Sunday, July 20, 2014

A Brief Report on the Second International Teaching Artist Conference

Good morning.
"And the beat goes on………………"

The Second International Teaching Artist Conference

Organized by Eric Booth, the Second International Teaching Artist Conference sought to gather teaching artists from around the world for a three day meet (held July 1-3, 2014) in Australia to share thinking and discuss issues central to arts education and the role of teaching artists.  From the conference website:

"ITAC2 sets out to identify the productive conditions that give rise to the diverse ecologies of Teaching Artistry in various parts of the world. ITAC2 will advance the global movement by developing new flows of information and knowledge exchange about these productive conditions to advance Teaching Artistry internationally—designed to grow long beyond our time in Australia."
I think teaching artists are likely a key critical element in succeeding in our goal to promote arts education K-12 as a universal offering, and it is an area I hope to explore in greater depth on this blog in the future.    While I would have loved to have accepted Eric's invitation to attend this conference, that was not possible, so I asked Eric if he would connect me to someone who might file a report on this blog about the conference, and he put me in touch with Daniel Kelin, who graciously offered to post a report.  Here is that posting:

Conference Reporter:  Daniel A. Kelin, II

Daniel A. Kelin, II is an ardent and outspoken teaching artist. He is the long-serving Honolulu Theatre for Youth Director of Drama Education and has been a director, teaching artist and consultant with organizations in American Samoa, the Marshall Islands, Japan, India and the Federated States of Micronesia. He is on the teaching artist roster of the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, has served as President of the American Alliance for Theatre and Education and was a Fulbright-Nehru Senior Research Scholar in South India. His newest book, The Reflexive Teaching Artist, will be published by Intellect in 2014.

"Welcome. Intention? Translate. Disrupt!

An aboriginal dance group rhythmically stepped toward the large gathering of teaching artists, arms outstretched in welcome.  With a carved stick and coconut husk, they kindled a fire that ignited both applause and a sense of purpose in the gathered group as the conference began.  Several welcomes by the conveners followed, which quickly became a kind of running joke.  In truth, however, reiterated vocabulary played a fundamental role in the conference as the conveners posed: What defines this teaching artist field and how do we collectively move it forward locally and globally? Right off, the phrase ‘Art Disrupts’ entered the conversation, a call to consider possibilities beyond comfortable patterns.

Oddly, then, our journey commenced with brief conference-style introductions to our own work.  However, it offered a grounding.  Who’s in the room? What’s labeled teaching artistry around the globe? What are the intentions and purposes of teaching artists in various settings? As I talked with folks, lots of questions about the terms teaching artist and artistry arose to an almost surprising degree. It became clear that many still struggled with fully embracing the term, whereas others fiercely dedicate themselves to advancing the field.  That mixed dynamic, I believe, contributed to keeping our conference conversation probing and introspective.

Keynotes followed, embodying the conference questions. Jun-Seok Roh of the Korea Arts and Culture Education Service outlined the Korean government’s impressive dedication to art and teaching artists. More than 4700 teaching artists trained and employed there to help bring happiness and harmony to society.  Russell Granet of Lincoln Center Education introduced the ‘Artist as Translator,’ noting that teaching artists open deeper understanding of art to the greater community. Scott Rankin of BighArt challenged us to remember that when you know someone’s story you don’t do them harm. And Amandina Lihamba of the University of Dar es Salaam succinctly demonstrated how theatre can rouse a challenged people to action.  Jade Lillie’s formal response that followed might have encapsulated best the conference saying we should ask, ‘Where are we failing?’

Here the work began.  The conveners laid out six topics identified by teaching artists in the first international gathering—Teaching Artist Training; Networks and Partnerships; Research and Advocacy; Support Structures; The Business of Teaching Artistry; Defining the Field; and, a seventh added during this conference, The Professional Needs of the Teaching Artist.  They engaged us in troubling out related questions and concerns to help better define the teaching artist field.  Those expanded topics then became gathering places for us to develop real life projects intended to define and advance the field. The stakes were high. The projects would be pitched at conference and voted on in order to rally support around a select number that would ideally bear fruit post-conference.  Convener Eric Booth pleaded, ‘Commit to the potential projects!’ He noted how the fire often fizzles after a conference. How could we avoid such a failing?

Out of the chaos of negotiated ideas rose seventeen projects that centered on two essential ideas: training/certification of teaching artists and modes to connect teaching artists on a global scale. Clickers in hand, the group identified five that, in the last moments of the conference, pulled together large groups of participants dedicated to keeping up the momentum.  The five included: 1) the TAG Exchange, a month-long global exchange program between organizations and institutions for teaching artists, 2) The Practice Lab, a site where teaching artists can profile projects, 3) Developing Your Teaching Artist Career:  An International Postgraduate Certificate in Global Practice, 4) the Teaching Artist Platform, a Facebook center for links to personal and organizational websites, and 5) Coming up for AIR, and Australian based endeavor to increase the presence of teaching artists in school settings.

Some participants disrupted the proceedings by sticking to their low vote projects.  And some on-the-spot private funding gave veracity to yet others.

Titled an ‘unconference’ from the first welcome, the experience launched into high gear from the start which, honestly, disrupted the expectations of not a few of the attendees. But the momentum swept the crowd to a sense of ownership over possibilities for the future of the field.  Which, it seems, was the intention."

Kudos to Eric for organizing this effort, and thanks to Daniel for sharing some of his impressions.

Have a great week.

Don't Quit