposed stillness of the past couple of months made space for tenderness to rise to the surface. Rather than run away from the tenderness as I am wont to do, I chose to sit with it. This experience made clear the stories that I need to share with others and effectively planted some creative seeds. 

And always our favorite question.  Best. (Quarantine) Snack. Ever.

Takis with a sprinkle of lime.

 

Part of a continuing series featuring our 2020 Bartol Micro-Grantees.

Get to Know the Micro-Grantee: Karen Singer

In 2020, we made our selections for the micro-grant winners just as the COVID-19 pandemic closed all schools and community programs. In recognition of these difficult circumstances, we enabled each teaching artist to define how they could use the micro-grant funds to strengthen their teaching artist practice during the shutdown (e.g. developing curriculum, delivering remote programs, creating a website) and sent the grants immediately. Check out how one of the recipients, Karen Singer, is adjusting their art practice during the pandemic.

While you originally applied to the Bartol Foundation Teaching Artist Micro-Grant for a specific project, we realized this project likely was postponed or perhaps changed altogether.  How are you adapting your project or using this grant differently to support your teaching artist practice?

My original plan was to do a project in collaboration with Kelly Green, a local organization connected with the Kelly School, that has a long history of gardening and greening projects that involve Kelly School students, parents and faculty as well as community residents. Our plan was to do a ceramic house number workshop that would culminate in a series of house number plaques installed throughout the neighborhood that would help people identify each house, clarify the connection to Kelly Green and foster community engagement through a collaborative art activity.

Because of the pandemic, this activity is not happening, although the interest in making it happen is still there. I am still engaged in discussions with the Kelly Green folks about how this might happen or how we might expand upon it.

In the meantime, I have launched something I am calling “Ceramics To Go”, a ceramics kit that has been provided to individuals and families in the neighborhood to enable them to do ceramic work at home with my guidance. For example, I have worked with a 10 and 11 year old who are making furniture for their “fairy house”, and a 4 year old who made beads and plaques with her mom. I am also continuing work with 2 adult students, one of whom has tried “sculpting in plein air”, a technique I have taught that involves people working outside on a wet clay slab, sculpting a ceramic tile directly from what they observe.

Has the quarantine resulted opportunities to take your practice online in any way?  If so, tell us about it.

I have been posting photos about my own creative work on social media, and engaging directly with the people who comment. We have also featured the “Ceramics to Go” on our enewsletter, which resulted in expanded interest. I have done a little Zoom teaching with one workshop, and may be doing more.

When do you know your work is making a difference?

Watching the strides the children make in their artwork is always rewarding. We love seeing how proud they are of their accomplishments and how these accomplishments create a bond between the children and their families. 

There is also value in sharing challenges.  If you are comfortable doing this, what are some of the challenges that you are dealing with? Short-term? Long-term? Who knows?

Challenges – there are lots of them, including much more alone time, loss of income, learning a lot about Zoom and other video platforms. I think the big challenge is figuring out what matters most to each of us, and how we arrange our life to incorporate what matters, even in the face of big challenges. I think that artists are uniquely qualified to help all of us look at this. I believe that creativity and appreciation for it are at the forefront of our ability to move forward, maintain a sense of hope and possibility, and make new solutions possible.

Have you found moments of creativity or grace in the past few months?

I am making a lot more artwork with no particular client in mind. This is different for me, because I am usually working on multiple commissions projects. I am doing both sculpting and painting in plein air, and loving it. It feels wonderful to hear the birds, watch the changes in the gardens and arboreta I am working in and to see the amazing feedback this work is getting from people who see it on line.

And always our favorite question.  Best. (Quarantine) Snack. Ever.

Making lots of fruit and nut smoothies – a great snack to bring along on a plein air trip!

Part of a continuing series featuring our 2020 Bartol Micro-Grantees.

Get to Know the Grantee: Portside Arts Center

“The Children. Everything we do here is for them. We get to watch them grow and turn into amazing people.”

Portside Arts Center provides a creative and nurturing environment that empowers the artists of tomorrow and creates lifelong patrons of the arts. Director Kim Creighton told us more about their work.

What revs you up to go to work in the morning?

The Children. Everything we do here is for them. We get to watch them grow and turn into amazing people. 

