Whose Reality?

Linda Bruning and I were in the middle of an interchange about the first draft of her recent post, The Road and its Reality.  I thought it was a great piece from start to finish, but something was bugging me, and I could not put my finger on it.

“I think you make your point clearly enough — working teaching artists have to travel, but I’m not sure that’s always the case,” I wrote her.

I used to be a traveling TA.  I was a roster artist for both the North Carolina Arts Council and the South Carolina Arts Commission.  I would leave my home in Carrboro, NC and drive long miles to a sandy, inland SC elementary or middle school, or to a similarly sandy, coastal town, or to somewhere in the middle of a long stretch of empty road, or to the top of a mountain.  So, as I read her story about what she does to stay sane and productive while working on the road I was really able to relate.

Photo Credit: MarMont Photography

The problem was, though, that I didn’t think this was the case for all TAs and I told her so:

“My current reality and those of other Indiana TAs is much different…I basically agree with you that if you are working as a TA you are usually traveling, but I guess my point is that I’m not sure that your traveling reality is the same as someone who has work in a more urban area.  TAs who live and work in Indianapolis may not be more than 45 minutes away from home when they drive to their work.”

“Your e-mail got me thinking,” she wrote back, “we have vast differences in the experiences of the teaching artists across the nation, be they opportunities to work, the kind of work they do, their experience in the field, and the support for the arts in the schools.  After reading your comments I realized the TAs in Alaska have to fly to where they are teaching and end up staying not in hotels but in the school itself. “ [See Ryan Conarro’s post, Like a River.]

“TAs in rural South Dakota,” she continued, “have a commute of 45 miles one way from the nearest hotel to the one room school.  (A friend of mine), a TA and poet in Montana, leaves her home in September and doesn’t return till December then leaves again in January and doesn’t return until May. Perhaps it would be interesting to do a fact finding mission about what TAs experience.”

Attached to that e-mail was Linda’s second draft.

“I like the rewrite very much!” I said.  “It is perfectly pitched as your reality.  I think the role of ALT/space is to eventually get correspondents from all those places you mentioned, and have them write their stories and realities and add them to the big picture of what it means to be a teaching artist.”

So, whose reality?  One TA’s at a time, that’s whose.  ALT/space is here to present individual stories from a personal perspective – whether other TAs can relate to them personally or not.  From miniature portraits of our work comes the truth of our own reality.  And, over time, the universals will become apparent.

If you want to share your reality and your work with us, please consider contributing your stories or leave a comment in the comment section of this or any other story here on ALT/space.

We look forward to hearing from you!

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