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.
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.
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.