What about your work keeps you up at night?

As with any nonprofit, financial health is always a concern. However, we also worry about the children and all of the things they are going through big and small. 

When do you know your work is making a difference?

Watching the strides the children make in their artwork is always rewarding. We love seeing how proud they are of their accomplishments and how these accomplishments create a bond between the children and their families. 

What is the coolest thing a participant in your program ever said to you?

Sometimes it’s not what is said. Sometimes it’s what is not said. When we first opened we could not afford heating and people came in their coats to create art Not one person mentioned the lack of heat. That’s how I knew there was something special here. 

Best. Snack. Ever.

Dark Chocolate

Part of a continuing series featuring our 2019 Bartol grantees.

Get to Know the Grantee: Rock to the Future

“. When children and teens are given the opportunity to learn and grow through music, we see incredible things happen.”

 

Rock to the Future provides student-driven music programs in a safe and supportive environment at no cost for Philadelphia youth. Here are some enthusiastic and affirming words from this Bartol grantee in answer to our questions of the day.

 

When do you know your work is making a difference?
 
At the beginning of this school year, teachers at one of the schools we work in said, “Don’t let [student] into your program. He just causes trouble” and other similar comments. We let the student join our after school program. This same student continues to show up each program day after school, excited to play bass guitar, and is playing with his band at his first showcase in December. We even gave him a bass guitar to keep at home. He hasn’t received detention in the past couple of weeks at school. This past Veteran’s Day, when schools were closed, we had our annual college and trade school visitation trip. This student showed up at 8am on a day that he wasn’t required to go to school or do anything school related to visit the 5 local colleges with the other Rock to the Future students. He’s also started bringing his friends to the program. When children and teens are given the opportunity to learn and grow through music, we see incredible things happen.
 
 
 
What is the coolest thing a participant in your program ever said to you?
 
I received a DM recently from a student that graduated a few years ago. “I want you to know that I look back and really appreciate what you taught me. I’ll be back home in November and I’d love to talk to the kids about what I’ve learned from RTTF. And also the fact that I wish I was more thankful to you guys when I had the chance. Miss you guys –thank you so much. Sending hella love.” Working with teens is challenging (I know I was a terrible teen and sometimes think this is karma!), and we don’t do this work for gratitude. It’s still a nice reminder that the young people we work with appreciate their time at Rock to the Future many years after they’ve graduated.
 
 
 
What is the most important thing you do to help your teaching artists do their best work?
 
As we’ve grown from a volunteer based organization, we’ve invested our resources back into our team. To get the best from our staff, we work hard to show we value them. We no longer have our program staff classified at contractors –they are now employees of the organization. Rock to the Future provides professional development opportunities for all of our staff members. This year we provided over 10 hours of training on trauma informed approaches, cultural competencies, differentiated learning, and restorative practices. All staff members –including part-time –receive accrued paid time off, pay for snow closures, and paid trainings. In our recent strategic planning process, all staff were invited to participate and were paid for their time.
 
 
 
If you could magically change one thing to make your program better, what would it be?
 
Facilities are always one of our greatest challenges. Because we specifically host our programs in neighborhood schools, we have to frequently “make it work” with what is available. ::::**MAGIC**:::: We have heat and air conditioning, spacious lesson rooms that we can also store our equipment in, functioning WiFi, electrical outlets, windows, auditorium lights, sound systems, and clean and unlocked bathrooms.
 
 
 
Best. Snack. Ever.
 
Homemade jalapeno poppers.

 


Part of a continuing series featuring our 2019 Bartol grantees.

Get to Know the Grantee: Philadanco

“Cultivate an engaged listening and learning process…”

A joyful shout-out to Philadelphia Dance Company in honor of the 50th anniversary and a warm welcome to their new Interim Executive Director Gaynell Sherrod.   We are excited to hear her thoughtful vision with her answers to our questions of the day.

 

 

What revs you up to go to work in the morning?

I am always inspired by the art form; for me, dance is a transformative and restorative embodied practice to experience – both visually and physically. And, when I lean into that personal awareness combined with the organization’s mission and vision in support of that, then I am excited about going to work every day.

 

What about your work keeps you up at night?

