This summer I spent two weeks at Ragdale, in Lake Forest. I was there as part of a unique residency designed specifically for teaching artists. As part of the experience, we worked with two amazingly kind and insightful individuals, Cynthia Weiss and Jorge Lucero. Cynthia and Jorge both fluidly combine the roles of artist, teacher, and administrator. They encouraged us to do the same. We learn from our students as they learn from us. We make art in our classrooms. We hone our teaching skills while working in our own studios. These roles we have as teacher and artist can’t be isolated from each other.
So it seemed apropos when, a few days later, Suzie Makol, Rod Gingrich, and I decided to go for a drive: Suzie climbed behind the wheel for her first full driving lesson!
I’m tempted to describe this experience in sentimental terms. I will refrain. But it is a the perfect representative of the type of situation one finds oneself in when confronted with a welcoming environment to stretch our minds, time to explore and meander, and people to share this with. This scenario is exactly what we want for our students, yet teaching artists forget to carve this out for themselves.
The individuals I shared my residency with included diverse artists including composers, singer songwriters, a playwright, a photographer, a fiber artist, and authors creating works of fiction, historical fiction, and romantic comedy. I would like to say that I have diverse friends, but I’m going to be honest: the majority of my friends are visual artists from the Midwest, and have either attended the same school, worked at the same job, or enjoy the same hobbies. To temporarily remove myself from my normal routine and enjoy the experiences, wisdom, and humor of this new group of people helped me stretch both my artistic practice and my teaching practice.
What can we do as teaching artists to ensure that we are allowing the unexpected, unscripted, and unusual in our own day-to-day experiences?
Nine On The Prairie
Ragdale Teaching Artist Residency
November 27 – December 4
Reception and live performances Sunday December 2, 5 to 7 PM
The Annex at Spudnik Press Cooperative
Hubbard Street Lofts
1821 W Hubbard St, Suite 303
Chicago, IL 60622
Presenting new works and works in progress by:
Silk Road Rising
Nine on The Prairie features visual, musical and theatrical work created on retreat at the Ragdale Foundation in Lake Forest, as well as notes and ephemera from conversations about teaching practice and artistic process.
In August 2012, nine teaching artists came together in a two-week retreat to explore what it means to be both teacher and artist. Visual artists, playwrights and musicians were given ample time and studio space to pursue their individual projects as well as opportunities for collaboration and conversation. Each left the retreat with new works, new curricula, and returned to their home organizations (arts education pioneers Marwen, Silk Road Rising, and Old Town School of Folk Music) with new ideas about teaching and artistic practice.
Reception is Sunday, Dec 2 from 5 – 7 pm and will offer live performances of new musical works. The show runs November 27 – Dec 4 and will include photographs, painting, embroidery, collage, video and audio.
The Teaching Artist Residency was funded by grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Ragdale Foundation.