Teaching Artists create incredible results in their communities, despite the massive challenges they have to overcome in their work everyday. Even if they aren’t being underpaid or underemployed, they have to figure out how to survive without benefits, employer-sponsored retirement plans, or employer supported professional development. Yet, despite all of these challenges, there are around 93,000 teaching artists across the U.S. making their communities more vibrant, creative and equitable. Why do they do it?
For many teaching artists, the answer you will get will involve some sense of civic duty. Many teaching artists say “I see injustice in the world, and I want to make things better.” In the last issue of the TAG Quarterly Magazine, you heard from teaching artists like Shontina Vernon and Nate Herth about how they see their work as part of a social justice practice. Great teaching artistry goes beyond fulfilling curriculum requirements. Great teaching artistry allows communities to heal, to reflect and explore, to express ourselves as individuals and to create new narratives for the future. Social justice is at the center of this work.
Because of this, it is no surprise to me that when a group of teaching artists gathered last year at the National Guild for Community Arts Education conference in Philadelphia, the project that they wanted to create was a resource center that could serve as a virtual classroom, an online space where teaching artists can contribute knowledge and take away new knowledge so that they can all better incorporate social justice practice into their work.
The result, one year later, is Centering the Work, a virtual spot to seek and share tools related to the social justice components of effective teaching artistry, and the pedagogy of social justice arts education. The workgroup from the conference has kick-started the Center with the resources that they know and love, but the Center is a living space and it is hoped that many new resources will be added in the future as more and more people discover it.
So please, explore! Tell us about a resource you want us to add. Perhaps most importantly, share this with your friends and colleagues! We are much stronger as a network.