In what direction is the change going in?
The beginning of year twelve as a Teaching Artist finds me in deep reflection. The field is different; the participants are different. There is no question about whether there is change. The question is, “In what direction is the change going in?”
Let me speak directly to my fellow Teaching Artists who lead workshops daily. Let me speak from observing thousands of participants and from years of deep, honest conversations with Teaching Artists I know and trust.
The work of Teaching Artists is formalizing itself as an industry. The change will provide stability and secure the longevity of the field and hopefully of its artists. The conversations on rubrics and a formalized approach to accessing the arts are necessary projects to further our understanding of the form. We have to begin to accept those changes and embrace them as tools to further our own practice both as educators and as artists. If we push them away, we distance ourselves from the full potential of this field. It's time to arm ourselves with the knowledge of what it takes to keep this work sustainable and offer organizations our thoughts on how to keep the work of Teaching Artists unique and deeply rooted in art.
Most of the participants we encounter (especially younger participants) are now different. For participants who have grown up unaware of a world without the Internet, they exist in the real world, the virtual world; and one made up by a combination of the first two, and their own imagination. These participants have all of those worlds at their fingertips. We can inspire them to create art we never dreamed of. What an exciting time to be an artist. I echo what Amy Dennison said in her blog post Teaching Artists -Then and Now, “The personal connection is essential to the arts.” I think the younger generation feels her point too. Their level of honesty in the classroom is something I hadn’t experienced until recently. It’s refreshing. It’s scary, shocking at times, and is looking for guidance. That has been our purpose since this field began. Technology is firmly planted in the minds and art making of our youth. We are responsible for bridging the gap and introducing them to a personal connection in the arts. Let us continue to carry that torch with pride. Let's say "yes and, " to this new reality and not look for the ways in which it separates us. We are all in it and responsible for figuring it out together.
Now is the time to reflect on our practice. What have we learned that will help us not only get through changes, but be a voice in the direction of such change? How can we as Teaching Artists help define the new rules of this industry, and then as we do so well, find ways to break and reshape those rules?
Omar Perez has worked as an actor for over a decade. During that time he has worked as a company member of the internationally recognized Pregones Theater. Other stage credits include DC7 The Roberto Clemente Story (off Broadway), Man of La Mancha, Spinning into Butter, and Singing wid a sword (winner of the Audience Favorite Award at 2009 Fringe Festival). His film credits include Shut up and do it (screened at the 2007 NYILFF, and CinemaFest in Puerto Rico) Broken Hearts (screened at 2007 LALIFF), and Evergreen (screened at 2009 LILIFF). He is also a former company trainee of the American Mime Theater.
Though he continues to work as an actor, Omar is now cultivating a career in Directing. Recent projects include 3 is Enough, an international collaborative project between Pregones Theater (Bronx) Sering (Belguim) and Tswepa (South Africa), and Name and Blame Inc. a new work by Ricardo Perez- Gonzalez.
As a Teaching Artist, Omar has worked with Lincoln Center Education, Artsconnection, Creative Arts Team, The Center for Arts Education and People Theatre Project. Populations taught include: grades 2-12, Inmates at Rikers Island, Residents in domestic shelters, and Seniors (Life Long Learners).