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“Mapping the careers of teaching artists requires a very complex system” – Interview with WT McRae, New Victory Theater Teaching Artist

Photo courtesy of New Victory Theater.

Plan the next steps in your career with the Bartol Foundation! On Monday, February 11, our colleagues from the nationally recognized New Victory Theater will be traveling down from New York City to share their Teaching Artist Pathways Tool with us.

Read our Q&A with one of the workshop leaders, WT McRae, to learn more about how this tool can serve your TA practice. More info and registration details can be found on our workshops page.

 

Can you tell me a bit about your work with New Victory Theater?

I’ve been a teaching artist with The New Victory Theater since 2008. During that time, I’ve had the pleasure of teaching ages 0-100, doing audience engagement in various public settings, and developing curriculums in collaborative ways for a number of programs. The New Vic is a remarkable organization! They have really embraced the talents of teaching artists and apply our work to programs at all levels. Some examples include administrative think tank (enrichment team), internal training and professional development design and facilitation, research strategy planners, and arts education field research. I feel lucky to be in a place where my artistry, expertise, and intellect are valued in such an exciting way.

 

Can you explain what the Teaching Artist Pathways Tool is and how it can benefit teaching artists?

A few years ago, I participated in a convening on the Sustainability of the Teaching Artist, led by Eric Booth and hosted by the National Guild for Community Arts Education. Working alongside people from all over the country engaged in this work, we took on the particular task of mapping career trajectories for teaching artists. We found that teaching artists come into the field from so many different backgrounds and entry points—and teaching artistry has always been housed in different institutional settings, funded for different purposes, and called so many different things—that mapping the careers of teaching artists requires a very complex system.

What we developed is the Teaching Artist Pathways Tool, which is somewhat like a professional development board game and coloring page. We imagined a tool that could function like a map of their careers—teaching artists could map out where they’ve been and plan where they were going next. This effort helps them understand their work as a career, instead of a series of discrete experiences. The tool has now been through several stages of iterative design, and we’ve had the opportunity to run many groups of artists through the process. What we’ve found is that early-career artists find that the tool illuminates where they can go, while more experienced artists really enjoy piecing their career path together, talking about common trajectories, and dreaming for their own future.

 

What is the most surprising or interesting thing that can happen when teaching artists consider their careers using the TAP Tool?

Immediately? They can start to see their work as a career. That alone can be a transformative experience for many people who have found themselves doing mission-driven work that is often not exactly what they’d planned to do in their careers. But it really develops a sense of community. It allows you to see how your colleagues and friends have moved through the field to arrive at this point of adjacency, and to hone strategies for dreaming, collaborative accountability, and advocating for ourselves and each other in the organizations we work with.

 

Interview responses have been edited for length and clarity.

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