ASFA-CW/Dance/VA Collaboration Photos + Kudos!

Here’s just a fraction of the photographic evidence (click here and here for slideshows) of yet another successful year of one of the coolest interdisciplinary endeavors in the ASFA universe! Writers, dancers — and this year, visual artists! — push envelopes, take chances, and (most of all) CREATE! TOGETHER!! #FunTimes. Many thanks to ASFA-DANCE’s Teri Weksler, who’s been the driving force behind this project, and to ASFA-CW’s Kwoya Maples and ASFA-VA’s Randy Gachet, who coordinated with Teri and the students to make this such an extraordinary learning experience for everyone involved. And, as always, thanks to ASFA’s core academic teachers and administrators, who adjust on the fly and help us fit this project into an already/always chock-full daily-weekly-semesterly schedule. (You guys are the best!)

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: Continue reading

Parallel Universe (Part I): PiM

All this week, I’m away from ASFA-CW attending the annual Arts Schools Network conference. This year, the conference is being held in Minneapolis-St. Paul, and today, conference attendees visited several arts schools and conservatories in the Twin Cities metroplex. The first school I visited this morning was PiM — the Performing Institute of Minnesota Arts High School, in nearby Eden Prairie, Minnesota.

It’s tempting — too tempting — to think of a school like ASFA as a one-of-a-kind, Hogwarts type of place: half secret society, half Island of Misfit Toys, half Parris Island of specialty education (yes: [at least] three halves; it’s just that kind of place). And in some respects (the best respects) ASFA truly is unique. In fact, the state of Alabama expects nothing less: it’s ostensibly mandated that ASFA offers unique instruction in its six specialty areas, instruction that young Alabama creatives can’t really get anywhere else.

A short visit to a school like PiM puts a different slant of light on things, though. The big takeaway, for me, is that we’re not alone in the world. There are other schools of witchcraft and wizardry in Harry Potter; likewise, there are other passionate people — students, teachers, school administrators — building and nurturing dynamic creative communities full of possibility and imagination. Everywhere. That’s, like, a Thing, in the world. And it means we ASFAns are not alone in fighting this good fight, which I (for one) find very empowering, very encouraging — and very, very inspiring.