ArtsConnection’s Artist Institute
Inspires and Informs
Image: Word cloud made by teaching artists in response to the question, “Who are our students?” during a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion workshop on Day 2 of Artist Institute
At the beginning of any typical school year, ArtsConnection’s program staff and teaching artist faculty gather in A.R.T. NY’s rehearsal studios adjacent to our administrative offices to prepare for the excitement of returning to the classrooms and stages in our public schools and to guiding our teens through the cultural landscape of NYC. This year, our studio rooms became Zooms for the annual Artist Institute. Held for 3 days in October, Institute participants exchanged a wealth of discoveries and new pedagogical knowledge and practices.
The Institute featured synchronous sessions by teaching artists in every art form and across grade levels. All sessions were grounded in the core tenets which inform ArtsConnection’s work with New York City students: student voice and student choice are front-and-center in making and responding to art; and teaching artists always provide equitable, inclusive, anti-racist classroom environments.
As digital learning environments have taken precedence, we have further articulated our guiding principles in support of our students. Among them, we value and use multiple platforms to engage in the teaching and learning process. We are also guided by social-emotional learning experts’ advice that we can help to combat the lasting effects of pandemic-related trauma by always weaving healing-centered practices into our programming sessions.
As lifelong learners ourselves, an always-exciting feature of our Institute is calling on experts beyond our own ArtsConnnection family to share their pedagogical perspectives and challenge us to continually grow our creative thinking as artists and teachers. This fall we were delighted to bring two special guests into our digital space. Dr. Sam Mejias is a long-time friend of the organization, having served as an ArtsConnection program manager from 2000-2005. Dr. Mejias is a musician and Associate Professor of Social Justice and Communication at the New School for Social Research. He spoke about the importance of building a professional community as an important component of navigating challenging times. Our second speaker, Dr. Megan Bang, Professor of Learning Sciences and Psychology at Northwestern University and Senior Vice President at the Spencer Foundation, shared her work on indigenous ways of making meaning in the teaching and learning process. We are deeply grateful to both of our keynoters for providing their educational perspectives and rich contexts in which to consider our work, and energizing us to persist and thrive in the current educational landscape.
Megan Bang (Ojibwe and Italian descent) is a Professor of the Learning Sciences and Psychology at Northwestern University and is currently serving as the Senior Vice President at the Spencer Foundation. Dr. Bang studies dynamics of culture, learning, and development broadly with a specific focus on the complexities of navigating multiple meaning systems in creating and implementing more effective and just learning environments in science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics education. She focuses on reasoning and decision-making about complex socio-ecological systems in ways that intersect with culture, power, and historicity. Central to this work are dimensions of identity, equity and community engagement. She has taught in and conducted research in teacher education as well as leadership preparation programs. Megan is a former pre- school teacher, middle school and high school teacher, and continues to teach in informal learning programs with children and families every summer. Dr. Bang currently serves on the Board of Science Education at the National Academy of Sciences and a member if the Education and Human Resource Advisory Board and the Advisory Committee for Environmental Research and Education at the National Science Foundation.
Former ArtsConnection Program Manager, Sam Mejias is Associate Professor of Social Justice and Community Engagement in the School of Design Strategies at Parsons School of Design, The New School, and a Research Fellow at London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). As an ethnographer working in the critical pedagogy tradition, Dr Mejias conducts multidisciplinary research on the cultural politics of social justice and civic engagement in the US, Europe and the Middle East. In particular, he investigates how policy design, discourse and communication influence the promotion of social justice, equity, and civic engagement in the lives of young people in formal and informal spaces. Dr Mejias is also a multi-instrumentalist, sound designer and multimedia producer who uses music-making and sound design to inform new methodological approaches for working with young people in media education research.
ArtsConnection links learning to the arts for school-aged children and now, more than ever, we need your support to continue creating these connections. Donate now to help us provide art material kits to accompany remote lessons, seminar courses for our teens to virtually explore the rich NYC arts landscape, and so much more.