In this past year in TAP, I saw a fabulous variety of different professional development workshops all over the five boroughs. A really memorable one was a trip we advanced TAPpers took to the National Museum of the American Indian.
The exhibit we visited was called “Transformers,” and it featured native artists using light and sound to contextualize more traditional mediums into a modern context. These artists drew from the richness of their culture’s roots and brought the traditions and motifs into the modern age, firmly demonstrating that native cultures, and their art, are fully alive with poignant impact on modern society. The experience, which featured native basket weaving, dance, storytelling, and beading, was incredibly humbling and illuminating. The message of re-contextualizing tradition and opening our minds to the possibilities of native art and culture is integral to a social justice pedagogy and practice, and this is a beautiful place to begin expanding your knowledge and your own horizons, as well as your students’s.
Through our visit to the museum, we were invited to attend a follow up professional development, where we investigated the sparsity of Native American/Indigenous content in the current curriculum and how we as artists can combat that by bringing in indigenous art and artists both traditional and contemporary. One lesson we looked at created found object sculptures using a modern native sculptor’s work as inspiration. I really appreciated this workshop for all its information and its open discussion of the lazy, reductive tendencies we have towards teaching Native American topics that have gone on for too long. Indigenous cultures are not dead, they are living and vibrant cultures that deserve respectful and comprehensive investigation.
Several other workshops I’ve attended through TAP have been similarly beneficial to my practice and I’m sure that of others. At Wingspan Arts, I got to explore early arts education in a range of mediums I don’t normally get to participate in, let alone teach. Although I teach high school, many of my students have limited arts learning. With small modifications, I can use activities from Wingspan in my work with them.
The same can be said for the Marquis Studio creative movement workshop, which provided movement activities I am already adapting to use with my older students who are embarrassed about using their bodies in space.
Finally, the most recent workshop at DreamYard Project, “Teaching for Social Justice,” really reinforced my motivation to facilitate difficult, but important, conversations in the classroom, especially in a way that makes every participant feel heard, seen, and respected. Using documentary poems and erasure poems as a way of reflection on a lesson/investigation, rather than the content of the lesson itself, was a really exciting twist for me. Overall, I’m eager to get started integrating these activities and super appreciative of my TAP experience.