“A great exercise for my teacher brain” – Interview with Teaching Artist Stephanie N. Walters

Photo courtesy of Stephanie N. Walters.

 

Last month, the Bartol Foundation awarded scholarships to nine local teaching artists to attend a symposium about teaching in alternative spaces. As part of our ongoing Q&A series, we spoke with one of the scholarship recipients, actress and playwright Stephanie N. Walters, about her work as a teaching artist and experience at the symposium.

 

Can you tell me a bit about your work as a teaching artist? What kinds of spaces have you taught in?

I started teaching theatre in Philadelphia a few years ago. I was working with local theatres and going to visit public elementary schools to discuss children’s theatre. I loved working with students so much that I explored other avenues of educational theatrical engagement. I worked with a southwest Philly high school ELL class to create a theatrical response to a local professional performance. I also have spent a few years working with young adults with autism on writing their own plays.

My biggest joy is working closely with Philadelphia Young Playwrights. Through their Core Residency program, I am able to frequent local high schools to teach playwriting. I have also served as a mentor for the Resident Playwrights at PYP, an application-based group of high school students. Giving personalized feedback and mentorship impacted me so deeply that I explored more opportunities with PYP. This coming fall, I will begin a two-year fellowship as the Special Programs Fellow.

Over the past year, I also began working with a local synagogue preschool/playschool. Working with tiny humans in the mornings and high school students in the afternoons has been my daily routine during the school year, and it’s a great exercise for my teacher brain! During the summers, I teach dance at a local theatre camp with elementary school students—my own version of “play creation”—and playwriting to high schoolers. This year, I will be developing a theatre/play creation camp for preschool-aged students.

 

Why were you interested in attending the symposium?

I was interested in the symposium because I did not go to university for teaching or education, so I saw the symposium as a professional development opportunity. Working for PYP has allowed me to participate in trauma-based professional development. Through these opportunities, I am able to give myself a larger knowledge on the ever-changing pedagogy of teaching.

 

Can you share something you found particularly valuable and/or surprising about the symposium?

One of my favorite aspects of the symposium was the icebreaker/warm up lead by Koresh Dance Company’s teaching artist, Teresa VanDenend Sorge. It was movement-based and completely engaging. I have since adapted the exercise and utilized it with my own students. They have loved it so much and it has proven extremely valuable as their creative autonomy blossoms.

 

Interview responses have been edited for length and clarity.

“Teaching opens the door to the arts”—Interview with Teaching Artist Angela Arrey-Wastavino

Photo courtesy of Angela Arrey-Wastavino.

 

Last month, the Bartol Foundation awarded scholarships to nine local teaching artists to attend a symposium about teaching in alternative spaces. As part of our ongoing Q&A series, we spoke with one of the scholarship recipients, visual artist and writer Angela Arrey-Wastavino, about her work as a teaching artist and experience at the symposium.

 

Can you tell me a bit about your work as a teaching artist? What kinds of spaces have you taught in?

I’ve been working with a variety of organizations, but mostly with children—I would say 70% of my participants are all children. I’ve also taught in some more non-traditional settings. For example, years ago I taught at a rehabilitation center for young inmates and first offenders. We were working with what was called Paño Art in the Southwest. It consists of having white handkerchiefs that people draw all over with ink—and that’s it. That was practically the only medium that we could use with inmates because of all the security protocols that we had to go through. At that time, not even pencils were allowed. So, it was very difficult for artists to accommodate their requirements. But it was very interesting and creative. Many inmates were very happy to participate because they had a wonderful talent.

These types of experiences are incredibly satisfying for me. Maybe that’s the reason why I’m so happy to be a teaching artist, because with the people I encounter, I can see the transformation through the arts. It’s incredibly rewarding. People who have never had access to the arts before, and having a first experience that is really positive for them—it’s really transformative. Teaching opens the door to the arts.

 

You first participated in a Bartol teaching artist workshop when they presented their marketing series in NYC. How did you wind up coming to Philadelphia?

I was living in Syracuse, New York at the time, which is a small city relatively close to the border with Canada. I was very active over there, participating in a number of different organizations—I was president of Onondaga Art Guild, I was doing public relations for Associate Artists of Central New York, I was a member of a number of communities supporting youth. But when you are a big city person and you’re living in a place like Syracuse, it can be frustrating.

I went to Bartol’s marketing workshop in New York, and I decided at that time that I had to move from Syracuse. When I became aware of what the Bartol Foundation was doing, I was surprised that it was coming from Philadelphia to be in New York City. And I was very curious. So, I started doing my own personal research regarding what the Foundation was, what it was doing, and I thought that it was really great and I would like to be participating. Therefore, I decided to visit Philadelphia for several days. And after being here and talking to people and visiting places, I felt very much at home from day one. And I decided that this was the place to be. And that was practically because of being informed of the Bartol Foundation. So, I made my decision, and here I am.

 

Why were you interested in attending the symposium?

There were three main reasons why I really wanted to participate: making connections, sharing experiences, and learning from other people. There were also some topics that were of great interest to me—for example, working in alternative spaces. Being new to Philadelphia, I’m actively looking to associate with other artists and to continue learning. And I think I was really welcomed into the community at this program.

 

Can you share something you found particularly valuable and/or surprising about the symposium?    

I was surprised with the figure cited by one of the panelists that 19% of the American population has been diagnosed with some type of disability. It made me think about the percentage who has NOT been diagnosed, adding to the official percentage. These figures preoccupy me. Are teaching artists prepared to effectively integrate special needs people in activities we offer in our communities?

Why it caught my attention is because when I work on projects sometimes, I have to explain that I’m not an occupational therapist—I’m a teaching artist. And being a teaching artist is still a term that the general population is not familiar with. You have to explain that you are not a teacher, you are not a therapist—you are a little bit something in between. I tremendously identified with what the speaker was saying at that point.

