As many of you know, I'm a teaching artist, and I work with cultural organizations to provide arts opportunities for students in NYC public schools. I've found the insights of my colleagues to be both inspirational and enlightening, which is why I'm excited to announce a new interview series- Arts-In-Education, where I'll speak with arts educators about their experiences in the field. I hope you'll enjoy it as much as I do!
Image by Roberto Carlos Soto
First up- Roberto Carlos Soto. I met Roberto while interning/ training with Community Word Project. Here's what Roberto had to say...
What art forms do you practice?
Photography, drawing, printmaking, mixed media.
What art forms do you teach?
Mostly poetry and drawing
How did you begin teaching?
I started in college as a Professor Assistant, and then I knew that my path in life was to teach.
What age groups do you have experience working with? Are there specific age groups you prefer?
By now I have worked a little with every age group--from K through College.
Preference is relative, sometimes I feel there is nothing better in life than to witness the uninhibited creativity of a second grader. Sometimes I have the need to transmit conceptual knowledge that is more suited for college students and would like to be teaching a college class. Every group has its charms and challenges, and I truly enjoy them all.
What settings have you taught in (school, studio, conservatory...etc)?
Only in schools: Grade Schools, Middle and High Schools and College.
How do you think the role of a teaching artist differs from an art teacher, or an artist who teaches workshops or at a private studio?
To me the difference is not that important. Technically teaching artists are active practitioners of their art form, which would ideally bring another element into the classroom for the benefit of students. However, every art teacher I have ever had in my life--including my full-time High School artteacher--practiced their art form in their own time...so are we ALL teaching artists?
In your opinion, are there benefits/pros to being a "teaching artist" (rather than an art teacher/ private instructor)? If so, what?
I believe that being a teaching artist allows you more flexibility in terms of managing your time and your personal projects/art making.
In your opinion, are there limitations/cons to being a "teaching artist" (rather than an art teacher/ private instructor)? If so, what?
Yes, the cons are the lack job security, health insurance, and paid vacations.
What role do you feel the arts should play in education?
Well, of course I don't even think we can call something "education" unless it includes the arts, not only as a supplementary subject, but as an essential course that is offered throughout our entire education.
Do you think certain arts are more highly valued in education? If so, why?
If we don't take into consideration ELA. I think all other art forms suffer from neglect. I also think music is often times more valued in schools, but I don't know exactly why.tend to be the most neglected. I think many people don't find utility in the visual arts, and therefore see them as peripheral to an education process.
What are your feelings on teaching art for art's sake vs.into curriculum as a tool to teach other subjects- is one more valuable than the other?
I believe teaching art for art's sake is just as important as teaching math for math's sake. Not every student will become a mathematician, but the math skills they learn in school will help them in their everyday lives. By the same token, not every student will become an artist, but having those skills will help students make sound judgments during their lives. Art is not about a right or wrong answer, it's about learning to discern, reason, examine qualitative relationships, problem solve and learn to accept multiple perspectives and viewpoints. All these are essential in the education of a child.