​Teaching Arts 

Passing on the vision and practice of art-making is as old as culture itself. Even in the United States (a country not known for its support of the arts) there's a long history of government and private funding. Arlene Goldbard's New Creative Community sets the work in the larger context of cultural development. And here is an informal piece I wrote on the History of the Field.

By the late 1960's, many of us sharing art with people in non-traditional settings - public schools, neighborhood meeting halls, hospitals, senior centers, prisons, drug treatment programs, libraries, veterans groups, etc. - were calling our work "community arts." Central to this work are the vision that making art is a human birthright and the belief that each of us is the expert about our own life and story.


In recent years, "teaching arts" is the description most often used to describe this work. A comprehensive source of information is the Association of Teaching Artists. As noted on the site, teaching artists are, for the most part, self-employed, independent contractors who do not have health care and retirement benefits. For this reason, and others, there is a growing effort to gather into a more coherent and connected field and there are a number of local organizations working in this direction. In California, there's the Teaching Artist Support Collaborative of California.


Of course, there are pluses and minuses as work-from-the-heart – worked based on values of equity and cultural democracy – becomes more institutionalized. Here's a link to a piece I wrote a few years ago on this subject. And here's a RAND study -- Gift of the Muse: Reframing the Debate About the Benefits of the Arts  -- that covers some similar terrain.  


WritersCorps is the program I worked with for the last 20 years. The program has recently morphed, but here's an article I wrote about the structure of our program as it existed a few years ago. This piece gives a sense of what a good program requires.


Here are a few of the hundreds of teaching arts/community arts programs that exist nationally to give a small look at the variety of programs and structures:
Alternate Roots

California Poets in the Schools
Chicago Arts Partnerships in Education
New York State Literary Center
Perpich Center
Teachers & Writers Collaborative
Writers in the School

The book AIMprint describes one excellent teaching arts program - the Center for Community Partnerships - and fully explores arts integration, which is one current focus of the field. Other useful texts include:
Art in Other Places by William Cleveland
Beginner's Guide to Community-Based Arts by Keith Knight and Mat Swarzman
Putting the Arts in the Picture edited by Nick Rabkin and Robin Redmond
The Citizen Artist edited by Linda Frye Burnham and Steven Durland

Good work has to be paid for, and funding often depends on public support, so it's important to sustain arts policy and advocacy organizations. Here are a few:
Americans for the Arts
Arts Providers Alliance of San Francisco
National Guild of Community Schools

Finally, since teaching artists are practicing artists, needing time and resources to create their own art work, here are links to information about grants, residencies, and other resources.
Alliance of Artists Communities
Foundation Grants to Individuals Online
New York Foundation for the Arts