 

To learn more about Angela’s work as a teaching artist, visit http://aaartatelier.blogspot.com/.

Interview responses have been edited for length and clarity.

“Witness, archivist, activist, and creator” – Interview with Bartol Board Member Sannii Crespina-flores

Photo courtesy of Sannii Crespina-flores.

 

As part of an ongoing Q&A series, we will be learning more about the Bartol Foundation’s artistic community. Sannii Crespina-flores is a teaching artist, advocate, and activist for youth and women. She is a board member of the Bartol Foundation, currently serving in her third year on the board.

  

Can you tell me a bit about your work as a teaching artist?

I’ve been an artist and community activist for over 20 years, both for women and youth. My artwork was birthed as a result of me being a woman of color—specifically a black woman—and my advocacy comes from me being a mother. So, although I use the title “teaching artist,” I’m really an artist that shares a connection to the experiences of the people in my community. As an artist, I have the honor of being a witness, archivist, activist, and creator in my community. And it’s interesting, because my community has grown from just the people that I grew up with—my family and friends—to artists in the city, artists in the country, youth in the country, other advocates and activists, and also globally. I’ve had the privilege to go and share what I’ve learned and experienced with other folks, and then learn from them as well and create something beautiful from it.

What attracted you to becoming involved with the Bartol Foundation as a board member?

Fellow board member Rebecca Fabiano actually introduced me to the Bartol Foundation. I really loved the fact that it was a diverse board of women who, individually and collectively, have made changes to the arts education landscape in Philly. How could I not want to be a part of that?

What’s been the most rewarding moment from your time working with the Bartol Foundation?

I think I became a member at a really, really good time in the history of the Bartol Foundation. Because I’ve watched Bartol create this family—this living, breathing entity—by creating a platform for teaching artists and connecting teaching artists to organizations, and then partnering with organizations to grow this movement of art, education, and connectedness. So, that is what I find most rewarding, to be able to be a part of it. I don’t have specific any moments that stick out—I just have one ongoing positive, impactful experience.

 

To learn more about Sannii’s work as an artist, visit http://artistecard.com/SanniiCrespinaflores.

Interview responses have been edited for length and clarity.

 

“Becoming trauma-informed is a journey”—Interview with Teaching Artist Mindy A. Early

In the fall of 2018, the Bartol Foundation will be piloting a new series of trauma-informed training workshops for teaching artists. Mindy A. Early is the lead designer and facilitator for this series. She is also Director for Education and Program Services at Philadelphia Young Playwrights, where she manages in-class residences, out-of-school programs and special projects, and productions.

To learn more about Bartol’s upcoming trauma workshops, read our Q&A with Mindy.

 

How did you become aware of the impact of trauma on the students you were working with?

There’s a twofold answer to that question. The first, which may be the more obvious one, is that my teaching artists and myself would go into classrooms and use playwriting and monologue writing as a vehicle to encourage students to use and express their voices. As an organization, Young Playwrights never censors students, so they are allowed to write about whatever they would like, from completely fictional all the way through biographical. So, as you can imagine, many of our students take that opportunity to write about things that touch their lives directly, and some of those topics suggested that they had intersected with some trauma in their lives.

The secondary reason is that, for a long time, my teaching artists and I have believed that some of the behaviors encountered in classrooms that would be labeled as “unwanted” or “challenging” aren’t coming from a place of the students rebelling against the artist who’s in the classroom. A lot of these responses are coming from a different place. We were looking towards trying to find a model that could reframe our views of that behavior, and also equip us better to meet students where they were and to help them rather than discipline them.

 

What does it mean for teaching artists to be trauma-informed, and how were you trained in these practices?

The majority of my training comes through the Lakeside Global Institute. They have a three-part, 72-hour training for people who work with potentially trauma-impacted populations. I took those three courses in addition to some other readings and professional development sessions that I’ve attended.

Being a trauma-informed teaching artist is a process. The first step is realizing what trauma is, its causes, and its effect on the brain, body, and behavior. And then what its potential impact is on a person’s ability to forge positive relationships, to trust, or to be able to comfortably learn because of where they’re at in their brain state.

The second part is being able to recognize the signs and symptoms of trauma based on exhibited behaviors. This involves looking at how they interact, how they forge relationships, and how they’re responding physically, emotionally, and socially.

The final part is responding by fully applying knowledge about trauma into workshop practices and student encounters and, by so doing, seeking to actively resist re-traumatization. In other words, choosing responses that, rather than discipline or punish the individual, actually help to calm them and give them tools to heal, to build resiliency, and to learn how to develop positive relationships and other things that can help them through the impact of their trauma.

 

As the lead facilitator for the Bartol Foundation’s new training in trauma-informed practice for teaching artists, can you tell us about this training and what you hope it will achieve?

This training is interdisciplinary—artists of any art form can take this training and find the information valuable and directly applicable to their work.

The training will start in trauma theory—looking at what causes trauma and how it affects the brain, behavior, and ability to learn. You can’t talk about trauma without talking about the theories and getting a little scientific, so you really understand what it’s doing to the brain and body.

The training will then segue into how we can shift our practices as teaching artists. So, looking at what the considerations are as we plan our lessons, give directions, facilitate the classroom and transitions, and give students assignments and guideposts. As we’re teaching this portion of the workshop, we’re also teaching class facilitation practices—how to deal with students one-on-one and as a group.

We’re hoping to close out the sessions by looking at vicarious trauma and how to integrate self-care even in your busiest moments. Teaching artists who are working with trauma-impacted students on a daily basis are having a lot of heavy conversations, which can be a lot to take on. This has been coming up frequently as I’m in trauma-informed spaces as a teaching artist.

 

Anything else you’d like to add?

