To kick off the new school year, Nature Consortium selected 11 talented local artists to be part of our 2014/15 Teaching Artist Roster. In early September, thanks to a generous grant from The Boeing Company, we gathered these artists together for an inaugural Teaching Artist Training and roundtable discussion led by Carol Williams, our Arts Education Manager.
It was an opportunity for artists from various disciplines to come together to discuss teaching strategies, issues of social justice, and the role of art in community building. We also discussed our vision for how to create access, exposure and opportunities in the art-and-environment world, not only to students from various backgrounds, but also to the artists that teach them.
Interactive activities, videos, and models led teaching artists down a path of personal reflection and strategy. As artists, teachers, and entrepreneurs, we see a need to help expand our community’s conversations about art and environmental teaching beyond technique; we must also elevate the arts as a viable career choice, especially for students who may be seeking alternative solutions to challenging life situations.
As a group, teaching artists had the opportunity to share their medium, their work, and the stories behind their passion that brought them to Nature Consortium. And in turn, we taught them about Nature Consortium’s story, the philosophy and intent behind our mission, and how we planned to work together to achieve our mutual goals.
Our discussion was driven by these questions:
- Why is access to the arts essential, and how can we make that a reality for all students regardless of income?
- How can we help young people develop 21st century skills?
- How can we use art as a sustainable tool for teaching students reflection, critique, resilience, critical thinking, interpersonal skills, and creativity?
- How can we ignite student motivation and engagement in art through technology and urban communities?
Through these discussions, we solidified our relationship as a community of artists under a common vision. Some of the artists present commented that the training was a very powerful moment that allowed them to be in the midst of like-minded colleagues. Others stated that rarely do they have the opportunity to sit in a room with other artists to build community through a common mission, vision, and road map. We plan to continue to strengthen our artist community through dialogue and collaboration throughout the year.
We also discussed some of our program goals for the future:
- Place-based programming at Youngstown Cultural Arts Center
- Eco Arts Community Service Learning Program for students interested in art or environment as a career choice
- Eco Arts Youth Advisory Board for students looking to get involved in their community
- Eco Arts in the Duwamish greenbelt on Fieldtrip Thursdays (more info to come) and other major NC annual events