THE SANDRA FEINSTEIN-GAMM THEATRE and the R.I. State Council on the Arts are using a $29,900 grant from The Rhode Island Foundation to establish a center that will support and help develop teaching artists in the state.
COURTESY THE SANDRA FEINSTEIN-GAMM THEATRE
By Patricia Daddona PBN Staff Writer
PAWTUCKET - A new Rhode Island Teaching Artists Center is being established to provide Rhode Island-based teaching artists with job opportunities in the public and private sectors.
The Sandra Feinstein-Gamm Theatre and the R.I. State Council on the Arts are collaborating on the project. Funded by a $29,900 grant from The Rhode Island Foundation, the center will be housed at and administered by the Gamm Theatre. RISCA will add funds and staff assistance.
The foundation’s support for the initiative emerged following a national study on the state of teaching artists and the future of arts education, headed by arts and cultural policy analyst Nick Rabkin at NORC at the University of Chicago. Providence was one of 12 cities included in the project, which has provided the largest data set on teaching artists in the United States to date.
“The study found that teaching artists bring innovative teaching methods and curriculum into schools,” said Mary-Kim Arnold, the foundation’s grant officer for arts and culture.
Developing collaborative professional development opportunities like this one were among the recommendations made, she said.
RISCA Education Director Sherilyn Brown highlighted the need for professional development in the field. Despite teaching artists’ contributions to academic learning and innovation, the profession has gone “largely unsupported and unrecognized,” she said.
Starting in September, RITAC will establish a physical and virtual resource for mentoring, professional development, employment opportunities and marketing assistance, among other needs. The center also will evaluate the impact of teaching artists within government, business, health care, social services, creative industries and K-16 education, with an emphasis on greater collaboration.
Teaching artists will be invited to share pedagogy, methodology, lesson plans, employment opportunities and ideas for improving the profession. A website, now under development, will serve as a virtual platform to share that information.
“Despite the documented value of the teaching artist in all learning and healing environments, there is a distinct lack of support systems to bridge the gap between professional TAs and those industries that would benefit from their skills,” said Gamm Education Director Steve Kidd. “As one of only two year-round professional theaters in the state, The Gamm is proud to collaborate with RISCA to address this need in a very practical way.”
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