The act of becoming trauma-informed is definitely a journey and a process. In order to be truly trauma-informed, you have to be willing to dig into a lot of theory and reading. And then as you apply it to your practices, you have to be willing to dig into yourself—your biases, habits,strengths, and weaknesses—and really commit yourself to a bit of a paradigm shift and maybe letting some things go that have been part of your practice for many years. So, it is hard work and rigorous work, but it’s really important work. And it’s really rewarding when you have a workshop or a one-on-one interaction when you see that these principles make a huge difference and impact.

 

Interview responses have been edited for length and clarity.

“As artists, you never stop learning”—Interview with Teaching Artist Gigi McGraw

As part of an ongoing Q&A series, we will be learning more about the Bartol Foundation’s artistic community. Gigi McGraw is an author, teaching artist, and creative entrepreneur. She holds an M.A. in Theatre from Villanova University, and has over 15 years of experience in community outreach and learning development, with particular focus on intergenerational programming.

 

Can you tell me a bit about your work as a teaching artist?

I see myself as putting myself out in the world as an author and social artist. I use multidisciplinary arts practices to address social issues, or even just universal themes like love, legacy, and family. With the social issues, the focus is more on Philadelphia and what’s going on in some of our marginalized communities, such as gun violence and mass incarceration. I see myself as using art to engage, entertain, and inform, but also to connect with the community.

With my intergenerational programming, a current area of interest is using my art to create Memory Cafes, which are creative experiences that help mature adults who are dealing with dementia and memory loss. The cafes are little sit-downs that might have different objects, music, or newspaper clippings from a certain time period. The purpose is to have the individuals interact with the objects, pick them up, talk about them—and the hope is that it will spark a memory. A lot of times with people who are dealing with memory issues or cognitive decline, something that makes them think of their childhood can initiate conversation and spark memories, even though they might not remember what they did a couple of hours ago. So, I’m really interested in seeing how I can use social art to address this issue in a creative way.


You attend a lot of professional development opportunities at Bartol and other organizations. What would you tell other teaching artists about how this supports your work as a teaching artist and entrepreneur?

The fact that Bartol is providing this free resource for artists is a wonderful thing! I also look at these workshops as a wonderful networking opportunity. Not only are you being connected to experts in the field, but you’re also meeting fellow peers in the arts from all kinds of disciplines—dancers, rappers, poets, authors. A beautiful thing is that after the workshop, the facilitator will send out a list of everyone’s contact information so you expand your base of contacts and people that you know. It’s an opportunity to create friendships with people who are like-minded.

As people, and especially as artists, you never stop learning. As teachers, educators, and artists, you should always be looking for ways to evolve. I think that the Bartol workshops give you that opportunity. They’re really interested in finding unique or clever workshops, or just giving people foundational tips and advice—all of it is really good.

 

What do you see in the future for your teaching artist work in the community? How do Bartol’s professional development workshops feed your growth as a teaching artist?

For my future, I really want to get serious with my social art and have that be my primary source of revenue. I want to be able to connect and engage not only with the community, but with movers and shakers around the world. What I see for my future is really establishing my brand, but also fine-tuning my model of creating an artistic project around a theme or issue.

I also want to make sure that I continue to engage with the community, whether it be over issues like gun violence and mass incarceration, or dealing with mature adults with Memory Cafes. I don’t think that my projects and activities will always be this large, grandiose thing. A lot of the work will be on the micro level, and I think that you can definitely make change even if you’re starting from a small place with a group of 20 or 30 people—that can grow and have a ripple effect.

Bartol’s professional development workshops will not only give me the support that I need, but it also encourages me. You’re around other people who understand the importance of the work that you’re doing. I also hope that with my background as a workshop and professional trainer, that in the future I may be able to offer Bartol some workshops for other teaching artists. I’ve received so many wonderful opportunities from Bartol, and I would like to be able to give that back in the form of presenting workshops and trainings.

 

To learn more about Gigi’s work, visit https://1cupofcoffeeblog.wordpress.com/.

Interview responses have been edited for length and clarity.

 

Are You Covered? Insurance 101 for Teaching Artists – Interview with Holly Fisher

As a teaching artist, you are also your own small business manager. It’s important to think through the responsibilities and liabilities you take on when going into the community to do work—or even in your own studio.

Today on the Bartol blog, we bring you an interview with Holly Fisher. Holly is Program Lead for Insurance and Visas at Fractured Atlas, a New York-based nonprofit that works with artists, arts organizations, and cultural stakeholders nationwide to provide affordable and accessible insurance coverage.

 

What kinds of insurance are most essential for teaching artists?

It varies based on what each individual teaching artist is doing and where they are in their career. The most common type of insurance we see by far is liability insurance, usually with abuse and molestation coverage. Sometimes we’ll have teaching artists request student accident coverage, or inland marine or property insurance for expensive materials or equipments. Workers’ compensation we see a lot, and then there’s volunteer accident coverage if an artist works with volunteers who need to be covered.

When does it make sense for a teaching artist to get insurance?

We don’t, by default, say “yes, you need coverage.” But if you’re working with entities—like granting organizations, the city, schools, or a landlord—that require you to have insurance, obviously that’s a reason to get coverage. It’s going to give you access to more opportunities. Another reason to get coverage is if you are looking to lend credibility to your organization or yourself as a teaching artist. Parents are going to feel more secure, for instance, if you have coverage for abuse and molestation, knowing that you’ve crossed all of your t’s and dotted your i’s. Ask if it financially makes sense for you. Sometimes insurance is expensive, so it doesn’t make financial sense. If it’s going to be super expensive and you don’t really have anyone requiring you to have insurance, it may not yet be the time.

What are some strategies for teaching artists to secure insurance?

With somebody starting out looking for insurance, I would recommend that they first do some research on insurance providers that specialize in the arts and apply to as many as possible. It’s a really good idea to get quotes to compare. I would also say that it’s a good idea to have any insurance requirements or contracts for the coming year at the ready to give to a broker or agent so they can make sure that the artist is really getting the insurance that they need.

