Several interesting events have converged for me lately, allowing me to think about some of the amazing people working in the arts in Hamilton. So today, rather than talking about arts education in terms of our role in teaching/ facilitating / inspiring our various audiences I want to talk about our impact on each other.
Think of any type of arts education program or any particular group of audience members, and do a quick look around the community or do an internet search and you will find as many different approaches and ideas as you do educators. Whether you are looking for classroom-based learning, art-making with persons with disabilities, public performance or educator-training programs, you will find examples of artists and educators whose vision has created a powerful and unique experience for their programs.
I have been fortunate to have many opportunities to attend and participate in conferences and events that bring peers and colleagues together to talk about things that they have done. Most recently, I chaired the Art Education panel for the Living Arts Symposium, and was privileged to have three colleagues join me to discuss their favourite projects, two of whom I hadn’t previously met. It was wonderful to hear about their approaches and successes in bringing art alive in some pretty great projects. In another recent meeting I learned about the success that other colleagues have had in engaging new audiences in their community.
Each time I meet new art educators, I love to hear about their work – What is new in their work? What are their challenges? Who are they trying to engage? This kind of sharing is by far the most beneficial part of my own professional development – to hear what others are thinking about and to share ideas. I am more than a few years out of school, and I often think about going back for classes in this or that, but I always come back to the same conclusion: the professional networks that we develop through our work are by far the best opportunity for development and growth. Never underestimate the value of your peers, and of sharing what you do. This is where the growth happens, and ultimately where innovation can begin.