Teaching Artists as Essential Workers
TEACHING ARTISTS AS ESSENTIAL WORKERS: RESPECT, COLLABORATION, AND HEFT
During COVID-19, theaters for youth and families in Miami are learning to link arms in wholly new ways. They each realized that every theater adding its own content to the deluge of materials coming on line for teachers was a recipe for disaster. Jairo Ontiveros at the Arsht Center for the Performing Arts reached out to VictoriaRow-Trasterat the Miami Theater Centerand Annie Hoffman at the South Miami Dade Cultural Center, and together they went to Patricio Suarez, the Director of the Performing Arts in the Division of Academics Office to work out a solution. Acting in concert, they designed and coordinated online resources that could flow directly to teachers as an integral part of the online school day supported by the district. As a result, teachers saw this new content as coming from trusted venues that schools had been visiting for years.
Taking collaboration a step further, Row-Traster developed both standard issue lessons and more relaxed ones that featured family members as participants, filmmakers, and audiences. They tested the two approaches with a sample of long-term subscriber families and got a rousing endorsement for the looser, more unbuttoned, format. Families wrote back that they loved seeing real live people struggle with a new dance step or a circus trick, making the performances seem do-able, enjoyable, and open to all family members. Based on the pilot, all three Miami theater organizations are keeping teaching artists employed developing the flow of materials to the public schools. Given that Miami-Dade County is one of the large school districts where a majority of students have access to technology, this joint effort is ensuring that many students and families, not just those at schools who purchased field trips or residencies, have access to the work of the region’s foremost theaters for young audiences.
|“It’s crucial that new habits of collaboration not dial back once arts organizations and school districts can go back to earlier ways of doing business.”|