What are the specific concerns teaching artists should be aware of when purchasing insurance? What questions should they ask?

If you’re looking at different companies and wondering where to start, a good idea is to make sure that the insurance companies are A-rated by A.M. Best—that just means that they’re reputable companies that are financially secure. And that’s going to be important. It’s something that a lot of different institutions might require. If you’re working with a landlord or with a granting organization, they may want you to have insurance with a reputable company.

Another thing to look for is that the limits of the coverage are going to match what you need for requirements to your landlord or from a grant. For liability insurance, best practice is usually that your policy has a minimum of a million dollars per occurrence and two million dollars aggregate. Something that is less than that is going to be lower than the requirements for a lot of different institutions.

I would also make sure that the artists are going through their third party contracts to see if there are any special requirements. It can be tough if you’re about to start a really cool opportunity and find out that your insurance doesn’t meet a certain tiny little requirement, which would prevent you from getting that grant or working with this school, for instance.

Checking the quote itself is important to see what exclusions are on the policy. That’s something that you definitely want to ask a broker or agent—for example, if there’s a deductible. For most liability policies, that’s not going to be the case, but certainly for an equipment insurance policy, or if you’re covering your materials, that would be something that might come up.

Additional insured coverage is important if you’re working with other entities. If possible, it’s great to get blanket additional insured coverage so that anybody who needs a certificate of insurance or proof of your coverage can get it.

 

To learn more about insurance opportunities for teaching artists, visit https://fracturedatlasinsurance.org.

Interview responses have been edited for length and clarity.

“Feedback that makes you want to go back to work, rather than go back to bed” – Interview with Elizabeth “EJ” Johnson

As part of an occasional series, we will be learning more about the Bartol Foundation’s board members and teaching artists. Elizabeth “EJ” Johnson is Associate Artistic Director/Partnerships at Dance Exchange. She is a choreographer, dancer, and educator with a focus in socially engaged dance practices.

On Sunday, March 25, 2018, EJ will be leading a Bartol workshop, Feedback that Nurtures: Liz Lerman’s Critical Response Process. Register for this workshop here: http://bit.ly/2EabXw4.

 

Can you tell me a bit about your work at Dance Exchange?

I have been a part of the company since 1998, so going into my 20th anniversary season. I was the Associate Artistic Director when Liz Lerman, our founding Artistic Director, was here—I was with her for 12 years dancing in the company, directing the Teen Exchange program, and facilitating workshops. And then as she was departing, I left my full-time post to go work at Arizona State University to develop a new program for socially engaged practice and to get my Master of Fine Arts. And then I came back to work more fully with the organization in 2015. Basically, I’ve been at Dance Exchange for a long, long time, with a brief stint in the desert.

 

Why was Critical Response Process developed and what are its key elements?

The key elements of Critical Response is that it’s feedback that makes you want to go back to work, rather than go back to bed. When defensiveness starts, listening stops. And so, this is a structured way of being able to give and receive helpful feedback that is about the artist making their best work for their own vision, rather than us as outside responders imposing our vision on the artist’s work.

Critical Response Process was developed by Liz Lerman when a few key things were happening in her life and at the Dance Exchange. One, she was teaching university students, and she was wondering on what grounds she was evaluating their choreography. And she recognized that she could not do that without a dialogue being a key point of the process. She was also, as an artist, creating very political work and work that was with performers across generations that didn’t necessarily look like a lot of the work that was already out there. And she found that she really dreaded those post-show backstage conversations with people, and also the critics—she felt like she, as an artist, needed a voice in how her work was being critiqued.

She recognizes, too—and this is something that I completely relate to—that there’s a cultural narrative that artists should just toughen up and get a thicker skin to be able to “take brutally honest feedback.” Her question is, why does honesty have to be brutal? Is there a better way? Can you be honest, and can you give feedback, in a way that doesn’t make you just want to give up? So, this is a system that has helped her to maintain her own thin skin. Because as artists who work in communities, the capacity to have thin skin is an asset—to be able to feel, to be able to connect. We don’t want to get rid of our thin skin, we just want to be able to work in a way that we don’t have to “toughen up” to take it. That there is a more productive and humane way to be in a dialogue about work in progress.

 

How can Critical Response Process be used by teaching artists in their work in the community?

I think that there are multiple ways. There are certain values that underpin the Critical Response Process that can be used in the teaching practice. It’s about generosity, about curiosity, about being invested in somebody else’s success in the ways that the process can be used for peer-to-peer feedback—that the teacher doesn’t have to be the only person in the room with the knowledge and power. It provides a structure where many, many people can have the capacity to help grow each other’s work.

In the formal process, there are some elements that are really important. There are four key steps.

Step 1: Statements of Meaning. What was valuable, meaningful, evocative, surprising, curious, memorable, exciting, effective about the work that was created? Being able to have that spirit of working from what’s working is an incredible asset to bring to any learning environment.

Step 2: Artist as Questioner. In a learning environment for somebody who is creating, to have the opportunity to articulate what are their struggles and desires. It allows a person to really create their own vision and voice.

Step 3: Neutral Questions. These are questions that have no opinion embedded inside. So, instead of saying “Why is your lighting so dark?” we’d ask something like “What informed your lighting choices?” This allows people, without defensiveness, to be able to explore why they’re making the choices that they are.

Step 4: Opinion Time. These permissioned opinions. For instance, “I have an opinion about your lighting choices, would you like to hear it?” If somebody has gone through the process of creating, people usually want to know those opinions. But it just allows us to prepare for the opinions, to allow ourselves to receive it.

 

Anything else you’d like to add?

I think that the Critical Response Process has so much to offer people of different fields and domains. We’ve done it with people who do marketing, people who do grant proposals, people who do lesson plans. Although this grew out of a dance organization, it’s been used very widely in the visual arts, in theatre arts, and then also with business. So, I think it has a broad range of applicability.

