Guest Blogger Jessica Taylor: Working with Eric Booth at the National Guild Conference

Jessica Taylor works at Merit School of Music, participates in Urban Gateways’ Junior Board (New Arts Forum), and contributes her skills as an all-around advocate for arts education in Chicago and beyond. Here, Jessica shares her experience at the National Guild for Community Arts Education Conference a few weeks ago in Chicago. We’re lucky to have people like her advocating in the field and supporting Urban Gateways!

A few weeks ago, I was asked to be part of the Teaching Artist Development (TAD) Track with Eric Booth (a well-known arts educator and researcher), at the National Guild Conference for Community Arts Education. The conference took place this year in Chicago over Halloween weekend. For those of you who don’t know about the National Guild, you should! It is a membership organization for community arts organizations and has been around for nearly 80 years. It is comprised of close to 500 arts organizations around the country who work in the field of community arts education. The website is full of resources for staff members at these organizations, and for teaching artists. The Guild provides these resources to its members along with research, networking, professional development and funding opportunities and advocates for the field as a whole.

As one of 9 people asked to be part of the TAD Track, the goal was to leave the weekend with solid groundwork laid for a few projects to advance the field of teaching artistry. The 9 of us were the keepers of information/facilitators and were required to be at all three of the conference sessions, with other participants attending when they could. Using this definition of teaching artistry, we gathered into small groups to begin our work:

“A teaching artist (artist educator) is a practicing professional artist with the complementary skills and sensibilities of an educator, who engages people in learning experiences in, through and about the arts.”

This definition is purposely vague to accommodate all types of teaching artists; some people really got hung up on it, questioning and searching for a more concrete box to put teaching artists into. Capturing the national role of teaching artistry and imagining next steps for sustainable practice, creating an inventory of existing teaching artist resources, mapping the pathways into and through teaching artistry, and creating rubrics for local and national teaching artist ecosystems were a just a few of the projects our small groups decided to tackle over the three days.

As a lover of research, I chose to lead the inventory collection for current teaching artist resources. Currently, no single database exists that houses this information and I feel strongly that it will be tough to move forward until we know exactly where we are and what already exists. During the first session, Unleashing Teaching Artists’ Potential, we created a list of potential resource categories such as business (how to connect teaching artists to grants, healthcare, insurance etc.), pedagogy (classroom management, technology, training institutions, etc.), connectivity (local, regional and national organizations), classroom resources, social media and research. In the next two days we took these categories, refined them and began to add lists of resources that we knew about. The final step was to make a plan for the future of the project and begin to envision what the end product would look like and who would manage the database. I am currently making final revisions to the work we did during the conference in hopes that a national organization such as The Association of Teaching Artists or The Guild will take this project on and follow it through to completion.

It was such a great experience working with Eric Booth and collaborating with all the wonderful colleagues who participated during these three days. It was also a unique conference experience to join forces and create a living document that has the potential to become something bigger, and to help teaching artists deepen their impact on youth all over the country.

Jessica Taylor (right) with fellow New Arts Forum member Natalie Pavela at ARTini 2012.

Interested in getting involved with Urban Gateways’ young professionals group and working with arts education advocates like Jessica? Check out info about the New Arts Forum (Urban Gateways’ Junior Board).