There is often a sense of worry that accompanies a commitment of your time and money into professional development programs. Especially in the city, where there are infinite number of options in every medium and, no matter how much research you do, it is almost impossible to be certain of what you’re going to get. As a theatre artist and musician who has been in the game for a few years now, I am confident when I say that investing in the Teaching Artist Project may just be one of the best things I have ever done for myself and for my career.
It was clear to me even before the first workshop that I made a good decision. The whole process of getting from application to classroom was extremely organized, well-detailed, and timely. This was when I knew the work on all sides was taken very seriously. At the opening reception, I got to meet the incredible people with whom I would embark on this exciting journey. This was when I knew I was among my people.
On the first Saturday workshop, I stepped into the bright and welcoming Drama League space feeling excited and curious. That energy and enthusiasm emanated right back to me. There were, of course, some accompanying feelings of fear and uncertainty. What were we going to be doing in this room filled with forty plus people for six hours!? There was chart paper on the walls, arts supplies in the corner, the facilitators talking. It was soon very clear I was not there to simply absorb and regurgitate information as so many other tedious training programs go. I was there to participate. To do. To experience. To be a part of the discussion and the activity-based learning. To be just as responsible for everyone’s growth in the room as they were for mine. How thrilling! And refreshing!
I sat there on the first day waiting to diligently take notes and receive the information. Instead, one of the first things we were asked to do was to identify who we are as artists. Who am I as an artist? What is my creative process? How did I get here today? What drives my work? Who am I, and what do I have to say?
It seems so simple, and yet so overwhelming to think about. We sat down as a group and made art centered around these questions. At first, I was filled with the same anxiety and doubt that so many artists feel. What on earth is special about anything I do? Do I have something interesting or new to offer? But through the process of art-making, all of those fears broke down as I let my creativity flow and let the work speak for itself, which is really what we are all striving to do here as Teaching Artists. The results were incredibly enlightening, and this idea of inquiry-based learning through art – of using questions to fuel ideas and “invite students’ expertise,” as Artistic Director Patti Chilsen once put it – is the center-piece and brilliance of the Teaching Artist Project.
It was a thrilling first day; the electricity of all the ideas and passion floating around the room. It was potent and pulsing in every discussion. Our TAP community is at once like-minded in our shared pursuit of social justice through arts in education, and beautifully diverse in backgrounds, artistic mediums, perspectives and interests. Guided by our incredible facilitators, we’ve set up a space where it is safe to explore, to ask questions, to experiment and to practice.
As I continue forward on the TAP trail, I always know that my fellow artists and I are in good hands. The TAP team has consistently been nurturing, understanding, and beyond generous. Our time, our work, our art is not only seen and respected, it is cherished and cultivated by people who genuinely want to see you grow and succeed. The support, the opportunities, the real love and care for this line of work that beams from both the facilitators and every individual in the room, is just absolutely soul-nourishing for an artist. I walked out of that first class feeling empowered, knowing I made an excellent decision to be here, and so eager and inspired to work hard and bring my craft and ideas to the table.