Monday, December 21, 2009

Ways we will offer support.

Rachel Farmer lead a discussion at our December meeting about the types of support that the group needs now. Everyone brought up one type of support they could use that the TAU could provide. Here is a list of what came up.
Possible future meetings/themes:

-How to deal with the job market-- where to look for jobs, how to navigate all the different types of art ed opportunities and organizations, how to interview, etc. -Mapping the Arted landscape: What are the differences in organizations?
-Teaching practices presentations: What do we teach and how do we teach?
-Art presentations: What are we working on in and out of the classroom?
-Education advocacy: What is going on in our experience and in the greater education scene?
We are interested in knowing what we can do to support more teaching artists!

Hypothetical Curricula for the Future

Check out for updated info about the project.

I wanted to post some hypothetical curricula as I collect them. These are possible classes, suggested by artists who might want to teach them. The field is wide open. Please send more ideas for classes or teachers.

-Public Mural Project- Traditional and Graffiti Style by Doug Groupp

-Making Art Using Fences by Doug Groupp

-Public Sculpture by Doug Groupp

-Mojo bag/Talisman/Spell- The class makes a sacred object meant to be buried for fertility and has the surprise benefit of composting—“Blessing the Ground” of flower beds. Participants will be learning about ritual, symbolism, and natural soil processes by Giselle Bailey

-Painting/recycling/moving with families: how to mix colors, paint found objects, and dance with them by Lindsay August Salazar

-Midnight astrology classes by Alison B. Levy

-Cloud watching: Looking at the sky, telling stories, walking and looking as ‘research’ by Christopher Kennedy

-Mixed media painting by Isabel Carrio

-How to go upside down in so many ways by Cassie Thornton

-How to use ArtWork as a curriculum in schools by James Andrews and Cassie

Saturday, December 12, 2009

A letter from a founder

Saturday, December 12, 2009

I read a lot of this to a group at Art in General this morning

Letter from a Founder:

Dear Comrades,

I write from Union Hall, the new space I have named on behalf of the Union, which was inaugurated on November 15, 2009. I sit at a big table under a chandalier. Every week there is a meeting at this table where 3-15 people sit and debate what this Union is and how we should move forward. These are my thoughts based on what has happened so far.

First I will defend the use of the word ‘Union,’ explain my working definition of teaching artist and list the potential functions of the Union. Through these definitions and descriptions an essence for the group will become apparent. Then you, the potential member, can agree or disagree, argue, step down, or join. And no matter what, a conversation will begin.

Why use the word ‘UNION’?
The use of the word is an intentional provocation. This Union is made of artists and we must define for ourselves WHICH definition of union suits us and our actions. I want to be a part of a tribe of critics who question the vocabulary that we use, and who adapt words to actions out of practicality and play-- but not out of fear of aligning with problematic histories.
As a generation of freelance idealists, we can take this word out of the context of the last century. We are not angry laborers. We do not work in a factory and we, at our best, use teaching art as a way to expand our own life practice. We do not belong to a common institution, but what we do have in common is much more substantial: we know how to facilitate creativity for other people. TAU is united by geography, and it is important to me that this union is made of people who know eachothers’ faces. We are also united by the common obstacles that we face.

What is special about teaching artists:
We are THE contemporary public artists. We are often funded by government to ‘teach’ a large sector of the ‘public’ and we are at liberty to define the content and the way that we deliver. How many other artists are fully supported by any government to complete a project that has funding and an implicit audience? We have a lot of power to agitate and motivate populations of people who are unreachable from within the art world.

An employed teaching artist is radical because they have crafted a system that honors them and their ideas by compensating them with money and the gratification of working with a group. TA’s have found a way to participate directly in a public system that values and pays for their process and product without monitoring what they do. We found a way to work with people that gives our art a solid function, a format for discussion, a laboratory for experimentation, and a chance to solve problems with a group. United, Teaching Artists are a large organism-- a powerful idea delivery force in every major city.

Artists who are active in their communities, who create their own situationist platform, share our practices and obstacles and so they are also in need of our supportive network. They too seek a way to make art through direct relationships with people, independent of organizations and institutions that inevitably complicate. They are the entrepreneurs here who offer their energy and expertise to field questions to the public without support. It is a TAU priority to support these processes and people too.

The potential functions of the Union, based on our Mission Statement:

The TAU is composed of NYC artists who teach as part of their creative practice.
-The members of the Union are not boring for admitting that their curriculum development, teaching, or civil engineering is a vital part of their art practice.
-The work created in a classroom or out of a social practice belongs to the artist who develops it out of their own research and life experience. We will support the creative process for people working to provoke critical thoughts in institutions and we will speak out to defend the ownership of teaching artist work.

