Throughout the Teaching Artist Training & Internship Program (TATIP) this past year, I got chills anytime the whole class was together in the same room. The amount of artistry and soul in one place was overwhelming. I would leave seminars feeling like anything was possible. And last night at our TATIP graduation, the energy flowing through the room was magical and I left the evening knowing that anything is possible.
On my way to the graduation gathering, my thoughts tumbled and reeled around the events of a tough week. Within the span of 48 hours, I found out that two non-profits I work for both lost an exorbitant amount of grant funding. One organization will fold at the end of the year and the other will be drastically scaling down to essentially eliminate all free summer programs for children and families. I felt lost and defeated. Non-profit and youth leadership work is my passion, the thing that keeps me ticking. To realize others don’t understand its value to the world—enough to remove all financial support—is heartbreaking.
So needless to say, I came to the TATIP graduation feeling a bit heavy. However, when I entered the building, I ran into Renée, Teaching Artist/activist powerhouse and TATIP facilitator, whose energy and empathy began to lift my spirits. When I entered the graduation room, I fell into a loving hug from Beth, an extraordinary colleague. And by the end of the evening, I was renewed.
One of the activities for the evening focused on our main take-aways from the program. During the activity, I said I learned that as a Teaching Artist, you must remove your ego. It is not about you; it is never about you. It is about the work and the young people you have the honor to teach and learn from. I learned to be eternally grateful for the opportunity to learn and be humbled.
However, as I left graduation and considered the night’s happenings, I realized I had learned something else that was incredibly powerful. Near the end of the evening, the TATIP class presented our facilitators with gifts of appreciation, one of which was a community poem written by members of the TATIP class. Patti, our endlessly wise and empathic facilitator, read the poem aloud. The room hung on her every word, committed to the sound of her voice. Shortly after, another TATIP trainee, Shereen Macklin, sang for us all, unleashing both an endless sadness and a relentless joy.
Thinking back on these moments, I understood: Teaching Artists are the ultimate community of givers. The roots of a Teaching Artist run deep with complicated histories, burning passions, sinking woes, unfillable cracks and a craving for exploration. The unique and incomparable roots of each individual Teaching Artist, however, all have the same compass. It points to change, societal and artistic liberation, and a genuine stake in young people.
TATIP intentionally assembled us as agents of the work, knowing that together, we’d be a force of nature. And you were right, TATIP. We will move mountains. For we have a voice. Our voice is powerful. Our voice can change the world.
-Ally Tufenkjian, Theatre Artist, TATIP Trainee
Interested in TATIP? Find out more about our 2015-16 Program!
See more of our 2014-15 Graduates in the 2015 TATIP Anthology!