It’s good to be home. Six months ago, I could not have imagined that I would be living in my beloved home state again, but here I am, the new Director of Arts Education at the Montana Arts Council. I have a childhood friend to thank, one of the many Grandstreet Theatre School alumni I have kept in touch with all my life. He texted me the job posting, and I politely thanked him for thinking of me. Then, two days later, he sent it to me again on Facebook. I took the hint.
I have spent the past twelve years in the trenches of public education as a teaching artist; and, most recently, as a classroom teacher. I never think it is hyperbolic to say that art can save the lives of children. I’ve seen it happen. Many of the students I worked with over the past decade or more faced some difficult life challenges, and success in school often eluded them. Yet I have witnessed the tranformation that occurs when the student who can’t sit in his seat or finish his homework discovers he has a talent for improvisation; when the student who regularly cursed out her teachers found peace in showing up early to school every morning to practice her cello; or when the young man who lost his brother to an act of violence found his only comfort in the theatre room, rehearsing his scene from Hamlet. I believe all of us who work in arts education have these stories. And, I believe that the transformative power of arts education must be made widely available to all young people in a democratic society.
One of my arts education heroes, researcher and advocate Lois Hetland, once said to a room full of teachers and teaching artists:
The real product of art education is not the works of art, but the child.
I hope this blog will be a place where Montana teaching artists, classroom teachers, arts adminstrators, parents and any and all who are advocates for arts education can connect and share ideas, opinions and resources. I look forward to meeting you!
You can also follow me on Twitter @BigSkyArtsEd and I’ll follow you, too!