With this union, we aim to define the role of the teaching artist through developing a supportive community, celebrating and exhibiting the work produced in teaching situations and advocating for the rights and needs of the teaching artist.
-The union formalizes the relationship between local teaching artists, creating an intentional community. At weekly working meetings, events, and monthly open meetings we can support eachother by sharing skills, relating experience, and pooling resources.
-We will organize exhibition opportunities for our members to exhibit their products and/or process. Our first large scale project is the development of the School of the Future, which will open in the spring.
-We will also offer regular opportunities to present the work we make in, outside, or for a classroom to the group for discussion and critique. It is a priority of the Union to find a satisfying relationship between the art world and the art education world through inventing exhibitions and situations that display the work made in the field.
-TA Advocacy must be a creative pursuit. Issues such as healthcare, ownership of curriculum and ideas, political actions, compensation, and more will be approached from a positive perspective rather than the historical concept of a ‘gripe’. I hope we can use the energy of our group to idealize and create the situations that make us flourish.

We work in many different kinds of environments for non profit arts organizations, schools, museums, and other agencies. Because we believe that art can invigorate, agitate, and reorient stale institutional habits, we want to develop a lasting structure to support the heappiness and health of every manifestation of teaching artist. 

By creating a relationship and a conversation between teaching artists, institutions, and the art world, we will contribute to a better understanding of art’s function in learning and accentuate the learning that is implicit in art.
We are too smart to go to battle. We can position ourselves as a field of experts who, by doing professional work that we love, can expect and plan for long term health and happiness. We will state clearly our objectives, political and personal, and by doing so we will attract the appreciation and opportunities we deserve.

The future of the Union will be designed by the members.

Art Front Magazine


From an article by Thomas Benton:
1. Is provincial isolation compatible with modern civilization?
2. Is your art free of foreign influence?
3. What American art influences are manifest in your work?
4. Was any art form created without meaning or purpose?
5. What is the social function of a mural?
6. Can art be created without direct personal contact with the subject?
7. What is your political viewpoint?
8. Is the manifestation of social understanding in art detrimental to it?
9. Is there any revolutionary tradition for the American artist?
10. Do you believe that the future of American Art lies in the Midwest?

This is a journal from the 1930's Artist Union.
Here is a brief article that summarizes their activities and struggles-- and heck, it's right next to our own membership card. Print that dang thing up! Cut it out!

It's a great point for the beginning of a conversation on how to use the Union model as our model or our foil. I will try to get my hands on a copy from interlibrary loan so we can check it out before we start designing our guidebook.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Why does a school need a building?

Why do we need a building for the School of the Future?
My thought is that the School of the Future responds to its location in time and space with lesson plans that are alive public art works, designed by an artists. We will be producing classes for people who live around the school, and to create a sense of commitment, security, and focus, I think it is really important to create a new space to separate the space of the park into a few types of space, that is a special place for a special type of interaction.

Last night Kate Cahill, Chris Kennedy, and I met and discussed ideas about the building for the School. An idea that we played around with was reinventing the tropes of NY public schools as parts of this building (swinging doors, kick guards, stairs, bright cerulean blue entrances) and mixing that with a contemporary translation of an old school house (bell, brick, square, pitched roof).

Kate asked a really good question: What is the school bell of 2010? What does a school bell do? It summons people. What summons people now?
I think this is a great way to begin to talk about how we can design a school that does what a school always did but in playful, observant ways.

This is an architecture firm that works with experimental school designs

This is a most beautiful storage building, a possible way to think about a school building

Monday, December 7, 2009

No public meeting this Tuesday!

Oh my, last week was amazing.
There is still a little bit of wind in my hair from it. Oh no that's frost.

Attendees: Abigail, Rachel, Maya, Michael, Jennifer, Cassie, Caroline, Kate, Kerry, Sarah, James, Lisa
Great turnout!
Maya presented her life and work to us. Amazing.
Maya's email is and her blog is She wants to have a retreat for us at her place in California-- and thanks to the slide show we all had a little vacation to Valencia for the evening.

Kate Cahill, architect, was here to talk a little bit about the plans for building the School of the Future. She has been asking me great questions about ideas for this project, and those are posted on the blog (

Michael Wiggins and Rachel Farmer volunteered to get down with me and some grants this week to help fund operations of the union. We will be working on this on Tuesday night INSTEAD of having a big meeting.

Next Tuesday, December 14 there will be a meeting. This will be to work on projects, a few that I would like to get rolling on:
-doing a performance/applying for funding from FEAST

-designing future meetings: I will present a meeting strategy for the following Sunday so we can be sure it runs well.

-a fundraising event or sale in March: let's do some initial brainstorming

-school of the future timeline: I will present some dates and we will see who is available and what a timeline will look like.

We will have a big meeting on Sunday December 20, when Alison will lead us through some of her knowledge about astrology for the skillshare. The meeting will be from 3-5. 3pm TAU meeting, 4pm skillshare. I will put it up on facebook and send out a big email blast, so invite newbies!