This past weekend, TAP staff Karen LaShelle, Patrick Torres, and Sarah Rinner, convened in Boston with arts education thought leaders from around the country at the annual National Guild for Community Arts Education conference.
The opening plenary of the conference included a speech and performance entitled, Look back. Look at. Look forward. by artist/activist Will Power. His address was deeply inspiring and provided the perfect framework for the conference as he encouraged us to preserve our past by sharing it in the present in an effort to shape our future. So, we thought it would only be appropriate for us to share the lessons we learned from the conference using his format:
Looking back. TAP has grown rapidly from its inception. What started as a graduate student project in violence prevention, has become the largest provider of arts education in Austin.TAP teaches thousands of youth and the people who care for them across Central Texas in a variety of programs every year. While our numbers have grown, and our programs have expanded, we hold to our original inspiration: arts and education for social change.
Looking at. One of the great benefits of attending these national conferences is that it gives you the opportunity to take a good look at your company in relation to like minded organizations across the nation. When we took the time to put ourselves under the microscope during our three days in Boston, we were overwhelmed with a sense of pride. While we were definitely learning from our peers and getting inspired with new programming ideas, we were also able to see ourselves as national leaders in the field of arts education. When we take a good look at TAP, here is what we see:
- Currently, we are implementing high quality programs in and out of school time and around our community that are significantly impacting our participants.
- We employ 40+ teaching artists who offer over 450 hours of direct service to youth every week, and we offer one of the most comprehensive professional development programs for our teachers nation-wide.
- Our services are needed now more than ever as funding for the arts continues to get cut while research continues to show the importance of arts in education.
Looking forward. We have great plans for the future of TAP. We are currently working on designing and implementing new evaluation tools to more accurately define our impact based on best practices from many of our colleagues in the field. We will measure our ability to develop students who are confident leaders, courageous allies, creative artists and critical thinkers. It is our goal of creating “4C students” that will shape our future and compel us to make our work even stronger in the service of our youth.
Looking forward to the future of the arts in education on a national scale, we discussed the emergence of STEAM with our conference colleagues. STEAM is a movement that advocates the need for the Arts to be embedded in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) because the arts are linked to the success of our scientific endeavors. Without the creativity, innovation, communication and critical thinking skills students learn when practicing the arts, not to mention how the arts helps develop empathy and confidence, how will the next generation of brilliant minds bring their ideas to life? Which takes us back to TAP and our 4C student: the student who feels compassion for the well-being of the world, has the ability to collaborate with peers, and can, along with the technical knowledge of improving how we do things for ourselves and others, confidently lead others to success.