I also think that you don’t need to be an expert to be able to have something of value to contribute. When I’ve done Critical Response with faculty and students, it kind of democratizes the playing field—that somebody’s response to somebody’s work can be about the chord progression, but it can also be a comment like “it reminds me of being outside in my grandmother’s yard.” And that those both have value in the room. So, I think that there’s a usefulness to it, but then there’s also a process about it that can help cultivate community as we invest in each other’s success.

 

To learn more about EJ’s work, visit http://danceexchange.org/.

Interview responses have been edited for length and clarity.

Arts Access for Everyone—Interview with Occupational Therapist Roger Ideishi

As part of an occasional series, we will be learning more about the Bartol Foundation’s board members and teaching artists. Roger Ideishi is Program Director of Occupational Therapy at Temple University. He specializes in working with arts and community-based organizations to develop programs for families and children.

On Thursday, February 15, Roger will be co-teaching a Bartol workshop with Charlie Miller, Deputy Director of Art-Reach. Register for this workshop here: http://bit.ly/2DzuiXd.

 

Can you tell me a bit about how your work as an occupational therapist led you to working with arts organizations?

Working out in the community or working in schools with other occupational therapists, one of the things that we felt was impactful was creative expression. Children seemed to attach themselves very naturally to the creative process. And so, we just started integrating that creative process into the classroom, working with the teachers, working with therapists.

Back in the early 2000s, we happened to come across a dancer from the Pennsylvania Ballet. She was interested in how movement impacted children with developmental disabilities, and she partnered with us to develop a program. When we started doing this program in schools, we began to notice strengths in kids with developmental disabilities that we never saw before. It was very surprising to the teachers and therapists that this experience—dancing, movement experience brought by a professional dancer—really seemed to capture the imagination and exploration of these kids. And we started to pursue that.

This connection between the classroom and the community we felt was really important. That’s a little different than what we often see in classroom experiences for kids who have developmental disabilities. You don’t really see much strong classroom–community connection. So, that’s what sparked this, and then once we started doing that it just snowballed across the country, and a lot of people were asking about the example that was going on in Philadelphia. The Kennedy Center and the Smithsonian reached out to us. Having that connection really brought a lot of validity to the work that we were doing.

 

Why do you believe that it’s important for teaching artists to learn how to adapt their practice to people with disabilities?

I think teaching artists naturally have the skills to do that adaptation. But it’s important that teaching artists have some training because it’s such a broad population. Even as a practicing therapist, I still encounter situations where I’m a little stumped and I need a team around me to help me problem-solve. I think that’s an important message for teaching artists—to recognize that there are lots of people out there who can support them when they’re in new situations and may need some collaborative problem solving. And then to also understand the broad scope of what they may encounter if they haven’t had a lot of experience working with diverse populations with disabilities. Giving teaching artists these resources is one of the most important parts; it helps bring a greater breadth and depth to the work they’re already doing.

 

What’s been the most rewarding moment from your time working with arts organizations?

I remember the first time we did a sensory-friendly Nutcracker ballet with the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, the feedback we were getting from the families was that this was a first-time experience for their entire family. What families often tell us is that they have split families, where one person stays home with the family member who has a disability, and that they rarely have these community experiences as a whole family.

At the Nutcracker, some of these families were walking out of the theatre just so emotional because they enjoyed the show together; they saw the joy in each other, being a part of the show and having that shared experience. To me, that’s just so touching and so moving to hear the impact that had on families. Parents even said that this was the first time that they didn’t feel like they were being judged, or that they had to be on alert like, “Is my child going to do something that’s going to upset other people?”

Being in an environment where everyone understands and adapts, welcomes, and accepts everybody for who they are, these parents felt validated. Having arts organizations be welcoming and supportive of individuals with diverse abilities and disabilities means a lot to these families. When I hear that feedback from families, it just gets to me that we’re actually meeting a need. I think that’s probably the most rewarding experience that I continue to have. With every initiative that I develop, I hear the same thing from families over and over again.

 

Anything else you’d like to add?

I think it’ll be good for society in general if more of these kinds of initiatives develop, as we have more teaching artists who reach out to these individuals and these families. We’re slowly, fundamentally changing society.

 

To learn more about Roger’s work, visit https://cph.temple.edu/rs/faculty/roger-i-ideishi.

Interview responses have been edited for length and clarity.

“When we’re writing a letter to our father, we’re really writing a letter to ourselves.” An Interview with Teaching Artist Tina Smith-Brown

As part of an occasional series, we will be learning more about the Bartol Foundation’s board members and teaching artists. Tina Smith-Brown is a Philadelphia-based writer and teaching artist. For over a decade, she has presented her Letter to My Father workshop to audiences of all ages, which explores the impact of one’s relationship (or lack of a relationship) with their father.

Can you tell me a bit about your work as a writer and teaching artist?

Anytime I write, whether it’s fiction or nonfiction, it’s very important to me that I’m always trying to share something new or teach something to the reader that they might not have known.My purpose in doing that is to teach African-American history subjects that people have long forgotten about or kids may not have known about. For example, Atlantic City was segregated in the 1950s and 60s, and one section was nicknamed by Caucasians as “Chicken Bone Beach.” All the African-Americans would come to the beach, and since they couldn’t buy food they would all pack fried chicken in baskets, so at the end of the day there would be all these bones left on the beach. I think that’s a great piece of history that our kids don’t know anything about, so that’s one of these short stories. So, I always try to write to entertain, but also to teach.

