This whole week, we’ve been looking at the ins and outs of working with artists-in-residences. Why do we need to use artists-in-residences anyway? Why can’t we just use our related arts teachers to bring in artistic experiences for our students and staff? So after all, this is their area of expertise. We would be doing them a favor, right?
Let me be blunt here: related arts teachers are there to teach your students (and you, if you’re interested) the skills, the appreciation and the application of various artforms. Moreover, while we are artists and take great pride in our crafts, our focus in schools is not on the craft itself. It is in nurturing a love for and building the skills of the arts within our students. Your related arts teachers are focused on the process to produce a product.
Artists-in-Residences are very different. These are artisans that spend their lives with their craft, sharing their products with the world as an extension of themselves. They use what they know and perceive in the world to create something new. These people are focused on the product using the very best process.
By bringing in an artist-in-residence, you are embracing a couple of things:
1.) You are acknowledging and supporting that the arts should be appreciated for the arts sake.
2.) You are providing a rare glimpse into the life and craft of a master artisan to your students and staff.
3.) You are bringing the world into your classrooms. These artisans have traveled and worked far and wide and bring a broad knowledge and wealth of first-hand experiences with them. This provides a window into truths of the world that many of our students may not get the opportunity to see otherwise. Additionally, not to mention the fabulous opportunities for inclusion, differentiation and using multiple intelligences during the visit!
4.) You are embracing arts integration! This is the ultimate arts integration lesson! Artists-in-Residences provide your teachers with direct and hands-on skills and processes. Plus, they are great to utilize for future lesson ideas and connections.
In short, artists-in-residences are a valuable and unforgettable experience if you take your time, do your research, collaborate and truly absorb the wonderful skills and lessons they have to offer. To make this a do-able process, I suggest having an AiR committee with a parent from the PTA, a classroom teacher, a related arts teacher and an administrator. By divvying up the work, having input from all school stakeholders and creating a vision for the program, you are setting your whole school up for success – before, during and after your artist-in-residence leaves your building.