Has the work of the Teaching Artist changed? What issues do Teaching Artists face today?
I currently supervise over sixty teaching artists in visual arts, music, dance and theater. When I first started to work with Teaching Artists, the task of training and supporting them seemed simpler and less complicated than what it is now. In the late 90s, we focused mostly on making sure our Teaching Artists were immersed in our organization’s teaching approach. We emphasized student engagement and partnering with classroom teachers. Through the years, it became a necessity for Teaching Artists to become well versed with the many educational initiatives in schools including the Common Core Standards, Danielson’s Framework, and the realities of state testing. Our Teaching Artists had to develop greater awareness in these areas in order to strongly consider and address the needs of classroom teachers. The work was no longer just about preparing and engaging students to view a performance or visit a museum, but about connections to curriculum and standards, and identifying student outcomes that aligned with teacher’s outcomes. Professional development to address these needs emerged and became necessary components of our Teaching Artist development.
The scope of the work of Teaching Artistry has also changed. The areas in which Teaching Artists work has widely expanded to settings that were not as fully explored before. More and more Teaching Artists are working outside the traditional K-12 school setting. Their work in projects that promote cultural and racial awareness is helping to build stronger and healthier communities. Teaching Artists work with the incarcerated and intergenerational groups, in women’s shelters, and in creative aging programs is significant and essential. We continue to see new opportunities emerge for Teaching Artists to work in non-arts settings such as medical institutions and corporations that value 21st century skills. Teaching Artist help develop and re-imagine the work force.
With the expansion of work and the rapid growth of the field, Teaching Artists continue to work towards excellence and sustainability. It is important to support our Teaching Artists who no longer are seeing their work as an individual “gig” but as a career choice. One of the greatest challenges today is the work of Teaching Artists not being fully recognized as the serious profession it should be. Some suggest Teaching Artist certification as a way to remedy this. While there is considerable interest amongst Teaching Artists as well as some arts and education institutions, certification is a complex and challenging idea that requires further exploration and serious thought.
Jose Velez is the Associate Director, Teaching Artist Faculty & Fellowships at Lincoln Center Education, where he supervises the management and professional development of 50-plus Teaching Artists for dance, music, theater, and visual arts programs. He also oversees the William R. Kenan Jr. Performing Arts Fellowship at Lincoln Center Education, monitoring the progress of the Fellows and assisting them with their year-end performance presentation. He is also the project director of LCE’s Teaching Artist Development Lab program. He is a Board Member of the Association of Teaching Artists. Mr. Velez, a native of Puerto Rico, has a Master of Arts in Theatre from the University at Albany in New York.