Our Amazing Quarterly Magazine Associates!

We at Teaching Artists Guild are very grateful to have two fantastic volunteers who dedicate their time to making the Quarterly Magazine happen. They have been dilligently working behind the scenes since Issue 08, and we thought it was about time you were properly introduced to them! We asked them to write a bit about themselves, their background, and what led them to have a passion for teaching artistry and the arts in general. We hope you’ll find their stories interesting and inspiring, and that you’ll give them a warm “welcome!” to the TAG community.

Caryn Cooper
Quarterly Administrative Associate

I am a dancer from the New York City area. My life in the field of dance began at an early age. I trained pre-professionally in ballet in the Royal Academy of Dance (RAD) for almost ten years. Upon going to college at LIU Post to study Arts Management, I began to train more intensely in tap. After I graduated with my Masters in Dance Education from NYU, I joined Ya’el Tap Dance Company and danced as a freelancer for many choreographers such as Kat Wildish, Jacqulyn Buglisi, NY Bessie Award Winner- Joya Powell, and Julie Rubin.
My interest in dance has evolved over time to include not just performing, but also administration, teaching, writing, and advocacy. As an administrator, I currently work in the Education department of Flushing Council on Culture and the Arts located at the historic Flushing Town Hall, in Queens, NY. There I work to engage schools and senior centers in arts performances, interactive workshops, and long-term residencies in dance, music, theater, and the visual arts. As a teacher, I am a Moving For Life Certified Instructor. With this work, I teach dance to those who may be dealing with chronic pain caused by a number of illnesses such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and arthritis. I have written for a number of media outlets including ARTSblog, BroadwayWorld Dance, and Dance/NYC. I have also spent time advocating to school administrators, and elected officials on the local, state, and federal level on the value the arts have in schools, and our lives in general.
On the weekend of June 16-18, 2017, I had the wonderful opportunity to attend the Americans for the Arts Convention in San Francisco. I was able to attend through a scholarship I was awarded entitled the Jessica Wilt Memorial Scholarship. Jessica Wilt was leader in the arts education field as a tap dancer, arts educator, advocate, and writer who lived and worked in New York City for many years. She was known for her work nationwide fighting for children to have access to quality dance and meaningful arts education experiences. Jessica Wilt left this world far too soon after an 18-month battle with a rare form of bone cancer at the age of 38.
While at the conference, I was able to connect with the Arts Education Council Members of the Americans for the Arts. They were the ones who advocated for this award. It was such a touching moment to connect with them. They were all very close with Jessica and as the inaugural recipient, it was that much more meaningful for them to meet me. It was an honor and privilege to receive this scholarship and continue the work and legacy of Jessica. It is my hope to continue working in the field, advocating for arts education, teach in higher education, write, and hopefully get my doctorate degree in public policy.

Wendy Shiraki
Quarterly Design Associate

My path through the arts has taken different turns over the years but I have recognized a recurring theme; my direction has always been helped along by teachers. Of course my first and most important teachers were my parents. Growing up I was encouraged by my parents to take lessons, for just about everything. From guitar and piano improvisation to oil painting and ballet, they wholeheartedly supported my interests.
Throughout my early schooling some of my most vivid memories are of teachers giving me the approval and support that I needed to follow my instincts, do something different and explore my passions. My third grade teacher didn’t blink an eye when I painted my paper mâché piggy bank royal blue despite the sea of pink ones. My high school band director gave me his old oboe and encouraged me to give it a try. During college I found myself drawn to architecture, but I realized well into my studies, through positive feedback from instructors and fellow students, that I was finding more satisfaction in designing the presentations than creating the buildings.
So I was off to art school to learn about graphic design, eventually learning from and working with terrific designers in San Francisco. I learned to design logos, stationery systems, brochures, packaging, signage and more, from the best designers around. Although I initially knew how to do graphic design work the old-school way, with ruling pens and amberlith, my co-workers taught me enough to make the transition to the world of digital layout and design.
Sometime in the middle of my design career my family life asserted itself. My husband and children encouraged me to try new things and still do. Most importantly, my children inspired me to go into teaching. As they outgrew elementary school I realized that I missed the interaction I had with their teachers, so I made a career switch and eventually found myself teaching art at a private school. Over many years I learned how best to do my job from my fellow teachers, from my students and eventually, in a Master’s degree program in art education. I have had many teachers throughout my life and every one of them has had something to offer me, from tiny pearls of wisdom to valuable work and big life lessons. All have helped me to grow and flourish, and continue to touch my life every day.
Currently I am taking a break from facilitating art-making and using this opportunity to reconnect with my own art and design. I find myself back in “learner mode” rather than teaching mode, and that’s been fun. For instance I am learning web design and coding in an online class from a teacher far away. Yet time doesn’t change everything. Although I no longer play my band director’s oboe, I am now playing one of my own. And my parents remain amazing role-models. I don’t know what direction my work life is headed, but no doubt it will somehow involve a teacher.

Want to see the awesome work our Quarterly Magazine Associates help to produce? Read the Quarterly magazine for FREE, here.



Related Articles

Standing Above The Clouds

Young filmmaker Jalena Keane-Lee on her process of working with native Hawaiian teaching artists/movement leaders in her essay and film, Standing Above the Clouds.

Read More »