I always say God lets you do some things, and some things you’re just meant to do—it’s your job. And Letter to My Father is my job. I consider it something that I was supposed to do, I was placed here to do. And that started simply with doing workshops for women, giving them opportunities to write a letter to their father and to express some stuff. I realized that we carry things around that we never got off our chest, whether it’s positive or negative. When we’re writing a letter to our father, we’re really writing a letter to ourselves about where we’re at, why we’re at this place in time. And then I realized by talking to so many women who were older—30, 40, 50, 60—that a lot of women were still living their life by situations that had occurred or didn’t occur in that relationship with their father. So, I considered what if we could start doing this earlier, if kids started addressing some of this stuff? And you find out that it’s okay to talk about this relationship. It’s okay to feel good about it, feel bad about it. It’s okay to express how you feel in your life, if you’re happy, if you’re sad. It’s okay to open that door. And so, then I developed Letter to My Father for kids, and I started doing workshops for kids,

What attracted you to becoming involved with the Bartol Foundation as a workshop leader?

Bartol is just a fabulous organization for teaching artists, especially teaching artists that are just starting out. When you’re just starting out, you don’t really know how do I go about this, or what should I charge, or who is my workshop really for? And they help you to narrow down those very important essentials. I take a lot of their courses that have taught me how to market my workshop, how you should set up for your workshop, how to figure out who your audience is, how much to charge for a workshop. I love having Bartol in my life personally, but I also love that they are opening the door to help so many other people. You can come in for advice if you need it, you can come in for conversation—they really lift up the teaching artists. And I am extremely grateful for that.

What’s been the most rewarding moment from your time working with the Bartol Foundation?

Learning how to make my marketing package [for Letter to My Father]. Because in order to do that, you have to narrow down who you’re advertising to, your audience. And once you’re able to do that, that’s half of the battle. Every workshop is not for everybody. I offer Letter to My Father to adults and kids, but I have a specific workshop for each one. So, when they helped me narrow it down, I realized that I needed two separate workshops, that I needed to look at it in two different ways. I think that was the most powerful workshop I ever attended with them.

Anything else you’d like to add?

I think that it’s important that teaching artists apply for grant money, not just for the monetary help, but for the shot in the arm that it gives you. Once I received those grants [from the Leeway Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts], I felt like I was truly recognized. I felt like I was legitimate—like somebody believes enough in me to put money behind me. That just made a huge difference in my life. So, I always like to encourage teaching artists not to give up. If there’s a grant and they think that they can qualify for it, apply for it.

To learn more about Tina’s work, visit https://tsmithbrown.com/.

Interview responses have been edited for length and clarity

 

Ideas! Collaboration! Community experience!

Bartol’s 2017 TA Survey (Part II)

Here is what Teaching Artists are saying about our free professional development workshops. And what we have planned for the coming year.

Bartol workshops are hands-on and taught by your peers. Our Teaching Artist Play Dates are 90-minutes of activities in a specific art form, designed for artists to cross disciplines, adapt and share.

  • “I literally copied the entire lesson plan from the recent workshop…with great success.”
  • “I translated the construct that the teaching artist showed for creating their own choreography to music composition. Love learning from other art forms!”

Bartol’s Resource Field Trips connect you with free or low-cost resources to supplement your teaching.

  • “When I attend workshops, I always take away a strategy or approach that I can implement in my teaching practice.”

Bartol’s Marketing Workshops help you develop concrete materials for getting the gig and making sure it is profitable for you and productive for your participants.

  • “I must say the work you and Bartol does is a godsend! I am negotiating this contract and while I bit at the initial happiness of what I thought was a great offer, I would end up losing money on this project. It literally is a classic textbook example of one of your case studies from the financial workshops.”

Bartol tackles the tough issues, including learning more about related fields such as trauma-informed practice and thinking about issues of race. 

  • “I talked with my kindergarten–second grade students about race after the race training [workshop].  I would have otherwise thought them too young.”
  • “I used a lot of the self-care and student-care techniques from the workshop about trauma-informed teaching.”

Bartol workshops are about building connections and community in this profession we call teaching artistry.

  • “Every Bartol workshop I attend leaves me feeling inspired and energized. It makes me feel like I am not alone in the work I do.”

Join us in the coming year. Workshops will be posted up soon.  Click to get on our mailing list to be among the first to hear about new sessions!

In Praise of Teaching Artists

Bartol’s 2017 TA Survey (Part I)

I am grateful every day for teaching artists.

At the Bartol Foundation, our mission is to get the best arts education to as many people in Philadelphia as possible. In schools. At senior centers. In prisons or shelters. Art, everywhere.

The only way we can accomplish this is through teaching artists—those of you who work for cultural organizations and those who are making their own opportunities to share their talents as artists, teachers, activists, neighbors and citizens.  Teaching artists who engage with people and make art in every form imaginable. Every day.

Each year, we survey teaching artists to find out who you are, where you work and what you need from us to do your work better.  Thanks to the 150+ Philadelphia-area teaching artists who participated. From this survey, we design our free professional development programs.

 The Five Top Things We Learned About Teaching Artists This Summer

  1. You teach people of all ages. While the vast majority (75%) of you are teaching K-12, a smaller group is teaching everyone from pre-schoolers ((27%) to seniors (23%.)
  2. You teach in all kinds of places. While 65% of you are doing multiple-visit programs at schools, 40% are doing multiple-visit programs at cultural organizations and another 40% are doing multi-visit programs at other nonprofits that are not cultural organizations.
  3. You are entrepreneurs. More than half of you are securing work on your own. You also work for cultural organizations as an employee (36%) and as a contractor (51%).
  4. You want to keep learning. Three-quarters of you participated in professional development opportunities in the past year (about 40% through Bartol’s Teaching Artists Workshops).
  5. You connect! Of the approximately 50 survey respondents who painstakingly told us where they worked last year, you worked for almost 100 organizations and in 80+ schools from Adair to West Philadelphia High School.  Multiply that by almost 2000 people on our teaching artist list and your impact is extraordinary!

We are in praise of teaching artists. We want to help you do your work better and smarter.  Stay tuned for our fall workshops, which are coming soon!

