Inclusive + Arts = Education.

Okay, so here’s a quick rundown of what a professional conference is like for arts educators (really for anyone at any level of academia): there’s the milling around, the eyeing of one another (which is to say: an assessing of “the tribe” — “Is this the cohort to which I (we) belong? Are these my — Our — people?”); there’s a keynote (or several); there are probably awards and maybe a pertinent tour (or two) and definitely a fair amount of receptions; …and then there are the panels and presentations. Lots and lots of panels and presentations. (By way of an example, see the TED talk above, given by arts leader Ben Cameron, who closed out this year’s Arts Schools Network [ASN] conference in Minneapolis with a [different but equally] spirited and inspiring talk about why all the arts matter, now more than ever — and, more pointedly, how we as artists and teachers, as creators, performers, and audiences, can rise [not to but] with the extraordinary occasion of our times.)

This week, at ASN – Twin Cities, where the theme has been equity and inclusion in the arts, these very things have happened (of course) for me and for my ASFA colleagues/bosses. But, like, a lot. It’s been an eye-opener, in all the best ways. And (so, therefore) here are some of my overarching observations with these two newly opened eyes:

  • Yes. Emphatically yes, the folks at ASN are my/Our people. (In fact, it’s making me kinda-sorta apoplectic that it’s taken me/Us 15+ years to (re)realize this; ASFA is, in fact, one of the founding organizations in the network. But that’s a whole ‘nother blog post.)
  • And a related side note regarding “tribes” and “Us” and founding things — the Alabama School of Fine Arts is a standard bearer in its field. This is something I’ve always intuited, but coming to meet our kindreds, our sisteren and bretheren, has confirmed it for me: there is a conversation for us to (re)join. It’s robust, it’s vital, it’s a conversation that can change the world so very much for the better, and we ASFAns have a lot to add to this conversation. We gotta get on that, all of us ASFAns, post haste. Because it’s kind of important. If we don’t, we’re shirking our responsibility. End of. (See Ben Cameron, above.)
  • Mingling (alas) is not my strong suit. (Sigh.) Gotta get better at it if I’m gonna be joining conversations and such.
  • Kyle Wedberg is somebody I want to listen to and learn from. He’s my speed.
  • I’m lucky to have an Executive Director/mentor who knows that Kyle Wedberg is somebody I want to listen to, learn from, who’s my speed.
  • O-my-gosh panels — panels about how to better manage the emotional needs of super-creative kids… panels about building the right kind of arts spaces that actually make people feel more creative, more connected, more willing to rub elbows and engage… panels about what truly radical school choice does to and for a city (for better and for worse)… panels about teaching kids to transgress/transcend boundaries because that’s sort of something artists and innovators are, like, required to do…

And on and on and on…and on and on and on. To shift the metaphor from eyes to stomachs: it’s a lot to digest. But it’s also a lot of nourishment. Very thankful I’ve gotten to the chance to partake in this particular feast.

Okay: so, with that, now I’m off to eat a Juicy Lucy. [Insert eyes-bigger-than-stomach pun here.] Wish me luck…

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