Brave Conversations: Delving into Difference Open Summit


Reimagining Punishment In The 21st Century

Edyson Julio & Scott Ruescher, HGSE Arts in Education Program

If not prison, then what other measures do we have to address crime–and how can we ensure that education is one of them? Current AIE student Edyson Julio and longtime AIE administrator Scott Ruescher have both spent significant time teaching English in prisons—Edyson as a creative writing instructor at Rikers Island prison in New York,  Scott as English instructor in the Boston University Prison Education Program. In this workshop they will offer anonymous profiles of their students, drop a pop quiz about the US penal system and the educational disadvantages of its victims, lead a discussion of some writings by their students, and direct a writing exercise with prompts they’ve used in their classes. This is all by way of illustration of the redemptive and practical purposes of a prison education.


Negotiating Freedom of Expression and Hate Speech

Rachel Althof, The Wellington School

The Wellington School community has delved into several conversations about social justice.  Some of these conversations were planned and others were the result of incidences.  Brave conversations are usually imperfect; embracing the potential for controversy is critical to allow brave conversations to move forward. This session will lead the group through a series of case studies that are problematic for an absolutist view on freedom of expression and anti-hate-speech views.  These case studies exemplify the complexities and nuances of human expression and will be discussed using a variety of engagement strategies.  Together, we will investigate how we honor freedom of expression while supporting inclusivity, what defines hate speech within a paradigm of free expression, and how the context of a school community impacts how we navigate freedom of expression.


Balance in Conversation

Sophia Herscu, Commonwealth Circus Center, Circus Up, Spoke Movement Ensemble, Esh Circus Arts

Non-verbal communication such as unintentional body language can dictate the tone, safety, and productivity of a interaction just as much as what can be heard. Intentional and well developed non-verbal communication skills can make a positive difference when connecting with others across identities, abilities, perspectives, and levels of experience.

Balance in Conversation introduces the idea of practicing kinesthetic or physical dialogue with others through partner acrobatics. We will show up physically and bravely to our conversations in this workshop. Using the idea of group and partner balance we will work, play, and experiment with improving our physical communication.

Brave conversations breed trust across boundaries. In this session, we will examine how to build trust in the room through non-verbal communication.


#MuseumsSoWhite: Stories About Art Institutions & Equity

Regan Pro & Priya Frank, Seattle Art Museum

In 2016, over 200 staff members from the Seattle Art Museum, posed on the museum’s marble grand staircase  for a group photo. The photo was intended for SAM’s website, as a much needed update intended to show how the museum’s staff had grown and diversified over the years, better reflecting SAM’s core values and mission. Within a few month, the photo showed up on twitter, labeled #MuseumsSoWhite. The conversations this sparked, online, in public and behind office doors, are signifiers of the wider challenge and call within museums to address our own histories of institutional racism and need for a radical new approach to inclusion.

This presentation will investigate how we move from thinking about diversity as an institutional goal to an institutional reimagining. We will ask, how can we decolonize our spaces? How can we move community partnerships from the transactional to the transformative? Moreover, what is the wider responsibility and potential for museums to become inclusive community spaces? We will share personal, problematic, unresolved and unedited stories from SAM’s own struggles and successes around racial equity. From exhibition planning to communication campaigns, from volunteer tour guides to senior staff hiring, and from audience development to community building, we will share how this work looks within a large arts institution by examining a case study of learning in action, unpacking the challenges and successes of confronting complex systems.


Arts, Disability, and Inclusion from Multiple Perspectives

Rhoda Bernard & Chi Gook Kim, Berklee College of Music; Jenna Gabriel, The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts

What does “inclusion” mean to you? How do you support inclusion in your practice? What are the arguments for separate arts experiences/activities/education just for individuals with disabilities? Must we strive for inclusion? When might inclusion not be desirable? How might we challenge perceptions of disability to cultivate educational environments that celebrate difference and asset-based instruction? what is lost or gained in prioritizing process over product in instruction? What is the role of allies in furthering disability justice in and through the arts? What is the responsibility and role of the field in recruiting and supporting arts educators with disabilities?