 

 

Meet Your Students Where They Are: Youth Development Tips for Teaching Artists

Rebecca Fabiano, Bartol Board Member and Co-Founder of PopUpPlay, shares her insights on how to engage youth of all ages. PopUpPlay believes that all people learn best through interactive, hands-on playful experiences. In this entry, Rebecca shares her thoughts and tips on how to best engage youth in elementary, middle, and high school.

Elementary school

Children in elementary school learn through play, storytelling and songs, so engagement with them should be playful. Their imagination can be very vivid and “untainted,” so you can encourage creative thinking by asking open-ended questions and creating opportunities for them to move their bodies! Then, you can provide time for them to rest and regroup. Providing routines and rituals which the children can count on signals to them what they can expect. Also, knowing how to transition from one activity to the next can help create physical and emotional safety and help manage expectations.

Keeping children engaged can reduce undesired behaviors. At this age, they will do a lot of mimicking, so how can you utilize this as a strategy to engage them? If you’re willing to be playful, they are more likely to as well. When you show them the wiggles, they’ll do it! To get them to regroup, consider holding up one hand and counting down from five, while keeping the other hand over your lips, signaling quiet. Ask them to copy you every time they see you do it. Also, sing the “clean-up song” (clean up, clean up everybody cleans up!) as a way for everyone to clean up. You can also tell them to get back to their circle by tip-toeing without talking by the time you count to five, and you can do this with them.

Middle school

For middle-schoolers, harness the power of the group! Peers are of utmost importance to pre-teens. Middle-schoolers are going to be really concerned with being judged and what their peers think of them, so you may have to show them how to recover from making mistakes. Their interests are constantly shifting, which is exciting, though it can also be frustrating because adults often interpret that behavior as being unfocused. Instead, you can see it as an opportunity to introduce youth to a variety of techniques, instruments, etc. You can also consider rotating the offerings every three weeks or offer a flexible menu from which they can choose each day, allowing them to select options depending where their friends are going that day. Lastly, keep it concrete. Children and youth at this age/stage are still thinking in terms of right and wrong or fair and unfair, without much room for nuance or abstraction unlike older teens who are more able to see shades of gray in a given situation.

High school

At this age, youth are often able to spend more time going deeper into a topic or artistic pursuit. Most youth are able to explore abstract concepts with more skill as opposed to middle-schoolers, who typically still need concrete directions and projects. You can keep expectations high when it comes to participation and outcomes (whether it is a project or product), and also make connections to their near future, such as summer jobs or college. Identify with them—and name for them—the skills and qualities they are learning and using, and explain how these skills and qualities are useful in particular careers, or as a responsible citizen or stellar student. You can also think about bringing in guest speakers, who can discuss their careers and their journey as artists

Knowing where your students are developmentally will make your work together more successful.  Watch Rebecca talk more about this at the Bartol National Teaching Artist Video Library of TA Tips here.

Got a minute? Watch a teaching artist tip!

Bartol Foundation launches National Teaching Artist Video Library

Imagine this: You are waiting for the bus on the way to teaching a residency, wracking your brain for a new icebreaker or wondering what exactly is that “common core” that everyone keeps talking about. The answers are a minute away (which is much quicker than a Philly bus these days!).

As part of the Bartol Foundation’s work to support teaching artists, we are creating the National Teaching Artist Video Library of one-minute teaching artist tips, a crowd-sourced resource by teaching artists for teaching artists.  Our videos include:

  • “How-to” videos: One-minute tips you can use in your classroom now
  • “What is…” videos:  A glossary of common phrases in education, child development, and other areas that teaching artists should know

This month’s videos:

Watch one now!

NOW WE NEED YOU! There are more videos to come but we need yours. Do you have quick, helpful gems for your fellow teaching artists?  What is your best teaching artist tip?

Join the movement! Share your knowledge. Learn practical tips in return. SUBMIT YOUR VIDEO HERE.

Want to make sure you get all of Bartol’s resources?  Be sure to join us on social media. You can find us on FacebookTwitterYouTube, and at our blog.

Eric Booth: What is your TA purpose thread?

Eric Booth PhotoWhen asked to describe the field of teaching artistry, those of us in or connected to it usually pause—it’s an unfamiliar question, and an uncertain feeling about how to define this amorphous workforce. As we answer (IF we answer), we usually default to describing where TAs work, or who hires TAs. It doesn’t make much of an impression—I can tell you from having talked about this field a lot over the decades.

In the last five years, I have changed the way I conceive of the field of teaching artistry; and this fresh perspective has had an impact when I share it. It’s more inclusive—now, practitioners with different titles like “teaching artist” and “community artist” and “artist in healthcare” can see their natural connections; new partnerships become evident; and we focus on the value that teaching artists create (which is what everyone cares about) more than the locations that employ them (really, who outside the field cares about that?). I call this view the Six Purpose Threads, and the attached article lays out this landscape. It identifies the six main goals teaching artists (and others with different titles but similar skills and approaches) are hired to achieve. These are the main purposes TAs strive to accomplish in their work.  In brief:

  • Work of art: To enhance the encounter with art works.
  • Art skills development: To deepen the development of art-making skills,
  • Arts integration: To catalyze the learning of non-arts content.
  • Community quality of life: To increase the livability of communities.
  • Social/personal development: To develop personal or social capacities.
  • Other instrumental goals: To achieve non-arts goals important to institutions
  • + Digital: To activate personal artistry in digital media.

It has been adopted by Lincoln Center Education for their Teaching Artist Development Lab as a founding for their intensive, multi-level training. It is prompting teaching artists to rethink their contributions and expertise in the context of a wide and expanding field. As you will read, the six threads are pretty inclusive, and you may find your work has fallen into several, and that you have an interest in learning more about another. As TAs grapple with this vision of the field in workshops or in the luxury of two weeks at Lincoln Center, we recognize a core set of skills that applies in all those threads, as well as the distinct skills, practices, and habits of mind that lead to excellence in the different threads. It is illuminating, often exhilarating to clarify what you know and don’t know, what you want to learn more about, and what areas of special expertise you want to share with colleagues. That is a healthy set of discrimination to bring to a growing field.

