Over the past three years, I have seen an increase in the awareness, need and appreciation of teaching artists as individuals and a professional field. And they should get the credit they are way overdue for. But what is a teaching artist?
In an article entitled The Time Has Come for a National Field of Teaching Artistry, Eric Booth, defines a teaching artist as practicing professional artists with 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. I like this definition because it highlights the diverse skill sets of teaching artists and that they are not limited to a certain group of people.
The field of teaching artistry is a fairly young profession, only coming about in the 1980s. The word “teaching artist” was first coined by Lincoln Center. This was in response to the Reagan-Era of economics (Reaganomics) that brought about huge cuts in arts education, that led to many arts organizations to send artists out to schools as a way to help fill the gap of the arts in education.
Today, over 35 years later, the role of teaching artists has expanded to not only include working in school settings with students in grades PreK-12 and arts and cultural organizations such as museums, theaters, and concert halls, but also senior centers, health and wellness programs, and social services such as the foster care, the homeless, orphans, and the incarcerated just to name a few. Teaching artists are instrumental to “collective impact” initiatives to actively engage learners of all ages, and empower underserved neighborhoods, communities, cities, and nations. They are truly invaluable resources to the arts who bring their expertise as an artist, a professional, and educator to the table.
However, if we are now recognizing teaching artists as a professional field, what is being done to support the field?
Teaching Artist Guild
The Teaching Artist Guild (TAG) is a member-driven organization committed to the professionalization and visibility of artists who teach. Now under the direction of Jean Johnstone, TAG works to advocate for a deeper understanding of the field, honor the work teaching artists bring to communities, support teaching artists with benefits and services such as discounts on health care, financial planning tools, and an active job board, and serve as a site of online and in-person meetings and conversations. To learn more about TAG, please visit their website here!
Lincoln Center Education Summer Forum
Lincoln Center Education hosts a three-week professional development program exclusively for the training of teaching artists. Programs include interactive workshops, live performances, keynote speakers, plenary sessions, and networking opportunities. The 2016 Summer Forum will take place on July 11-29 featuring topics on an inquiry approach to artistic creation, how the arts can foster change in the classroom, and using the arts with children on the autism spectrum. Registration is now open. Register by April 15th, and get a 15% discount! For more information, please visit the Lincoln Center Education website here.
National/Regional Arts Recognition
National and Regional Arts organizations such as the National Guild for Community Arts Education, National Dance Education Organization, and New York City Arts in Education Roundtable are now including special sessions at meet-ups and conferences geared towards teaching artists to provide access to resources, training, and networking opportunities. Each organization has a conference coming up soon! Please check out their respective websites for more information.