Sometimes at night I ponder about issues and concerns carried over from the day, such as figuring out ways (plans) to build on the staff’s ideas and best processes to manifest buoyant ideas for expanding the organization’s programming and reach. And, thinking about best practices for cultivating community within and outside of the organization.

 

When do you know your work is making a difference?

I know that my work is making a difference when, a) I hear a testimony about how the work shifted a person’s thinking, b) I see a definitive ripple effect based on a practice that was implemented under my guidance, and c) people around me are inspired to do more expansive work.

 

What is the best tip you can give to someone doing arts education programs like yours?

I think my best advice to someone doing work in dance education programs is two-fold, a) always be prepared and steeped in a clear understanding of the work, and b) cultivate an engaged listening and learning process with your client base.

 

Share a book you read that changed how you think about your work.

I’d like to share two books: The Source of Self-regard by Toni Morrison

Stony Road: Reconstruction, White Supremacy and the Rise of Jim Crow by Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

 

Best. Snack. Ever.

I thoroughly enjoy snacking on a bowl of freshly popped popcorn seasoned with “Complete Herbal” and cayenne seasonings. Yummy.


Part of a continuing series featuring our 2019 Bartol grantees.

Get to Know the Grantee: University City Arts League

“…when your students surpass your expectations and teach you…”

Founded more than 50 years ago, people at the University City Arts League never stop learning and thinking of news ways to reach their West Philly community. Executive Director Annette Monnier shares thoughts from their community in their answers to our questions of the day.

What revs you up to go to work in the morning?

Working with a community of people who are just as excited about art as I am.

When do you know your work is making a difference?

There are a thousand ways we know our work is making a difference; when the single mother thanks us for working with her to provide arts programs for her kids, when a child spends an hour on a 15-minute pop-up art activity and then comes back to the table to make another, when a teaching artist comes into the office for advice on how to handle a teaching situation, when the staff spends a morning working out how to make people feel more comfortable and welcomed in the space, when a parent thanks you for handling a tough situation just right, when your students surpass your expectations and teach you, when you see a unicorn cat at a dance party with dinosaurs (children’s drawing), when you walk into a classroom and students are working out the mechanics of an elevator for an art project, when your pottery classes have a waitlist, when laughter is often the background soundtrack. . .

What is the coolest thing a participant in your program ever said to you?

“I’m at work today and had a free moment and I just wanted to drop a note to say how much Darnell and I appreciate the opportunity of having the Arts League available to Ekwueme and Idawa and in the past, our eldest daughter, Zoey.  All our children have benefitted greatly from the sense of community and opportunity to be creative on a daily basis that the Arts League fosters. Both creativity and community are important values that we hold and it is invaluable to have a space where our children can enjoy activities that reflect these values when they are away from us. When there are half days, both Ekwueme and Idawa will ask if they can go to the Arts League. During our evening dinner time, what happened at the Arts League comes up regularly- what piece of pottery they are creating or what new piece of knowledge they gained, how an argument was handled that made sense.

When I pick up my kids from the Arts League, I have had the opportunity to observe staff interacting with youth and it has been kind, appropriate and patient. I also want to say as a parent it’s really good feeling to know that staff enjoy interacting with your children and feel comfortable that they are safe and cared for. I love that you guys include children in the pick-up time activities – reflecting that they are a part of this community. Your communication with me as a parent feels like a partnership. I appreciate that greatly!”

-UCAL Arts After School parent, Julee Tweh

What is the most important thing you do to help your teaching artists do their best work?

“UCAL is an Oasis for the artists it teaches and employs, I love being a part of the supportive artist community UCAL offers myself and my 5 yr old son. As a single parent in Philadelphia UCAL has both welcomed and supported us, we both feel like valued members of a wider artist family, the family is a community which works to engage and inspire artists of all ages.”

 

-UCAL After School teaching Artist and Arts After-School Parent, Olivia Rodriguez

 

We hire great artists but only ever have part-time work for them. The single most important thing we do is take that into account. Realistically UCAL (the University City Arts League) can’t be a full-time job but we can support artists in other ways, hopefully making their lives easier and freeing up the necessary time to teach.

Part of a continuing series featuring our 2019 Bartol grantees.