Artist as Instigator


Community-Word Project Staff Members Katie Rainey, Director of the Teaching Artist Project, and David King, Programs Director, School Partnerships, attended The Fourth International Teaching Artist Conference (ITAC) at Carnegie Hall in Manhattan. Previous conferences were held in Norway, Brisbane, and Edinburgh.

This biannual conference focuses on bringing together artists, organizations, funders, and researchers from around the world to explore key issues relating to participatory arts practices. The focus of this year’s conference was Artist as Instigator, exploring ways in which arts organizations and teachers can impact our communities with a social justice lens.

This is the first time Community-Word Project participated in the conference and it was nothing short of spectacular, providing access to artists and organizers from around the globe and also a platform to present on Community-Word Project’s work. Katie and David led a session titled, “The Evolution & Future of Social Justice Teaching Artist Training.”

The goal of the session was to provide concrete takeaways for teaching artists, organizations, and facilitators. Takeaways included what professional development across different communities looks like; what trainings have worked in the past and how they can be used in the future; how the field needs to change in order to keep at the forefront of radical social change; how to implement these takeaways in their individual arts education communities; and how to collaborate with other arts education communities to create stronger training for teaching artists.

Following their panel, Katie and David had the opportunity to attend numerous sessions and learn best practices from an international cadre of artists and leaders. Each session had a different focus, from art-making groups to more informative lectures, but all dealt with the theme of social justice and artistry, as well as the Teaching Artist’s responsibility to both.

One session was called “Solid Ground: A Collaborative Approach.”Solid Ground – founded in 2015 in response to the low level of year 12 attainment by Indigenous Australian students and high level of youth unemployment – establishes ongoing pathways for Indigenous Australian youth to gain access to education and employment in the arts. A key component of the Solid Ground Initiative is the Artist in Residence Schools Program which provides long term engagement with established Indigenous Australian artists working in studios on campus. Katie and David learned useful approaches this group is doing in their communities that they could bring back to Community-Word Project.

Katie and David were also facilitators at one of the evenings break-out events: The Live Teaching Artistry Podcast and ITAC Dine Arounds put on by the Arts-in-Education Roundtable. Together, with other members of the Roundtable, they helped facilitate the evening. The podcast portion of the event was a live taping of Teaching Artistry with Courtney J. Boddie, followed by individual dine arounds where Katie and David each hosted a dinner with a group of ITAC international delegates. Katie and David both serve on the Arts-in-Education Roundtable in different ways: David as a Board Member and Katie as a Co-Chair of the Teaching Artist Affairs Committee.

In Katie’s group, the delegates talked a great deal about what teaching artistry looks in other areas. This sparked an in-depth conversation on how the work is actually woven into the fabric of western culture, particularly with the emergence of artist communes and collectives in the 60s. Delegates explained that the term ‘teaching artist’ may not be as common as it is is here in NYC, but that the work has been done for years and that it has always been tied to communities and social activism.

We had a lovely group of folks from all over the world in our Dine Around at La Caye Restaurant, including teaching artists from Norway, Sweden, Korea, and across the United States. We discussed our various artistries and where the commonalities lie, as well as deeper issues the field of teaching artists are facing across the world. We talked about possible ways to use what we had learned at ITAC to transform the teaching artist field back home (in our different states & countries), and of course we swapped contact information and have been in touch since. – Katie Rainey

ITAC was an enriching, community-building experience that our staff was honored to attend. We can’t wait to bring new resources into our Community-Word Project community. Additionally, we’re looking forward to attending ITAC5 two years from now in Korea!