At a recent day-long forum hosted by Grantmakers for the Arts, I was convinced it is time to add a seventh thread that is not adequately housed in the original six—arts activism: to foster political change. So, you will read a living inquiry not a set theory.

What do you think?

Read about the Six (Plus) Purpose Threads:.EricBooth.Teaching Artist Purpose Threads-essay

Learn more about Eric Booth’s work here.

News from the (TA) Field: Pay Rates For Teaching Artists

Josh RobinsonMeet Josh Robinson, another Bartol Teaching Artist Ambassador, writing on the conversation around pay rates for teaching artists:

I grew up around the music business, playing pots, pans, and eventually drums in the basement in my hometown of Woodstock, NY. Early musical influences include hanging around the Woodstock Recording Studio for sessions, sitting in on “Blues Break”, my father’s weekly radio show, and getting to sound check Levon Helm’s drum set while my father worked as a sound engineer for “The Band” with whom he toured the U.S and Japan.  My music is filled with the instruments and rhythms of Latin, Brazilian, and Afro-Caribbean music.

I am currently a member of “Alo Brasil”, a 14 piece Philadelphia based Samba group, and “ The Spoken Hand Percussion Orchestra” a group that blends drumming traditions from Cuba, Brazil, Africa, and India. I have worked with a variety of populations of children and adults as a teaching artist using percussion as a tool for teaching aspects of communication,self-expression, teamwork, creativity, leadership, discipline, and cultural awareness through music and instrument making. I am devoted to my work with grieving children through organizations like T.A.P.S. Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors), The Moyer Foundation, and NAGC (National Alliance For Grieving Children).

At the National Conference for Community Art Education, I attended the working group exploring teaching artist pay which addressed the realities of teaching artist pay rates from both the organization and teaching artist perspective. We had a candid and transparent discussion about pay rates, amount of hours, cost of living, sustainability, expectations, and possibilities for regulating or generating a model or guide that could be a universal reference for all working in the field. We talked about the amount of hours/programs required to make a decent living as a teaching artist. We discussed the trends around the country based on data and research provided form several sources and did comparisons. I was impressed by both “sides” arriving at an agreement for the need/value of consistency and setting up a guide or guidelines for organizations and teaching artists around the country to utilize.

Note: This working group has been hard at work developing a prototype for the TA Payrate Calculator. Stay tuned for updates.

You can learn more about teaching artist pay rates in Philadelphia here.

News from the (TA) Field: Funding the Teaching Artist Field

AlvarezMy name is Belle Alvarez and I am a Philly-based dance artist. I love changing lives through dance and facilitating meaningful experiences with movement that instill confidence, foster artistry, and build community. I am an Education Outreach Program Coordinator and Teaching Artist at BalletX and I am also a Teaching Artist for Dancing Classrooms Philly. I have performed for independent choreographers and companies such as Sean Thomas Boyt, JDY | dance, and Jessica Warchal-King/The Embodiment Project. I do what I love and I love what I do.

I was thrilled this past November when the Bartol Foundation awarded me a scholarship to attend the National Guild Teaching Artist Pre-Conference. I was proud to represent Teaching Artists from Philadelphia!I was especially energized by meeting people who were like me yet diverse in their cultural and artistic backgrounds from around the country who share similar convictions about the mission of artist citizens. We align with Eric Booth’s definition: “A teaching artist is a practicing professional artist with the complementary skills, curiosities and habits of mind of an educator, who can effectively engage a wide range of people in learning experiences in, through, and about the arts.”  We bonded over humor, passion for what the arts can do in society, and an eagerness for our work to make a greater impact. I got to connect with peers that I want to collaborate with.

At the conference, I chose to convene with the working group: Funding the Teaching Artist Field. After starting an initial conversation at the conference, we  continue meet through a monthly conference call. In our meetings, we are discussing the role of the entities which fund our programs. So far we have raised questions such as:

  • What is the role of the artist who teaches in the program that gets funded?
  • Do funders look at student impact versus impact on the artist who teaches?

In advocating for the livelihood of artist citizens in the field of Teaching Artistry, we want to explore how funders consider the role of a teaching artist vs. the impact of a program. When the livelihood of a Teaching Artist is ensured, their work has a greater impact. I hope our research contributes to a teaching artist field that thrives. We’re excited for this process to unfold.

When I’m not working with youth, rehearsing, or performing, I lead recreational modern dance classes for adults at the Performance Garage. I am choreographing a new work that will be presented by Birds on a Wire Dance Theatre this June and I am in the process of developing other projects that will be revealed soon. Want to learn more about my work? Visit www.bellealvarez.com

Notes from the Field: Bartol TA Ambassadors

TA AmbassadorsHow do you build a field?  At the Bartol Foundation, we are part of a national conversation on the best ways to build the field of teaching artistry.  Last November, we brought 8 teaching artists with us to attend the National Conference on Community Arts Education.  Here are Bartol TA Ambassadors with TA guru Eric Booth: Jacob Winterstein (poet); Josh Robinson (musician); Monay Washington (visual artist); Beth Feldman Brandt (Bartol/poet); Dana Velazquez (visual artist), Jan Michener (theatre artist): Greg Corbin (poet); Eric Booth;  Belle Alvarez (dancer); and Gabrielle Sanchez (theatre artist).  A fine looking group! Each of them participated in planning session to generate a national movement to build and support teaching artists.  They will be writing in this space from time to time with their updates.  Stay tuned!

 

What is a teaching artist?

Are you someone who practices their art and chooses to share this art with the community? While the work of a teaching artist can take many forms and we all may have different definitions, Eric Booth does a masterful job of describing what are the essential elements of a teaching artist.