Throughout this conversation, facilitators will rely on carefully chosen video to spark conversation. For example, to explore questions of educational settings and supports, facilitators will show examples of students with disabilities participating in arts learning experiences. Paired with videos of artists with disabilities performing/showcasing their art, facilitators will lead the room in investigations of how teacher perceptions of disability might influence expectations and student outcomes. Examples of arts workshops led by educators with disabilities will support in-depth explorations of what it means to “do with and not for,” how nondisabled arts educators can position themselves as allies and advocates, and how the field writ large can affirm the importance of inclusive recruitment, training, and hiring practices that support educators with disabilities. During the course of the session, participants will be asked to engage in self-reflection and to challenge preconceived notions of ability in a safe, supported, art-filled space.


The Revolution I Lead From My Seat…Stories from the Field

Deron Hall, Memphis Arts Engine

This session will engage the audience in the quiet revolutions that happen day in and day out as thought leaders and everyday community members do their work. One of the most difficult types of insight to glean is the first person viewpoint of people who are in the midst of the struggle. What does it feel like? What are the pain points? Who will stand with you and who will not? We will then move from storytelling to group discussions of “stories from the field” where tables will engage each other in analysis and reflection of revolutions and innovations that are happening right now. We will explore artifacts (photos, videos, artifacts, etc) to help to humanize individual stories. Lastly, we will challenge each other to reflect on their values, skills, assets, and responsibility to create change right where they are.


3 Chords & the Truth: Empowering refugee youth to speak up through songwriting

Anne Buckle, 3 Chords

Through the lens of teaching songwriting to refugee youth, this session will explore how we use the arts as a tool for self-expression for people facing immense discrimination in current times. How do we use the arts to build bridges of understanding through communicating and listening? How do we create a safe community for persecuted populations to feel like they can authentically express themselves and be heard by others? Why does it all matter? What’s at stake? And, do the arts have the power to break down walls and create communities of understanding? Participants will experience the power of songwriting as a means of self-expression, and then to delve into how it has been meaningful in the lives of the refugee students I’ve worked with over the past year based on their qualitative feedback. We will challenge each other as arts educators to think about ways in which our art form can be taught to help the population for which they have a heart learn to express themselves and feel heard by the community, and how they plan to share those works of art with others in the community and broader world who need to hear what’s being said.


Surviving and Thriving in Today’s Socio-Political Climate

James Miles, Arts Corps & Augustina Warton, Catalyst Arts, & Youth Facilitators: Shyvonne Sanganoo, Isaiah Alicea, Oladimeji Akinwande, and Shannon Morris

Working with youth in the current socio political climate is a complex responsibility. This is a time in which young people may face racism or even deportation, and when organizations are increasingly unsure about funding and the health of our educational systems. But it is also an important time to center art in the classroom and to give students a creative outlet for expression. Teaching artists and arts organizations are uniquely positioned to partner with host sites like schools, build students’ agency, support teachers in doing their complex work and demonstrate how to make positive change.

Arts Corps will present this workshop, in partnership partnership with NYC- based Catalyst Arts, whom builds capacity with young people, educators and organizations to interrogate social justice issues, create art and drive change in their communities through culturally responsive and youth centered programming and events. In this workshop, participants will experience the Activate Framework, a structure for engaging youth, educators and community organizations in a process of participatory art-making that responds to critical social issues, to create impact in their communities. Using media examples from the news as prompts, participants will develop artistic campaigns, in a manner accessible to all.


This Body at Work: Reclaiming the Narrative Around Bodies and Movement in Education

Aysha Upchurch, Dancing Diplomat; VSA MASS

Have you seen young folks shaking their hips, popping their chests, or dancing inside of someone else’s “personal space”?

You ever wonder why some students are more inclined to dance or move unprompted?

Do you know what dance from the African diaspora is and how and why it is essential to education and social change?

Do you find yourself thinking the way young people move is too sexual or aggressive?

Are you policing certain students’ bodies and their movement? Are you certain you are NOT doing this??

We have to challenge and dismantle centering of Eurocentric movement and certain body forms as the norm or standard. We have to check body politics and policing of certain kinds of moving bodies in our learning contexts.

Using Boal’s Forum Theater in the Classroom: recognizing and responding to hate in your school’s culture

Melinda Jaz, Worcester Academy

To what extent can theater serve as a powerful tool in raising awareness, creating dialogue and ultimately, shifting a school’s culture? How can theater create a safe environment for difficult conversations and allow faculty members to better understand and empathize with students’ experiences at school?

Participants of this session will be active members of this conversation, including a Boal warm-up and a Forum Theater presentation that was used during this year’s professional development work at Worcester Academy.  Six students (HS seniors and college freshman) will help facilitate the conversation and share their experiences.