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Education

New CalArts residency transforms artists into teachers



Teaching artist in training Anthony
Teaching artist in training Anthony "Chuck" Gloria, left, works with animation co-directors Ruah Edelstein and Masha Vasilkovsky on a performance blending music and animated pieces.
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Teaching artist in training Anthony
High schoolers take part in a dance class at Cortines High School on Wednesday, July 9 during the Community Arts Partnership (CAP) put on by California Institute of the Arts every summer. This year CalArts students training to be teaching artists helped lead instruction.
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Teaching artist in training Anthony
Connie Covert explains how teaching artists should interact with principals. The lesson is part of the CalArts Residency for Teaching Artists, a new program that launched in May.
Mary Plummer/KPCC
Teaching artist in training Anthony
Zelia Corbia, 18, of Hollywood paints a photograph taken during a body modification portrait assignment at CalArt's Community Arts Partnership. The program is free to kids ages six through 18.
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Teaching artist in training Anthony
Sixteen-year-old Karissa Melara of Southgate builds sculptures around which she will do a performance piece. The sculptures came from a sketch Melara drew inspired by the Mike Kelley show at MOCA.
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Teaching artist in training Anthony
Samantha Hare, 14, of Chatsworth paints letters that she will attach to a mirror. Hare hopes to address women's body image through the piece. Visual arts is one of seven different art forms taught every summer during CalArts' CAP.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC
Teaching artist in training Anthony
CalArts' Community Arts Partnership is a three-week intensive arts program. Each student has a focus in either music, animation, creative writing, dance, photography, theater or visual arts.
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Teaching artist in training Anthony
Diego Robles looks on during a lesson at Cortines high school. Robles is one of 12 students participating in a new teaching artist training program through CalArts.
Mary Plummer/KPCC
Teaching artist in training Anthony
Dance instructor Francesca Penzani leads a rehearsal on Wednesday, July 9 during CalArts' CAP program. The class prepares for a final performance on Saturday, July 12.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC
Teaching artist in training Anthony
Each class is led by CalArts faculty and CalArts student instructors that are training to be teaching artists.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC


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A new program at the California Institute of the Arts is taking some of the school's arts students and preparing them for careers in the classroom. 

The well-known university in Valencia has long been a hub for top arts students from around the country — and for decades, officials there have sought to formalize a process for helping arts students make their way in the world of teaching. In January, a $55,000 donation from two CalArts board of trustee members made it possible. The program, known as the CalArts Residency for Teaching Artists, launched in May and officials hope it will continue again next summer.

"We always knew that students needed a little more training in teaching," said Glenna Avila, who designed the program. "But we never had the resources per se to deepen that."

Teaching artists are frequently used in public schools as a way to infuse students' arts education with instruction from actual artists — the model is sometimes seen as a cost-saving tool for districts as well. Typically, a teaching artist is paired with a traditional classroom teacher who may not have a background in the arts, which in some cases cuts out the need for credentialed arts teachers. 

In 1965, the National Endowment for the Arts was created and teaching artists began formally working in schools. In recent years, public schools in Chicago, New York and Los Angeles have increasingly incorporated teaching artists into arts education efforts. 

"It's a way to deepen teaching in everything," said Shannon Wilkins, a consultant to the Los Angeles County Office of Education.

There's also a need for teachers with experience in the arts, according to Avila. She said many of today's teachers who grew up in California's public school system in the past three decades are becoming professionals with little background in the arts.

"Many of them did not have the arts in their elementary and middle and high schools as they were growing up and so that's a huge deficit on the part of our, our teachers," she said. 

The key to successful programs, according to David Dik — national executive director of Young Audiences Arts for Learning — is strong classroom teachers who work in partnership with motivated teaching artists and credentialed arts instructors to enrich student learning. 

"There's only so much that a teaching artist is going to bring the equation," said Dik, whose nonprofit oversees 4,400 teaching artists across the country. Dik added that traditional arts educators tend to have more of an alliance with school districts compared to teaching artists who are committed to their craft.

"A teaching artist first and foremost is an artist," he said. 

For the aspiring teaching artists at CalArts, the new program offers a chance at a career in teaching without sacrificing their commitment to their art forms.

Emerson Whitney just earned an MFA from the Critical Studies Creative Writing Program and was one of a dozen participants in the program. He said he always wanted to be a teacher.

"I know I could have gone to a more traditional program," he said. "But I feel like as a teaching artist it's a totally different and a unique thing."

Learn more about teaching artists