ALT/space 2012 Highlights: Part One

As 2012 comes to a close I want to express my gratitude and thanks to all the ALT/space contributors who have written about their work in the last year.  They have shared moments of celebration, art making and, sometimes, struggle and we have all benefited from their tales, both individually and as a profession.

Although ALT/space is ostensibly a collection of individual narratives, I’m always amazed at how easy it is to find a common thread between stories.  Compelling connections continually emerge (almost magically, it seems to me) to reveal a larger truth, if you will, about our work.  I don’t mean to put too fine a point on it but I don’t think we could do any better at illustrating the teaching artist profession if we all sat down and planned our themes in advance.  In fact, I think the larger picture of our work is actually more powerful if we let the individual stories lead the way.  With that in mind, here are some of the themes that emerged in 2012:

Push/Pull
As the job title implies, the artist who teaches invariably takes on multiple, sometimes conflicting, roles.  In May, visual artist and museum educator Chio Flores (Peru) shared her perspective on the very real push-pull between the dual roles of artist and artist-teacher in the post On Having a Split Personality -or- Being A Teaching Artist.

In March, dance specialist Meg Mahoney (Seattle) expressed a similar kind of conflict, this one between teaching dance as a fine art and the assessment pressures within the public school system in her post Kindling the Spark.  In this post she finds the balance between the two, if only for a moment.

High Tech/Low Tech
Despite differences in digital and analog media, the following stories are remarkably similar; they are all about students making art with the support of attentive and thoughtful artist-teachers.

In the post Animation, Appropriation and Tech Kids Unlimited visual art and music TA Mark Dzula (New York City) shares some amazing digital animation work by his teen students, who also happen to be living with Autism.  A wonderful counterbalance in this age of ubiquitous digital media, Suzie Makol (Chicago) tells the story of teaching photography fundamentals using tin cans and oatmeal containers in the post Happy Accidents.

And, in an excellent combination of both, Richard Jenkins (Massachusetts) makes use of recent advances in brain research to inform his work in the classroom. Back in June, Richard finished his seven-part series Arts & UDL in the Classroom.  In it, Richards’ students use good old paper and pencils as they learn the elements of cartooning. Richard, however, is thinking about the recognition, strategic and affective networks of their brains as he orchestrates their learning. (His final post, linked above, includes links to all the posts in this series.)

Constraints
It’s no secret that grants fund much of our work and that the need to tailor grant projects to a funder’s requirements are part of the deal.  In April, theater TA Linda Bruning (Minnesota) let us in on her thought process as she tried to navigate the choppy waters of funders’ wishes vs. the need for honest art making.  As she says in her post Funding, Social Responsibility and the Teaching Artist, “I don’t think any of us can make a living without assistance from an outside source, and therein lies the rub.”

Michael Schwartz (Tucson) responded to Linda’s concerns with a post of his own.  In Teaching Between the Lines, he shares his experience with funding agencies and offers some pointed observations. “As Teaching Artists,” he says, “we have to deal with the pressures of controlled chaos in making art with huge groups of people, in complicated neighborhoods, with limited funding and sometime we inadvertently step on funders’ toes.”

As you can see, it’s been an awesome year!  ALT/space may be less than a year-and-a-half old, but we have already gained so much through this kind of reflection and conversation.  Please consider subscribing using the RSS feed option at the top of your browser — that way you’ll never miss a post (and you know its free, right?)

All the best,

Malke Rosenfeld
ALT/space Editor

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