Welcome to my blog..

Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up. ~Pablo Picasso

Thoughts for the Teaching Artist is devoted to an ongoing exploration of the role of the arts in education. I believe that the arts are an integral, essential part of every person's education. Arts education develops 21st Century Learning Skills, supports all core subjects, creates empathy & builds bridges, and helps develop voice & vision.

The views expressed in Thoughts for the Teaching Artist are mine alone and do not represent the views of my employer or any other persons or organization.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Daily Thoughts

August 23-27, 2010

Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking, and don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart,…you’ll know when you find it.~ Steve Jobs

Art is the only way to run away without leaving home. ~Twyla Tharp

If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea. ~Antoine De Saint Exupery

What art offers is space - a certain breathing room for the spirit. ~John Updike

It's not what you look at that matters, it's what you see. ~ Henry David Thoreau

If you wish to receive these daily thoughts as an email every Monday through Friday, please send me an email at artistthoughts@gmail.com and I will add you to my distribution list.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Perfect vs. The Good

Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good.- Gretchen Rubin, The Happiness Project

As artists, many of us have devoted a considerable amount of our lives to the pursuit of the perfect.  One more brushstroke, one more run-through, one more edit, one more "I'll give you four for nothing, ah five-six-seven-eight!"  Yet if we are honest, perfection has always remained out of reach.  It is easy to look at a classic work of art, and see perfection.  But chances are, Da Vinci probably had some second thoughts about the Mona Lisa.

As Teaching Artists,  we not only have to fight our own unmet needs for perfection, but we also need to stop expecting it from our students.  This doesn't mean we should not have high expectations for our students.  In fact, we do our students a disservice by failing to believe they are capable of producing high quality work.  But we should be careful to always emphasize the process over the product.  The acquisition of skills and discovery of process will last longer than any final project.  This becomes an especially important balancing act in a school environment where regular assessments are the order of the day.  Meaningful assessments in arts education should always be based upon individual student growth and measurable skill acquisition, never upon that mysterious thing we call "talent."

At some point, the student must take ownership of his own work.  No matter the level of skill or sophistication, real artistic growth occurs when the student realizes that ultimately, his own art belongs only to him.  This individuation of the student artist from the Teaching Artist only occurs when the the teacher steps back, gives his final critique and lets the student claim the work as his own.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Daily Thoughts

August 16-20, 2010

To affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of arts. ~Henry David Thoreau

The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance.~Aristotle

You never know what is enough unless you know what is more than enough. ~William Blake

To avoid criticism say nothing, do nothing, be nothing.~ Aristotle

As a cure for worrying, work is better than whiskey.~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

If you wish to receive these daily thoughts as an email every Monday through Friday, please send me an email at artistthoughts@gmail.com and I will add you to my distribution list.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Artists Supporting Artists

As Teaching Artists, we are responsible for teaching our students the skills and techniques they need to practice our particular disciplines.  As important as teaching the skills to create art is our responsibility to teach students to respect other artists and to work successfully with other artists.  The best way we can do this is by modeling appropriate behavior among ourselves.  In a school environment, that modeling can take place in the following ways:

o Support one another as teaching artists: practice cooperation not competition

o Share our students

o Attend events across all disciplines

o Encourage our students to support one another as artists through our example

Ultimately, modeling this behavior is one way that we work toward earning greater respect for ourselves, not only from one another and our students, but from the larger community as well.  We became Teaching Artists because we share a passionate belief that art matters.  So if we aren’t the audience, who is? If we don’t care, who will?

Monday, August 2, 2010

The Power of Enactment

I regard the theatre as the greatest of all art forms, the most immediate way in which a human being can share with another the sense of what it is to be a human being. ~Oscar Wilde

What makes theatre such a powerful tool for teaching? To begin with, at the most fundamental human level, "acting it out" changes everything.  There's a reason that early man put on animal skins and danced around the fire to tell the story of a successful hunt.  Almost any story becomes more compelling to an audience when it has been brought to life by human beings who re-enact the tale as if it is happening in front of our eyes at this very moment-not a story that happened in the past, once upon a time.

Beyond the audience, the actors who are presenting the story experience it very differently.  One way of thinking about this is that "acting it out" provides an opportunity for differentiated instruction that can be very effective for certain students to learn any subject, depending on their particular learning style.

But the tremendous power of enactment goes far beyond the entertainment of the audience or the performers' learning of curricular material.  As humans, our emotional connection to the material being presented in live theatre becomes far deeper and more complex than simply reading words on a page.  Perhaps in part this emotional connection is based on our understanding that we are watching real, live people who exist in the same space with us and breathe the same air.  The tightrope-walk of live performance can connect both the audience and the actors to the story in ways they may not fully understand.

The possibility of this deep emotional connection must not be discounted, especially when working with children.  Educational theatre is not psychodrama. Certainly theatre is an excellent method for teaching and learning about any number of difficult issues. Creating and watching characters who are different from us builds empathy and understanding.  But as Teaching Artists, we must be sensitive to the particular capacity for self-identification that theatre holds. Sometimes a character's backstory may be uncomfortably close to the student-actor's personal history. When this backstory involves painful issues such as divorce or death of a parent, the theatre educator should be especially vigilent it choosing who will be playing such characters.

When a young actor begins work on a character, he begins to draw parallels and connections between himself and the characater.  Some questions the actor asks:  How am I like this character?  How am I different?  If I met this character, would we be friends?  How has this character's life so far been like mine?  How has his life been different?

As the student actor digs into the text, he brings to his performance character traits and behaviors observed in others, as well as drawn from within himself. In the best scenario, this self-identifcation can lead students to both a greater understanding of others, and deeper knowledge of themselves.