Remember/Artist/Heal: Surveying the Shared Landscape with Teaching Artists as Farmers

by Julio Valentin

On April 5-7, 2022, Teaching Artists Guild, Arts Education Partnership, National Endowment for the Arts, U.S. Department of Education and Hewlett Foundation co-hosted “Our Shared Future: Imagining a New Landscape for Teaching Artists”, the first national convening for teaching artists. 19 teaching artists across the country created unique reports on the event using their individual art forms. Julio Montalvo Valentin took the traditional blog form and drifted it into poetic prose to capture the feeling and essence of the conference experience.

Like many others, I was eager to bring this love of teaching artistry to the (digital) table. With each of us tagged with the purpose of nurturing the creative culture in our communities, it is no surprise that teaching artists from across the country would come in droves. And with no hesitation, I’ve watched how many of us saved the world with a pen, a brushstroke, anything that gives purpose to the movement of life for the next generation. Day 1.

It was clear that this was the space of survivors, that what was learned is how much we can keep the world afloat by teaching others how to make their own bandages full of poetic scriptures. And even when we live in a world that struggles to recognize its own need for art and its tangible power to heal, these teaching artists share their experiences to show how each of us is “rememberers” as Dr. Jamaica would call us. And indeed, we can keep the world, and each other alive “if only we remembered what the world wants us to forget.” To do so requires us to take stock of what we’ve done in order to know where we are going. Day 2.

While the first dawn is for remembrance, the second dawn is for the now as we take stock with what remains. This required one to acknowledge the walls that keep us both isolated and impaired from giving these tools to those who are desperate to break barriers. Mortared by class, skin, or location, Day 2 was about breaking borders that we held in ourselves and the borders we sometimes help build. That means seeing the fields not by the kind of community they are in, but by the way we treat them; how you lamp bias and prepare the ground for the seedlings who have already been dealing with this extended drought in budgets cuts and politics with the arts. When Day 2 was over, it was clear that we are vital farmers to a land thirsty for poetic nourishment just like what Dr. Jackson gave us with their words. Day 3.

By Day 3, it was clear this was not enough. No amount of growth and change can be done with such an amount of time. But it was us, the ones who understood that what moves is not the pen or a brushstroke, but ourselves when we are able to plow, seed, and harvest growth from our labor as we imagine a new landscape for teaching artists and the shared future we all have.

Beyond guttural language, let us pick stones out, barrow out of the soil, till our path forward, and unfurl ourselves to the wind So they, our future, may receive us as gifts of rain to heal.



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