I have been fortunate to be part of ALT/space over the past year. For my final post, I want to take this opportunity to review the steps in my teaching artist career path up to this point, including key lessons I have learned and resources have I discovered that have helped inform my knowledge about teaching art in community.
For me, it all began by experimentation and collaboration. My earliest exposure to collaboration and bringing my artistic practice out of my comfort zone was through performing with dancers and musicians. Breaking away from my traditional music playing into a freer style was refreshing and empowering. I am grateful for the on-stage experiences that have broadened my understanding of what can be achieved when making art and taking risks together.
Fig 1: A video still of my performance of improvisation with a traditional Chinese instrument, Pipa, (me on far right), along with dance choreographer Ginny Wong and my brother/Er-hu musician Samuel Ng in a performance Three Threads in 2002.
The music performances led to my entrance into Silk Road Rising (formerly Silk Road Theatre Project) as an arts educator for their arts-in-integration educational program, Myths to Drama. Performing music with my character Pipa in Chicago Public School classrooms, I was also invited to co-facilitate lesson units connecting students to ancient mythologies. It was there that I learned the importance of “connection-making” for my students as a teaching artist.
Fig 2: A lesson unit in action at Stone Scholastic Academy in 2010.
The classroom teaching experience provided a foundation for me in the following years of community art engagement. Working with smaller grassroots organizations taught me to be adaptive with a tight budget and limited resources. I learned that one could still make great impacts to communities with little or no funding during my work in designing and activating the Chicago Teen Museum Blog.
Fig 3: A 3D cardboard model for a future “Teen Museum” created by Chicago Teen Museum’s youth in the summer of 2009.
Gradually, as I have become more involved in arts educational programming, I am further convinced about the significance of building partnerships and networks with artists and arts organizations. I have a growing interest in bringing together other teaching artists and the larger community to foster a culture of collaborative art-making.
Fig 4: Blooming! – A DIY Fabric Street Art Workshop guided by local artist Lindsay Obermeyer for the Visionary Craft Series at Intuit: The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art launched in 2012.
Making art, teaching it, creating programs around it and blogging about it are now all integral part of my life. I am truly grateful for ALT/space in offering such a reflective space that has allowed me to grow and make my mark here. I look forward to reading more inspiring stories to be shared here on ALT/space.