The wealth of knowledge and experience that teaching artists bring to the classroom is unparalleled. They excite students about their arts area of expertise. Additionally, they also provide a depth of knowledge that is generally inaccessible for general education teachers. (Only because they are already stretched to cover a wide breadth of subject areas). This provides an invaluable experience to students. And although school- or grade-wide assemblies can be engaging, they don’t provide the hands-on support that students receive through a teacher-artist classroom partnership.
Teaching Artists for PD
Teaching artists who are committed to working with a teacher will often also be amenable to offering PD sessions for teachers. (Usually during a planning period.) These sessions are wonderful opportunities for teachers! They gain insight into a specific art form. And bring that art back to their classroom even if they don’t have the opportunity to work with the artist in a workshop.
While the benefits of an artist residency are clear, there remain many schools that have never scheduled a visiting artist. What is the cause of the disconnect? There are two big obstacles for scheduling a visiting artist. Funding, and finding an artist whose art area partners well with the existing curricula teachers are expected to address.
Funding Visiting Artists
So let’s first address the issue of funding. Money designated for visiting artists often has to be set aside an entire academic year in advance. And sometimes, even paid in two or three payments over a period of time! Maintaining organized finances is important. But it’s also important to work closely with the individual in charge of your school budget. This is usually your AI Specialist, department chair, or an administrative assistant. All of that is especially true when utilizing grants.
Be sure to take into consideration that scheduling artists well in advance is a must. Sometimes as much as a year if they are being compensated through grant funding. This sounds much more complicated than it really is. It simply involves knowing what artist you would like to have visit your classroom and when, writing a grant request, and then moving forward with planning the residency. Artist agencies are there to serve you, the teacher, so be sure to specify what exactly you are looking for in your residency. Make the needs of your classroom clear. If you are struggling with the grant writing process, here is an article about finding and obtaining funding to help support Arts Integrated learning in your classroom.
How to Locate Teaching Artists
Now onto the second obstacle! Locating artists whose expertise matches existing curriculum can be a barrier for some teachers organizing a residency. However a third party exists to help teachers locate artists whose knowledge and material would align well with specific units of study, artist agencies! Teaching artists often partner or work with agencies… Just like an actor or actress might in Hollywood!
The agency works to pair artists with schools and teachers who would benefit from the depth of knowledge and experience that an artist can bring to a professional development session, or classroom. Often just calling an agency and speaking with a representative will set you on a track to booking an artist…. Or at least having a catalog of potential teaching artists with programming descriptions for perusal and consideration sent to you. In order to make finding and booking a visiting artist a little easier for you, I have compiled a list of visiting artist “agencies” across the United States. This listing is far from complete and merely serves as a springboard to help promote exploration of artist opportunities! Feel free to comment below with additional agencies you have used or support!
National Artist Agencies:
Young Audiences For Learning: Claiming to be the nations largest arts in education network, Young Audiences serves over 5 million children and youth each year in more than 7,000 schools and community centers across the country through a diverse network of 30 affiliates. Young Audiences works with their artists to ensure classroom preparedness and management (as most artists do not have a teaching background).
Encore Performing Arts Ltd.: This organization opperates out of NY but boasts that it has grown into one of the largest performing arts agencies in the Northeast. Workshops and residencies accompany stage performances and teacher study guides are provided for all productions.
Arts Horizons: Established by John Devol a Broadway musician, this organization claims to reach more than 350,000 students and teachers each year with their artist partnerships based out of NJ.
Class Act: Based in Wisconsin, this arts organization offers a large selection of traveling artists and programs (they have even conducted international tours).
State-Based Teaching Artist Organizations:
To learn more about booking a visiting artist, check out this facebook live session from November of 2017.
Laura Wixon graduated from St. Mary’s College of Maryland in 2012 with Bachelors in Art Studio and Art History and English Language. In 2013 she stayed at SMCM and completed the Masters in Teaching Program with endorsements in elementary education, special education, art education k-12, and secondary English education (6-12). She taught as a Language Arts teacher for two years at Bates Middle School before moving into their Arts Integration Specialist position, which she has held the past two years.