Closing Reflection

In today’s post I will be discussing my thoughts on my independent study and what I’ve learned thus far. Throughout this semester, one of the biggest takeaways I had in terms of the content I was studying is that in order to solve inequalities in our community, it is essential to create collaborative and inclusive partnerships with the members of the affected community. Through my interviews, I learned that the most effective solutions to arts inequality in our community maintain a balance between bringing community members into existing spaces and bringing resources directly to them. Furthermore, I have shifted my focus in the second semester to focus more on volunteering and creating partnerships with existing arts organizations rather than developing my own. I realized that investing in the programs that are already running is more effective for combating the issue of arts inequality than developing my own program, which would be a very lengthy process. These programs are always in need of more volunteers and funding, so partnering with them would be a direct and effective way to help solve this problem.

I’ve really enjoyed my independent study this semester because I’ve been given the freedom to explore a topic that isn’t included in any core class curriculum. Ms. McDonald has been an incredible advisor and resource because of her knowledge of local dance programs, artists, and arts education. At times it has been difficult to motivate myself to work on my independent study during my dedicated time, but I think over the course of the semester I developed a flexible plan that worked for me. My favorite part of my independent study has been interviewing teaching artists at local arts organizations. They were super insightful and willing to share their extensive knowledge with me, which inspired me to shift my focus in the second semester. Overall, I’m really pleased with the work I’ve done and am excited to continue my study next semester.

Presentation, shifting focus, + extension

For the next two weeks I will be preparing for my final project for the semester, a presentation to my dance class about what I’ve learned over the course of the semester. I will be delivering my presentation on the 19th after our winter dance concert. Throughout this study, I’ve learned so much about the issues prevent accessible arts education in our community. I’ve really enjoyed conducting this independent study and have decided to extend it into second semester. Initially, I thought that in the second semester I would want to create my own program to bring free, student-led dance classes to the Durham community. However, through interviewing local dance educators, I realized that getting involved as a volunteer or creating a partnership with an existing program combatting arts inequality would likely be more beneficial for the community. Thus, I am shifting my focus in the second semester to be focused on creating a partnership with an existing program such as the Durham Arts Council or the Carrboro Arts Center in order to engage myself and the DA community in this cause as effectively as possible.

Full interview notes from interview with Heather Bryce (Week of Nov 28)

