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From Section 1: What Will I Teach?

You are a teaching artist NOW

There are established methodologies in arts education, and arguably even in teaching artist work.  One organization or group of teaching artists might teach according to a specific type of arts integration.  Another might approach teaching from the point of view of a specific methodology or theory of art, like Aesthetic Education.  The Reggio Emilia approach to arts teaching has been very influential in many American arts education circles in recent years.  The pioneering work of the German Bauhaus and the Soviet Vkhutemas design and architecture schools of the 1920’s through their practice developed some of the most important insights in modern arts education theory. Any of these approaches, philosophies or methodologies undoubtedly has useful insights to offer a teaching artist, even if in the form of negative examples or provocations to further research.  Some of these approaches incorporate significant theoretical work and have important and interesting historical roots.  All are potentially worthy of study.  And it is useful and interesting to think theoretically and historically about teaching artist work.  If you are looking for precedents and ideas as a teaching artist why not investigate what has already been done?


However, a premise of this book and this series is that applying overly general methodologies, and too formulaic an approach to teaching artist work is limiting.  Teaching artist work is not a science; it is an art.  It may have scientific elements to it, just as science has many artistic dimensions.  But to attempt to reduce the great variety of teaching artists, contexts and students to a single methodology seems to work against two central strengths of the teaching artist field: variety and flexibility.  Precedent and methodology are necessary in art making; no art making is completely “new.”  But too much deference to precedent and methodology inevitably leads to sterile and unoriginal art.  The same goes for teaching artist work.  You may have to translate what you do into the methodologies or rhetoric of an organization because the gig calls for it.  That’s fine.  But translate what you do; don’t paint by numbers.  Not only will your students learn more, you’ll have a lot more fun.


It makes no more sense to speak of “experts” or “masters” in teaching artist work than it does to speak of “expert” or “master” artists.  Yes, there are artists who have tremendous mastery of the techniques of their medium. This does not guarantee that their art is original, interesting or compelling.  Similarly there are teaching artists who are very good at many specific aspects of teaching, but this is not what guarantees that they will teach well, or that their students will do good work.  The prerequisite for good teaching artist work is that one have some solid knowledge in one’s discipline (have something to teach), and have some enthusiasm and ideas about how to bring this knowledge to students in ways that will encourage original work. 

Wherever you are in this work, however new or experienced, young or old, you can make great teaching and learning happen with your students and contribute important insights to the field—the rest of us—right now.