As a teaching artist, I do get invited to some fine skull sessions amongst fellow artists like myself who do a lot of work in schools and other unique educational venues. This was a two hour seminar with Eric Booth, quite the renown arts educator, inspirational speaker and leader in the teaching artist movement. He literally wrote the book. And, as I told him at the end, partially responsible for making me proud of being a teaching artist.
When I was selected by the CT Council on the Arts as a roster artist, it was as a Teaching Artist as opposed to a Performing Artist. I was disappointed back then, but have come to accept and celebrate the difference. Not every performing artist is a teaching artist, but most teaching artists are good performers, if you get my drift.
Eric launched into the definition of Creativity: it happens most often when one involves personal artistic skills, a good process and an encouraging environment. Then the good stuff happens. What should happen is a product (music, in this case) that is novel (new) and useful in a social context (it means something to the audience).
We did some heavy digging on these elements, always reflecting on how we, as artists, can be able to use these tools to grow, but also, importantly, be able to explain to the folks who hire us what we do, and that we know what we are doing. Seems its harder to do with musicians than in the sciences and math.
Next we moved onto Creative Skills, the things we know we do instinctively, but should be able to separate, recognize our strengths and weakness and work on getting more cognizant of how we do it.
1. Ideational Fluency (!!): be able to brainstorm several possibilites/directions and be able to recognize the pleasure in that process. If we can impart that joy to our students, the fun of taking chances and acting on them.
2. Divergent Thinking: find the weird and celebrate it. From these ideas come truly creative outcomes.
3. Analogical Thinking: be able to make analogies, connections.
4. Pattern recognition: especially important in music.
We talked about how we, as teaching artists, have to model these creative skills with kids (and their teachers) by starting with what we know (the small steps) and encourage boldness and decrease fear, and recognize and revel in the process.
There were some interesting reflections on our culture and the arts/education field:
Our culture is belligerently anti-reflective. We are pushed into taking in things in, as the only way to do things, and moving quickly on. No time for filtering facts, opinions and other possibilities. As this post mirrors, I value reflection quite seriously and have had it driven into my mind by many other sessions like this one today. And I have come to relish the opportunity.
Today’s classroom focuses on compliance (I will behave, accept the message, etc.) as opposed to investment (I had a part in this process). It’s a subtle observation but makes a lot of sense in the broader cultural scene. Pretty powerful glimpse of our American-ness. That’s why we are making a difference through the arts.
At the age of nine years, there is a shift from ‘I can do anything’ to “I’m not good at anything.”
Success means move the process on; it’s not a level of achievement.
School hiring is now static. The new growth for teaching artists is in healthcare and ageing.
I really, really enjoy these stimulating opportunities to think about what I do in this world and it continues to inform my Art, in the broadest sense possible.
All for free, except for $10 parking and gas to and from Philly. A good deal, actually.