Here we are. Year 2 at the National Guild for Community Arts Education Conference. Last year, in Chicago, Eric Booth challenged us to get to work. To make commitments to projects that might actually move our field forward. And we did it. We answered the call. Many of us have been working very hard over the last year, volunteering our time, and making stuff happen. Now, we are back again. Hugs and kisses and lots of laughter. A big ole’ conference reunion. “I am so excited to actually see you in person…not just on a conference call!” Someone pointing out that it feels like summer camp, for adults.
3 different working groups emerged from last year’s conference. 3 sets of folks from around the country answered Eric’s call and made the commitment to move the work forward. Yesterday at 4pm in a way-too-hot, way-too-small hotel conference room in the middle of downtown Los Angeles, representatives from these 3 groups stood in front of a standing-room-only crowd to share their work, leadership, and passion for this work. The enthusiasm that all of us carried from last year was palpable and contagious. The room was buzzing with excitement and applause.
- Adam Johnston started things off right with his dynamic presentation about our Asset Map project – an interactive digital map of the field that aims to articulate and document the work of our field while also helping to build the partnerships necessary to carry us forward
- Courtney Boddie kept the energy up in her presentation of the Teaching Artist Career Pathway – a tool that she and her team from New Victory Theater have been working on over the last year to help us collectively tell the story of how our incredibly diverse field of professionals enters into, moves through, and advances in their work to achieve the career of their dreams.
- Nas Khan had the hardest job of all as she got the crowd all revved up about a rubric. But, we were hanging on her every word as she explained how she and her working group have created a draft of this tool that will help evaluate the health of a region’s arts ecosystem in a way that will help us as a field be able to assess and create systems that support our good work.
Just when this audience of like-minded teaching artists and allies thought that couldn’t be more impressed by the kinds of projects that are happening in our country, they also got to hear Betsy Mullins of Arts for All, Miami talk about the amazing program they are piloting this year that will create an opportunity for teaching artists in south Florida to learn from an endorsed faculty of their peers and receive a certification that will be recognized by school districts in across multiple counties. Then, they got to hear Jean Taylor, a full time teaching artist from Lincoln Center (yes! this IS a thing), share about how they are building on their already incredible work to create learning opportunities for teaching artists from all disciplines with multiple purposes.
And today is when it really gets good. We will all come back together (in a larger, cooler room from what I hear) and get back to work. All of these working groups are making space to bring in new people with new questions, new perspectives, new ideas. We will work today over the course of 3 different sessions to bring each of these projects to the next level.
I, for one, and bringing with me the passion and enthusiasm from yesterday. I am ready to do my part. I am ready to clap and cheer while doing the serious work of collaboration, innovation, and field building.
Hope to see you in there.