Working together on the Teaching Artist Shortage

Who here has noticed a teaching artist shortage?

Everyone raises their hand.

We met for our bi-monthly Arts Education Policy Roundtable meeting on April 7. On our agenda: The teaching artist shortage and advocacy issues. The discussion about the teaching artist shortage had such momentum that we went ahead and spent most of the meeting discussing that. Some of the ideas raised are captured below in three sections:

  1. Teaching Artist Shortage: sharing experiences,

  2. Teaching Artist Shortage: ideas for solutions,

  3. Advocacy

The performing arts education organizations were particularly well-represented, with people from Berkeley Rep, A.C.T., Young Audiences, SF Opera, Community Music Centers, Shadowlight Productions, SF Youth Theatre, Music in Schools Today, and Performing Arts Workshop among those in attendance. The San Francisco Unified School District and members of our executive committee were also there.

1. Teaching Artist Shortage: sharing experiences

  • Organizations are struggling to staff residencies at schools, especially with staff who have experience working with youth of color and especially for long-term residencies.

  • Travel expense is a big issue for teaching artists, who often can't afford to live in San Francisco, or Oakland, or Berkeley. How do you ask someone to cross the bay for a one-hour workshop?

  • Scheduling is a challenge for the teaching artists. They need to get enough work to be able to stay in the profession and in the area.

  • Slow and busy periods present a staffing challenge. For some organizations, January-June is "banana pants" busy, while the rest of the year is slow.
  • This is partly because schools don't know what staff they have until school starts, so they can't start planning their residencies until the fall. They would rather be able to plan in the spring to have residencies begin in the fall.
  • The SFUSD's mariachi program has teams of teaching artists with credentialed music teachers who get trained together, then teach together. They would expand, but can't find more mariachi's. 
  • Young Audiences is trying to map where their teaching artists live (all around the bay area) so that they can offer teaching gigs that don't cross bridges or tunnels.
  • Juan Manzo shared experiences from his work in New York where they scheduled teaching artists to have residencies in a school and also work at the site in an after-school program. They also have new teaching artists apprentice with more experienced educators for 5 sessions, creating a pipeline of skilled practitioners.
  • In a recent event hosted by Performing Artists Workshop, Jane Kim said that the story of teaching artists struggling to find housing is a story that needs to be heard to support affordable housing legislation.

2. Teaching Artist Shortage: ideas for solutions

How can we solve these problems though partnerships and collaboration? Through sharing resources and sharing needs?

  • Collectively audition teaching artists (something that was done in New York), which could look something like our Creative Practice Exchange with teaching artists on a stage presenting about how they teach.
  • Work together to train teaching artists.
  • Look at the Big Thought model (in Dallas) where one organization pulls together arts education needs and funding and disperses that to teaching artists.
  • Could we have a 'time share model' where a pool of qualified teaching artists are trained and shared by multiple organizations, helping to make sure all teaching artists get enough work and organizations have an easier time of filling positions.

This brought us to the question of next steps:

  • To share staff, we must first figure out if our compensation plans are in alignment. AEABA will work on sending out a blind survey to find out what different organizations are paying (we will coordinate with Teaching Artists Guild).
  • AEABA, TAG, and Berkeley Rep are discussing plans for a joint training day for theater teaching artists
  • We will need to figure out how much the pedagogies of our organizations align.

3. Advocacy

Advocacy can mean a range of things, from telling our stories, advocating for arts education in our districts, supporting funding and legislation at all levels of government, rallying to defend public education and the National Endowment for the Arts, and helping our students use art to advocate for themselves.

  • Districts are deep in the LCAP process right now. The LCAP (Local Control and Accountability Plan) sets the school district's priorities and require public input. The way to make sure they include language about arts education, we need to show up for the meetings.
    • San Francisco's next public meeting is on April 19, 6:30 - 8:00 pm at James Lick Middle School. Here are flyers in English, Spanish, and Chinese.
    • Oakland's next meeting is also April 19, 5:00 - 8:00 pm at Burckhalter Elementary. See the OUSD LCAP schedule here.
    • Berkeley has meetings on the 3rd Thursday of every month starting with light refreshments at 6:00 pm and ending at 8:00 pm at 2020 Bonar Street #126. The next one is April 20. Learn more here.
  • KQED Forum just hosted a show about how cuts to the NEA will affect bay area arts organizations
  • We can advocate for our own arts programs and for arts education with the language we use when discussing partnerships with schools.
    • Our schools are required to be teaching to California visual and performing arts standards for K-12. Site the standards your program helps schools meet. The arts are as essential as any other subject.
    • Your program probably also meets a range of other standards. Often arts programs lose classroom time because teachers are under pressure to spend time addressing English Language Development Standards. Many arts programs (and all theater programs) address these standards. Be ready to make that argument and that will help teachers and schools spend more time with your teaching artists.
  • When we can identify specific language that we want to see school boards and elected representatives adopt, we can leverage our organization in a powerful way along with our partners at Arts for a Better Bay Area.

Would you like to be on the AEABA advocacy action team? Let us know. There is much work to be done.

Arts Advocacy Day, March 21, 2017, San Francisco.

Arts Advocacy Day, March 21, 2017, San Francisco.