Filed under: art, education, Shakespeare, theatre | Tags: art institutions, teaching artist, three witches
Once upon a time there were three teaching artists. These three were the entire teaching staff of a Shakespeare program. Between the three of them, they had a lifetime of experience teaching Shakespeare to young people. They inspired each other and complemented one another’s styles. Where one was weak another was strong and they made a circle of knowledge that benefited both the institution within which they worked and the young people they worked with.
They cared deeply about this program that they had all spent a considerable amount of time and effort in helping to craft. They went to meetings about how to improve the work. They saw managers come and go and changes go along with them.
They had a lot of collective strength but found themselves increasingly at odds with a changing institutional culture, and the sacrifices they’d made to keep doing the work started to seem less worth it. One by one, the unit fell apart. The first to go went to teach English full time at a high school, where her students are privileged to have the full extent of her teaching and she has an actual salary and benefits. The second to go threw herself on the whims of the marketplace to become truly freelance, as she had been before the institution (for whom she used to freelance) became more institutionalized.
The third remains there and is now surrounded by artists with much less experience and much less perspective. She doesn’t get paid any more than these new artists but must, continually, educate her colleagues as well as her students.
And it is the institution’s loss. It let a solid formidable program fall apart because it could not recognize the value of what it had. And this is what happens when experience is undervalued and obedience is the rule of the hour.
All three Teaching Artists are doing just fine. But the Institution has lost.
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