Creating an Artist-in-Residence Program
Students at Symonds Elementary School have access to local musicians, artists, and other creative types as part of a programme called artist-in-residence, which allows these individuals to share their knowledge and experiences with the students. When these residencies are implemented across the entire school, we see a wonderful opportunity to weave the community of the school together in a common focus through the shared experiences that they provide. Both the instructors and the students have the opportunity to delve deeply into the school’s overall focus and theme. Every educator who is a part of this process has the opportunity to benefit from the process’s additional inherent potential to provide them with opportunities for practical professional development.
Learning Benefits and Concept
The students’ lives are enriched with unforgettable experiences as a result of this one-of-a-kind creative process, and those experiences can serve as “sticky” anchors for the foundational knowledge and other essential details that students need to know. By letting students work with the information to create art that has meaning to them, teachers can increase students’ levels of retention by providing educational experiences that are actively engaging and interactive. To initiate the development of such a learning event, one must first have the germ of an idea, compile a small amount of support, and muster up some bravery to create something novel.
The idea might centre on a tenet of the educational system that members of your community would like to see embodied in the form of a piece of artwork and internalised as part of the educational system through the creative process. It could be a curricular focus area that could benefit from a novel approach, or it could be a topic that isn’t covered in as much depth as you’d like it to be, perhaps because you can’t quite get to it on your own. Either way, it could be an opportunity for innovation. Finding a colleague who is also a teacher, a specialist, or other colleagues who are willing to form a small team that is interested in pursuing the idea of a residency and are willing to participate in the planning process is of great value.
Funding and Administrative Support
In order to successfully build an art residency programme at your school, strong support and communication from the principal are essential. Initiate a conversation to introduce the idea and talk about the different options that are available. Are there funds for assembly, enrichment, or even building and grounds that could be used for an art residency that meets those requirements? Does the school district have money set aside for the enrichment of students? It’s possible that some schools will never engage in this conversation because they are simply unaware of the various funding opportunities that are available.
The most significant challenge that any art programme is likely to face is acquiring funding for an artist residency. Symonds receives roughly the same amount of money from three distinct sources:
District enrichment funds
An art fundraiser programme
There are a variety of programmes that simplify the process of fundraising for artistic endeavours. Using a programme called SilverGraphics, I organise and run an annual fundraiser that has a good deal of success. This adds to the funding for our programmes, but it could also be put away for a few years and used all at once to fund a programme.
Our headmaster’s foresight over the past three decades has resulted in the establishment of an enrichment team that works across the entire school. Our art, music, physical education, and media/library specialists, collectively referred to as the “specials” team, have come together as a planning team for various enrichment opportunities, such as our art residencies, with his direction at the helm. We have also established a cooperative working relationship with our Parent Teacher Association (PTA), who are essential advocates for the programme because they provide financial support, coordinate volunteer assistance and organisers for extra work sessions, and rally families when necessary.
Depending on the scope of the project and the desired end result, the duration of an art residency can be tailored to be as short or as long as the participant desires. Residencies that only involve one grade level take less time than those that involve the entire school. We came to the conclusion that the bare minimum number of full school cycles required to accomplish both reaching all students and preserving a certain level of quality in both the learning experience and the work was two. This means that our school will have direct contact with the artist for a total of 12 days, plus one additional day for a culmination event. We frequently plan a session during which the artist will conduct a teacher workshop designed to assist us in preparing for a particular facet of the educational process. These roughly twelve days are typically scheduled in a row with the artist-in-residence; however, there have been occasions when we have dispersed them across the course of a few months to allow for additional work to be completed with the art teacher or in the classrooms when the artist-in-residence is not present.
At Symonds School, we have determined that the most effective way to accommodate our packed academic schedules is to maintain the specials schedule that is already in place. Therefore, the artist will be present alongside me, the art instructor, for each of the 12 days that have been scheduled. This has also been something that we’ve done within music and physical education schedules, depending on whether the residency is more focused on musical performance or physical activity. Unless there is a need to fill an additional planning block with an additional class session, we stick to the standard art class schedule.
When I’m collaborating with an artist, I make it a point to stick to the same procedures we use in art class. The artist guides us through whatever creative process we choose to undertake as we “coteach” one another. Many times, the culminating events take place while students are in school. In addition, one of our goals is to organise an event that takes place in the afternoon or evening and invites the entire student body.
When a residency comes to an end, we plan a culminating event that gives members of our school community the opportunity to experience, remember, and celebrate all of the hard work that we put in during the residency. When it comes time for the presentation of the finished product, the entire student body, as well as the teaching staff, school administration, and other members of our larger school community, come together as one to view it. This could be a show for the entire school, a gallery display of the students’ artwork, a gathering around a group art installation with singing, or some other event that has been specially designed.
Students will have the chance to talk about what they have learned, the creative process, and their own personal insights during these events, which will give them the opportunity to reflect and talk about what they have learned. This event in the community provides another opportunity for everything that students have learned and experienced to sink deeper into their memories and increase their working knowledge. It is also a way for adults to demonstrate to our children that what they do has value and that we recognise and appreciate the efforts that they put forth.
Finding an Artist
In-school, hands-on professional development opportunities are provided for teachers when a working artist is brought in to talk about the creative process. These opportunities provide teachers with truly original educational approaches that they can add to their tool box. This works out very well when instructors are able to rearrange their schedules in order to participate in the time that their classes spend with the artist. Sometimes it is useful to schedule an additional workshop with the artist after school specifically for the teachers so that they can better understand a particular aspect of the process or an additional technique that they could incorporate into their teaching. This could be anything from a specific aspect of the process to an additional technique.
Finding an Artist
If you don’t already have an artist in mind, it might take some time to find one that fits your needs. There is a possibility that the arts council of your state or a neighbouring state maintains a website with an artist roster specifically designed for school residencies. It’s possible that the artists on these rosters have the most experience working with educational institutions and creating fruitful residency programmes, making them the best candidates for a first residency. Artists and art groups in your immediate area might be interested as well, or they might know someone who does. Your Parent Teacher Association (PTA) and members of the community are also valuable resources for tapping into unrealized local connections; however, you will need to work more proactively to ensure the educational qualities of artists who are new to working with schools.