Circle Up Conference Session Descriptions

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Sharing Stories

Learning Experience:

We Have a Story to Tell: Narrative approaches to documentation in arts learning environments

Andrea Sachdeva (AiE 2007)

Stories of current work in the arts learning field are not easily told through a single word, a sentence, or even a paragraph. These stories are complex, nuanced, require multiple pages or volumes, and are often told through a variety of media. In this workshop, we’ll examine contemporary approaches to documentation in arts education, and other fields, with a focus on those that use narrative formats and tell stories that develop over time. Participants will share their own stories of successful documentation and reporting practices, and get a chance to create their own narrative documentation pieces.

Art Making:

Awakening Sensory Memory through Intergenerational Storytelling and Artistic Witnessing

Anna Keefe (AiE 2008)

This workshop will explore strategies for facilitating the transmission of intergenerational memories and stories using the arts. Drawing from theories linking multi-sensory memory with visual and embodied expression, as well as from real examples of successful intergenerational storytelling projects, the workshop will lead participants through creative prompts to inspire verbal, written, and embodied stories from one another that will be developed into multi-sensory collage/performance pieces. Participants will explore questions such as: How can this intergenerational work transform individuals and communities by interrupting and reshaping our perspectives on what is possible or important? How can we facilitate healthy learning through the surfacing of difficult historical knowledge, generational differences, or the fluidity of memory and the impossibility of “correct” interpretation of another person’s lived experience? What role can the arts play in navigating this kind of complexity and ambiguity?


Deepening Practice

Learning Experience:

Quality as Reward

Rebecca Boyd Faubion (AiE 2006)

“The most important period of life is not the age of university studies, but the first one, the period from birth to the age of six. For that is the time when man’s intelligence itself, his greatest implement, is being formed.” –Maria Montessori

Early childhood is the focal point for this workshop about quality as a reward.  Through the eyes of students and teachers, we’ll discuss the transformative power of quality—and its vital importance at the onset of schooling.  We’ll discuss ways the experience of quality needs to be a hallmark of our expression as arts educators.  Together, we’ll define strategies to advocate for equity and quality on the basis of its powerful rewards for all of society.  Get inspired to spark an eQuality revolution!

Art Making:

Deepening our Relationship with Materials

Katie Higgins-White (AiE 2011)

This workshop will give participants an opportunity to “mess about” with an artistic material that is often pigeon-holed and overlooked—paper. By taking time to explore paper without the usual tools associated with it (such as pens, paint, scissors, tape) and by working solely with the “tools” of our hands and bodies, participants will discover the multiplicity of paper, the benefits of taking time to learn about as well as to teach a material, and the possibilities for making space for “messing about” in the teaching process. We will also discuss the ways in which these ideas underpin elements of the Reggio Emilia pedagogical philosophy.


Creating Equity

Learning Experience:

Art is Action

Rajeeyah Finne-Myers & Kristen Engfors, DreamYard Project

Art can be a powerful tool for creating a more equitable society. DreamYard Project provides an educational experience that inspires all students to develop character, scholarship and artistic voice to create change. These core values describe our commitment to teaching for equity, justice, and hope. At DreamYard, art is action. Guided by this philosophy, this workshop will explore the role of an artist as an advocate for racial justice. We will look at real life examples of art as action and build our own narrative about race through art making. Participants will discuss how this creative process connects to critical analysis of social issues. Participants will also leave with tools they can apply directly to their own work.

Art Making:

Performing Justice: Theatre and Social Change

Eve Kagan (AiE 2008)  

What is justice? What is injustice? How do we identify oppression? How do we move towards equity? In this arts-learning workshop, we will engage with theatre as a medium for social justice. Using techniques of Theatre of the Oppressed, participants will experiment with the use of theatre and performance as a dialogue around issues of inequality and oppression (based on race, gender, class, nationality, creed, sexuality, etc.), and as a laboratory for transforming communities through imagining and performing justice. Together we will write, read, share stories from our lives, and perform, using our bodies to create images that define and defy oppression—your ideas, questions, insights, and provocations will drive this workshop! Rather than seeking simple solutions, this work opens up the space for safe communication and unearths deep-seated beliefs that uphold prejudice and reinforce alienating dichotomies (like self versus other and us versus them) so that we might move towards greater understanding. This work can be adapted for use in a variety of settings, from the classroom to the boardroom, to build communities of trust through fostering both self-reflexivity and empathy.


