Welcome Jean Johnstone as the new Executive Director of TAG

We are so proud to welcome Jean as the new Executive Director of Teaching Artist Guild.  Jean is a theater teaching artist and the Founder/Director of Applied Theater Action Institute.  She joins us on staff after serving on the Executive Committee and will be working alongside Lynn Johnson (Director of Membership and Programs) to carry our vision for TAG forward into 2014 and beyond.

Below, Jean introduces herself to all of you and explains her reasons for investing her time and energy in an organization like TAG…

Hi, I’m Jean Johnstone. Super excellent to meet you all. I’m a teaching artist, and this is a little about me and why I am certain TAG is one of the most important places to hang your hat. I hope you’ll join us and connect about your own projects and work, too!

I started my own theater/social justice organization, after repatriating to the United States in 2009. I had been living and working in Hong Kong, (a Special Administrative Region of) China teaching drama, devising plays, and directing. I had health insurance and a healthy wage, community understanding and appreciation of my field, and a fabulous local and international network. I came home to the US to find myself disconnected, my field under-appreciated and extremely under-funded.
I needed to reach out and connect with others. I wanted to know what projects were happening, who was hiring, where I could go for mentorship, for a drink and a laugh with people who knew what I was talking about; how to advocate for myself in the field, how to advocate for my field; a place to be part of a wider conversation on the issues facing my community, let alone on what felt really important. What’s really important?  After getting myself and my young family a steady income and health insurance, creating change for the better via the education and arts worlds. But where was my community? Did we exist as such? Was Teaching Artist a “real job”?  Could I expect to build a career here in this (could I even call it a) field?
I wanted to do the kick-ass projects I’d been formulating with my now international network of practitioners in the field. I wanted to continue to do the work I saw as valuable: the work of the artist who teaches. In starting my own organization, I was able to leap forward into those goals. But it seemed as though there was a large gap in how to connect with others and be part of a professional community. As someone coming from a theater background, I have experienced that we individual artists can sometimes see each other as enemies: always auditioning for the same roles, or waving our arms around eloquently for that same small pool of grant money. However, as a teaching artist, a deviser, one who facilitates, I had developed a very different point of view. How we work together to define the field, it’s pathways and opportunities, how we work to advocate for the usefulness of what we do, how we are best able to provide for ourselves while providing education and art, these are important and valuable skills. Where to go for this? Enter: Teaching Artists Guild.
We are on the forefront of an amazing movement, a national conversation about the importance of art in education and in civic life. As we gallop forward (hello, Year of the Horse!) we look to each other for support and inspiration. We are leading the way, artist and educator: able to envision, design, collaborate, campaign, teach and inspire. I am joining the TAG team because I want to carry forward this conversation. I hope you will, too.



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