THE DISCOVERY OF A TEACHING ARTIST
“…the very beginning, a very good place to start…”
I have been working as a professional theatre-maker for the past five years in various aspects from producing to designing and construction, performing to production-management. I have had the privilege of both getting a college degree from a top South African university and learning various skills from some awesome professionals in the industry both in South Africa and the United States.
Other than theater, I have a massive interest in how we learn. This, almost obsessive, interest of mine emanates from my fear of not being smart enough. However, my love for learning and my curious nature have always propelled me to ask questions, engage with people and my environment and reflect on my experiences. It has also gotten out of control at times, leaving me very self-conscious and inhibited. As my room-mate dubbed me, I am “a die-hard over-thinker!” and it sometimes gets me in trouble.
Instead of fearing that I am not smart enough, or that the are billions of things I don’t not know (and may never know), I remind myself that I am thrilled by discoveries and I am more than often transformed through my experiences with art and people. I pride myself in my desire to learn and my desire to make things aka “art”.
The combination of my love for theatre (creating/making things) and my love for learning landed me in an awesome job as a Teaching Artist, almost a year ago, at several organisations across the Bay Area, California. Now, this was somewhat a new concept for me- Teaching Artist. In the US there is a formal industry (even a guild: TAG) dedicated to TA’s. For those of you wondering “what’s the big deal?”, lets start with a definition: The term Teaching Artist was coined by Lincoln Center Education. Teaching Artists are professional artists who teach and integrate their art form, perspectives, and skills into a wide range of settings such as schools, prisons and other social agencies. The idea of Teaching Artist’s have been around for some 40 years, however the idea is new to me, and I feel that the subset of TA’s is really starting to gain traction in the economic climate artists find themselves in today.
Although arts educators, who are industry professionals, exist in South Africa (my mentors at university were theatre maestros), the formality of the industry along with the resources and research available is nothing like that in the US (or at least not to my knowledge). I know these things are relative (“developed/developing world” comparisons are not always fair, but neither is show business) and I have been involved in various theater settings, teaching or facilitating in South Africa, however it has been my experiences in the US triggered my thinking…
…so here, I am, starting this blog because “in the beginning the was the word…”, well starting this blog to get clarity of though and express my observations and thinkings. But also I hope to get feedback and potentially find and/or build an interactive community engaging with ideas about children’s theater, learning and well just becoming better humans.
I hope that TA’s, theater professionals, educators, parents, summer-camp leaders (anyone really) may find what I share interesting enough to share their own insights and experiences with me!
Almost everyday I observe or learn something new from the kids I work with and I want to share these experiences with you in order to be better at what I do.
Originally published at medium.com on April 13, 2016.