Part 2: The International Teaching Artist Conference New York City 2018.

Day 1 of The International Teaching Artist Conference 2018 consisted of a truly inspiring workshop at Groundswell Brooklyn focusing on the senses. Groundswell pride themselves on working with local community groups to create large scale wall murals around Brooklyn and further afield, and say they are an ‘organization using the collaborative art-making processes of public murals to foster creative youth development.’

Little did I know a wonderful morning of writing, poetry and spoken word  was about to commence with two amazing practitioners, Toni Blackman and Sahar Muradi from City Lore (an organisation using the arts to promote grassroots cultures).

Words, listening and poetry became, unexpectedly, integral to my experience at ITAC4 with some of my favourite experiences based around poetry. This included a powerful workshop led by Alexis Alleyne-Caputo using words to delve into African women’s trauma.

As a predominantly visual artist I have always steered clear of spoken word but my time at ITAC4 made me somewhat, naively, realise no matter the artistic discipline the best workshops are those delivered by the best practitioners, the influence of poetry on my time spent in NYC (including a night at Bowery Poetry Club) made me reflect on bringing back all forms of the arts into my own practice and work with community groups.

A lunch time tour led by two of Groundswells young artists- involved in creating past murals- made me reflect on the integrity and ego of an artist working within a community process and what is truly best practice when it comes to working with groups.

The afternoon at Groundswell was led by two visual artists Jeannette Rodríguez-Píneda and Doug Paulson, with an emphasis on radical curiosity, radical listening and radical creation. A 16 minute drawing to sounds exercise was followed by using an assortment of materials to turn our drawing outcomes into sculptures. It was liberating switching between disciplines so easily in a single workshop and took away my usual fear of working with 3D. One participant described the workshop as “movement and sound frozen in time”. For myself, I was inspired by the idea of rest as a form of creativity, simply sitting with my eyes closed and just listening became a creative act in itself.

Personal reflections on good community practice:

– It’s important that all those involved feel valued and appreciated no matter how large or small their contribution to the work.

-The meaning of the work itself and what it represents has to come directly from voices within the community, its seems such a simple concept but so often gets lost along the way, especially when we as artists are so used to making aesthetic choices on our own.

– To truly work with a community you have to be present in that community.

– “To get peoples trust you have to be able to articulate your values” Sarah Bennett, a Brighton based Inclusive Artist.

-Learn and grow from your mistakes.

-Be reactive rather than static.

– Don’t just lead workshops, take part in them too.

-Stay curious.

-Listen throughout. Read the room, if a participant is reacting in a negative way towards the subject matter matter adapt the workshop accordingly.

-Be brave- face and explore discomfort- we learn at the edges of our comfort zones.