Engaging All Learners

Learning Experience:

Engaging All Learners: Setting Goals that Value Difference

Mia Branco

Within an arts experience, there are many opportunities for students of all abilities to engage.  However, when confronted with a wide range of abilities in our art classes, it can be challenging to find structures and strategies that allow for equitable contribution instead of parallel participation.  In this workshop, we will discuss and practice reframing and identifying goals that create opportunity for our student’s differences to be explored and valued in an arts setting.

Art Making:

CRANKIE BACH: “Listening Together” With Open Hearts & Minds…& Art Supplies

Marjorie Gere (AiE 2007)

How is listening a creative, expressive act? What does it mean to “listen together”? Marji Gere will guide a diverse team of “active listeners” through the process of noticing, describing, connecting, and appreciating the quantity, variety, and quality of reactions to a live solo violin performance, via the collective creation of a “crankie”—an element of traditional performance art. One aim of this workshop is to demonstrate (and discuss) how a communal, multi-media approach to the arts is vital to an inclusive learning environment.


Strengthening Communities

Learning Experience:

Creative Youth Development: Supporting Young Artists as Changemakers

Indi McCasey (AiE 2014)

“Creative Youth Development programs teach young people a discipline that centers on processes of creative inquiry and use this as a means for youth to understand and change the world around them, to connect to the greater human experience, and to develop and express their own sense of identity.” – Dr. Lauren Stevenson, Creative Youth Development Report: Setting the Agenda

This is an exciting time for educators who use their arts-based practice as a site for community building and creative action. A newly emerging field of Creative Youth Development is helping to define cultural work that supports youth as artists and change-makers. This praxis-based workshop will lead participants through an interactive storytelling project while simultaneously modeling a framework for engaging youth as creative collaborators. Come ready to be both maker and investigator, learner and teacher, as you share ways that you invite critical dialogue into your creative spaces. Participants will walk away with a framework for Creative Youth Development to support instructional design in their own learning environments.

Art Making:

The Power of Folk Music: Learning To Tell Your Story

Taylor Morris (AiE 2014) and The Sound Accord (Eli Bender, Melissa Brun, Rachel Capon, Jacob Davida, & Rose Rodgers)

Folk music is considered to be music for, by, and of the people. As such, folk tunes and songs are often written to commemorate significant events and tell personal stories. In this interactive session, participants will learn about, and make, folk music with The Sound Accord. Participants will explore their own stories and identities through learning about the work of folk music, finding resonance in the repertoire, and writing their own verses! No prior musical experience required.



Circle Back: Nutrients

Emily Funkhouser (AiE 2007) and Talya Dornbush (AiE 2007)

Nutrients is a digital catalogue of artwork, submitted by AiE alumni. It contains pieces from across the art forms: visual, performing, new media, literary, etc. In addition to being a shared gallery space for our colleagues, Nutrients models how technology can be leveraged to support collaboration and dialogue across communities. Nutrients is built with free online tools and can be accessed via any device with internet capability. Contact information for each artist is included and participants are encouraged to reach out and begin a conversation.

From Queens to Cambridge: The Arts, Human Rights, and Connecting Communities

Marissa Gutierrez-Vicario (AiE 2013)

Aligned with the theme of “Circle Up!,” ARTE seeks to connect conference participants with the work of our students in our Queens, New York program. Students currently enrolled in our high school program come from diverse backgrounds and many are recent migrants from Latin America. In this installation, ARTE will share pieces of their work from their exploration of juvenile justice/mass incarceration, refugee/immigrant rights, child slavery, and gender inequality with the AIE CTC community. AIE CTC participants will have an opportunity to respond to their pieces of art by writing messages to the students that will later be presented to them in class.

American Moms

Alyssa Liles-Amponsah (AiE 2012) & Sheggai Tamerat-Terry
This installation shares a portrait series titled American Moms, paintings by Alyssa Liles-Amponsah of the mothers of unarmed African American men, women, and children who were victims of police brutality and hate crimes.  The installation focuses on how arts educators can bring social justice issues full circle by encouraging students to use art as inspiration for deep internal and external reflection in regard to issues of social justice. It explores how giving students opportunities to explore their feelings through non-solution based reflections leads to deeper and more generative learning. The general premise for the prompts in this project was inspired by Ta-Nehesi Coate’s recent book, “Between the World and Me,” which showcases the power of non-solution oriented reflection.