  1. Background
    1. Invested and involved in making arts accessible to everyone– especially for ppl with disabilities 
  2. Why do you think exposure to the arts, specifically dance, is important for children and adolescents?
    1. Dance is a fantastic outlet
    2. Can support ppl in learning how to self regulate– deal with stress
    3. Developing critical thinking and self discipline– committing to things and following through
    4. Body awareness
    5. Creativity is undervalued (especially in public school systems)
      1. Can support ppl in learning foundational skills
  3. How did you become involved in the dance community and what opportunities did you have to pursue a dance career?
    1. Started dancing at age 2
      1. Fantastic creative teacher– super focused on improv and creating their own work
    2. Danced around the kitchen, making music, etc
    3. Kept dancing until 16, rediscovered it in college with African Dance classes
    4. Started dancing with companies in Boston, got back into choreographing pieces
    5. Started her own company, kept making work
    6. Wanted to show diversity, community creation within her pieces 
  4. If you had to rate the Triangle community on its arts accessibility to young children, how would you rate it and why?
    1. Lot of her work hasn’t happened here
    2. There are rich experiences available
    3. Durham Public Schools had a teaching artist in every school
    4. Opportunity for private technique classes (cost)
  5. Can you speak to some of the barriers children face to accessing opportunities to learn dance?
    1. In general, private studios are looking for specific body types and other factors instead of thinking about the whole person 
    2. Not as welcoming of people with disabilities, economic barriers
    3. Especially for competition studios 
  6. Do you think these barriers have a disproportionate effect on certain communities in our area? If so, why?
    1. People with disabilities, and people from lower socioeconomic backgrounds
    2. Misty Copeland has broken down barriers for dancers of color– tights and shoes of different colors were difficult to access– need to go further though
  7. Do you believe that the government, school boards, or other local organizations have a responsibility to bridge these disparities? If so, are they doing enough?
    1. Yes, school boards especially should be welcoming teaching artists into all grade levels and classes
    2. After school programs would be really good– technical forms as well
    3. Durham Public Schools are doing well to start bridging these disparities
    4. Make sure teaching artists are actually representative of the populations of the people in the schools
  8. Public school curriculum
    1. Done a couple trainings with them
    2. They are really interested in arts integration and creative learning, arts and literacy 
      1. How the arts can bring written materials to life
    3. Their commitment to have a teaching artist in every school is great
  9. Could you tell me about the mission of the organization you work for, the Durham Arts Council, and what you do there?
    1. Teaching artist on the CAPS roster– taught in camp sessions, bringing arts in different countries to the students (ie: Peruvian dance)
      1. On their CAPS roster– offers training for teachers to integrate dance into curriculum
      2. Arts integration residencies
      3. Runs Teaching Artists Connect– focus on training educators 
        1. Graham– offer trainings everywhere, work with Arts Access, work with Durham Public Schools
        2. How we offer training opportunities 
    2. Where and how are classes taught?
      1. Mostly during camp sessions– week or 2
      2. Introducing students to choreography
      3. Lead teaching roles for their camps 
      4. Taught in the studio spaces, did online teaching during pandemic 
    3. In terms of scholarships, how does the Arts Council cater towards students and families who are unable to pay for classes? How many scholarships are available and how are they awarded?
      1. Mission of making arts accessible for everyone
      2. Public school teaching artist program– free to students b/c teachers are being paid through grants or school districts
    4. Do you feel that the Arts Council has adequate support? What more could be done if you had more resources? 
      1. State funding can always be increased– more money is always good
      2. Artists feel very supported– reach out a lot
  10. Why do you think organizations like the Arts Council are important? How have they impacted the community?
    1. Having arts in schools is so vital– teachers go into classes through organizations like the Arts Council
    2. Gives arts exposure to ppl who otherwise wouldn’t have gotten it
    3. Dance can throw ppl off– vulnerable– boys and older students
      1. Breaks down barriers and misconceptions
  11. Are there any plans for expansion or new program developments at the Arts Council?
    1. Across NC ppl are really invested in teaching artistry– bringing teaching artistry into more schools so students feel reflected
    2. Training in professional development for teachers– using art as a tool 
  12. Do you know of or are you involved in any other organizations with similar goals?
    1. Works for Lincoln Center in NY as a teaching artist
    2. Remotely teaches 3 high school classes
    3. Access Ambassador Program– hoping to pilot in NC, Raleigh, partnership with public schools
    4. Internship based programs with students with disabilities– foundational job skills in the arts
    5. Increasing accessible hiring 
    6. How to address the services gap– after graduation they don’t have as many speech therapists etc
    7. Exposure to the joy that the arts can bring 
    8. How we bring training for ppl who have no experience working with students with disabilities 
    9. Local work– working on expanding internationally, ex: Norway 
    10. Works with Big Umbrella Festival– geared toward ppl with intellectual and developmental disabilities
    11. Alvin Ailey as a teaching artist
    12. Lincoln Center Moments–ppl with dementia 
  13. Passion with this specifically 
    1. After college started working in a school with ppl who have autism and other disabilities – really challenging, not focused on the whole person, focused on changing behavior rather than supporting the person and bringing them joy
    2. Worked as a disability counselor– pre-k to 5 year olds who were going to get expelled, tried to work with teachers to keep them in school
    3. Started working more with incorporating arts with schools and disabilities 
  14. How can individuals contribute to this cause?
    1. Working with local schools to see what resources they need
    2. Joining PTA and advocating for arts in every school
    3. Researching the impact of arts– could cause higher investment in arts
    4. Being an advocate for community arts centers– need volunteers

Interview with Heather Bryce (Week of Nov 28)

This week I interviewed Heather Bryce who was incredibly experienced, insightful, and kind. I was fascinated by her extensive work with children with both mental and physical disabilities and how she has dedicated much of her career to helping incorporate art, specifically dance, into their education. She emphasized how dance can help them to learn to self-regulate and deal with stress. This is especially important for children with autism that she has worked with. She also works a lot with teachers to introduce them to ways they can use arts in the classroom to help their special needs students learn better. Our conversation expanded my understanding of what “accessibility” means. Much of my research thus far has been focused on the socioeconomic barriers children face in trying to explore the arts, but she broadened my view to include children with disabilities who also are often excluded from artistic spaces.

A major overlap I noticed between this interview and my interview with Ms. Tatreau is how they both emphasized the importance of partnering with the community through these programs. They also both explained that they are always in need of more volunteers and funding for these programs to reach as many people as possible. These interviews have reshaped my thinking in regards to the future of my study and I am excited to continue researching and processing what I have learned.

I will post the full interview notes with Heather Bryce in the next post.