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The Life of a Teaching Artist

by Lies'l Hill | July 13, 2017

So, last year I attended Lincoln Center Education’s Teaching Artist Lab. It’s this crazy/wonderful two-week intensive workshop where the cohort (about 30 people total) work and reflect on what it means to be a Teaching Artist, how it correlates to our artistry, and collaboration/learning tools we need to grow and try to make ourselves invaluable to the outside world. Fast forward to this year, I am lucky enough to once again attend the Lab (in 3 days! Crap, I need to pack…), this time in a new cohort for veteran TAs.

For those that may not know, the wonderfully-ambiguous term “Teaching Artist” is relatively new in the grand scheme of things. People (especially non-artist-types) often crinkle their brow and tilt their head a little when they hear the title. There are always follow up questions. I am totally cool with this because I think it’s actually a fun little challenge to get to try and answer their inevitable inquiry of: What the heck is a Teaching Artist?

Though there is no set definition of the term, a Teaching Artist is “a practicing professional artist with the complementary skills and sensibilities of an educator, who engages people in learning experiences in, through, and about the arts," so says Eric Booth. See, even the definition is ambiguous. We like to keep things nice and open here in the arts world.

Though the term itself hasn’t been around for long, people have been doing the work of TAs for many, many years. When you google it (as long as you skip the wikipedia link) you will likely find yourself on the webpage for the one and only Eric Booth (quoted above), who is known as the sort of “grandfather of teaching artistry.” And where did he coin this term, you ask? Lincoln Center Education. Not too shabby to get to try and learn about what you do from the place that invented it.

So all this to say that: 1) I am excited to go back to NYC for two weeks and learn more about myself as a Teaching Artist. 2) Maybe you learned today that you yourself might be a Teaching Artist and didn’t even know it. Have follow-up questions? Email me! And 3) I really need to stop procrastinating packing.

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