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On the blog: Teaching Artist Program coordinator plays the student

December 9, 2014
by Naomi Even-Aberle, Teaching Artist Program Coordinator/Rapid City Arts Council Education Director

Los Angeles greeted me with warm weather, lots of traffic and high hopes for the National Guild for Community Arts Education Conference. Being the first national level conference of my professional career I had no idea what to expect. So with nerves humming with tons of energy I joined the fray of eager arts advocates.

This conference had it all. Ranging from community engagement, updated marketing language, educational practices, and the growth of the teaching artistry field. I was left with a buffet of knowledge served by national educators, professionals, artists and arts advocates.

So in the spirit of sharing my dinner tips, here are the top three “dishes” served up at the conference:

3. Arts and culture, the lost language.

Are you artistic? How many of us have ask someone this question, only to hear, "No, but my daughter, sister or friend can draw." The reality is that ordinary people struggle with seeing themselves as artistic. Does this mean that they have no creativity, passion or ability to explore or connect with the arts? No, it simply means that the word artistic does not have the same meaning to them as it does to art advocates. So to connect with this new generation of self-proclaimed non-artistic individuals we must change how we speak and engage. Words or phrases such as self-expression, creativity, and exploration hit home far quicker than artistic or culture.  Words have power, so let’s use them to speak their language.

2. The values verses facts game.

We have more data then we will need to prove beyond a doubt that arts learning is crucial to students' development in every area and in their emotional, physical and mental growth. So why do we still struggle to persuade schools, organizations and our very own community to add the arts back in? The truth is that personal, organizational and individual values will trump fact every time, (even if they are the same thing). So, instead of standing on our soap boxes spouting out facts and figures that speak to the true nature of the arts, let’s use the arts to meet and achieve our everyday values.

1: Professional development - the elephant in the room.

Educators, artists, teaching artists, tour guides and after school or child care workers are often praised for helping to fill the gap in arts education. But are we really praising and valuing them as we should?

Educators in out-of-school programs are generally seen as part-time employees or volunteers required to provide quality opportunities and experience for every student who comes through their classroom, with little or no professional development. If we expect these programs and professionals to fill the gap and provide high quality programs then we need to unveil the elephant in the room and find ways of providing professional development. Since the arts are one of the first programs to be cut, then we need to redirect our resources to provide the training, personal, professional and artistic development to our front line soldiers: our part-time and volunteer staff.

Photo, above, TAP in action at a Rapid City elementary school. See more photos of TAP here. Learn more about the program, how to become a teaching artist and how to bring TAP to your school here.

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