Chalkboard Chat is an interview series highlighting the teaching artists and administrators who dedicate their time and expertise to ArtsConnection students. 

Teaching Artist Andrea Markus Finds Joy in Her Students’ Creative Sparks

What’s your earliest memory of being moved by art?

I was born in Jamaica, and there was always music and dance all around. The first play I remember going to in Jamaica was called Johnny Reggae. I just remember the people telling stories on stage, acting, and making us laugh.

What kind of music did your parents play when you were growing up… and did the apple fall far from the tree?

My mother was probably the biggest Bob Marley fan on planet earth. So, I grew up with the sounds of Bob Marley all day long. I definitely have a more eclectic mix as a dance artist and teacher and having moved to America. I listen to lots of different music but reggae, and especially Bob Marley, is always with me.

Describe your primary school arts education in three words

Dance, music, and I don’t know what the word is for missing everything else. Because I did not get enough visual arts or theater.

Any surprising rewards?

When classroom teachers have revelations about their students. Especially when it’s a student that is struggling in the classroom and failing academically. I mean, I can only imagine how hard it is to see the light in every student all the time. But when a quote-unquote troubled child shines in my dance class and the teacher sees an engaged student eager to learn and even lead, and they see the potential in that student. I am glad to be able to help teachers see a different side of their students. Those moments stick with me.

How has teaching children changed your outlook on art?

I appreciate it every single day. When things are hard, I’m tired and my joints hurt, I remember that this work is so necessary, so powerful, and I feel grateful that I get the chance to be an ambassador to the arts in our society.

I’m a doctoral candidate working on my dissertation and that keeps me quite busy. My dissertation is about the practice of making and teaching art. Everything that happens in the classroom influences what I write.

Name an artist – living or dead – you’d like to have dinner with and why.

Edna Guy was a dancer in the early 1900s she came out of the Denishawn school. She was the first and possibly only black woman student of Ruth St. Denis and Ted Shawn. She was an incredible artist but due to racism there’s not much we know about her story. I think there’s a tiny bit of film footage and a few photos. I would love to have dinner with Edna Guy and write her story. She needs to be widely known.

In your own words, describe why ArtsConnection’s mission is so important.

A colleague, an amazing older educator, once said the arts are a birthright for our children. There is so much that children get from the arts. We know how it affects thinking, feeling, and being.