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If you give a TA time, or, what summer programming can offer adult learners

From Artist Program Manager Maia McCarthy:

Working as a teaching artist my best experiences have been working with an ensemble over months, allowing time to work its magic as we get to know each other individually and create an “each other” collectively- an ensemble. Many of our school partners don’t have this option. As a result, neither do the teaching artists or the students. Over the past two summers the influx of federal funding to support student engagement has allowed all of us to come together in a different way.

Instead of working together weekly in 40 or 50 minute chunks, students and teaching artists from a variety of disciplines worked together for 90 to 120 minutes a day, every day for a week. Children who began the week hesitant about a new art form had time to come at it from a variety of angles and end the week with less fear and more joy. More delightful for me- teaching artists had their own time to play and learn. 

We work with experienced artists, they have hours of practice adapting to the circumstances and making art that responds to them. Over the past two summers teaching artists have met the challenge of greeting students from a variety of schools with a variety of experiences in the arts every Monday to make art and learn about each other, so we can say good-bye on Friday feeling like a community.

Students become campers and we ask them to spend four hours of a six hour day engaged in a creative practice. For many campers sustained freedom of expression toward a creative goal is a new experience and they don’t have the muscles yet. When teaching artists whose creative muscles are honed have a chance to meet an ensemble of young artists who need support building that creative muscle strength, beautiful things happen. 

Alex Addy has been a master drummer for most of his life and drums in a culture that recognizes the importance of stamina for continued practice. Our campers didn’t have that at the start. Alex is also a master teaching artist and has worked with students like our campers for decades, but he hadn’t had the opportunity to work with them for daily two hour sessions. What did the new configuration offer? Alex was challenged to adapt his lessons to meet the stamina of the campers, including frequent rest breaks and story times at the beginning of the week and gradually lengthening the drum and dance times as the campers’ skills, strength and confidence grew. 

Jill Giedt is a director, ballet dancer and experienced classroom teacher. She put all these skills together for her creative movement camps this summer, creating an immersive experience for campers to learn about the history of Black artists in the US, engage with their art as audience members, and respond creatively through movement. Jill not only gave her campers the opportunity to engage actively as young citizens in the history of our nation, she gave them the opportunity to do so with their full humanity. Jill also put herself in the mix and reflected on what was inspiring for her, leading her to develop a new residency program for the school year that integrates skill building in ballet with the history of Black ballet dancers in the United States. When we’re lucky we get to use art to make sense of our world, to find and make community with others, to become better people. If you give a TA time, often you get lucky. 

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