On October 5–6, students, teachers, fundraisers, artists, and administrators will gather at HGSE for Continuing the Conversation: Response & Responsibility, a summit to promote the arts as a force for justice and explore the impact of the arts on systems and communities.
The Continuing the Conversation network was started in 2007 by Arts in Education (AIE) Program graduates Andrea Sachdeva, Ed.M.’07, and Joy Lamberton Arcolano, Ed.M.’04, with the hope that AIE alumni would — literally — continue the conversations they began as students at HGSE. Though the format has changed over the years, the annual summit provides a space for anyone who has an interest in arts and education to come together, engage in discussion and artistic exploration, and reflect on their practice. Summit-goers listen to speakers, participate in labs and small group discussions, and are given time to think about how to apply what they’ve learned to their professional practice.
This year’s keynote speakers include Micia Mosley, stand-up comedian and founding executive director of the Black Teacher Project; Robyne Walker-Murphy, the executive director at Groundswell, an organization dedicated to public art-making; Austin Greene, teaching artist and social justice pedagogy coach at DreamYard Arts Center in the Bronx; and DonChristian Jones, a New York based visual artist, rapper, singer/songwriter, and producer, among others.
Here, current co-chairs Aliza Greenberg, Ed.M.’07, and Carissa Johnson White, Ed.M.’08, preview this year’s summit.
What are the goals for the summit?
Carissa Johnson White: It’s a way to stay connected. We do host other regional events and meet-ups, but this is really a chance for folks to be reflective about their work in a deep and meaningful way that you don’t always get to do when you’re in the day to day of a job.
Aliza Greenberg: The summits have changed and grown in format throughout the years and we’ve landed on a format that’s more of a summit, less of a conference, that allows more people to come together to really delve into the deep issues in arts education, which is really what our mission is. We are here to provide a space so that we can have in-depth conversations about arts education and the ways that arts in education impacts and intersects with our larger society. This is what’s possible in the Arts in Education Program and what we wanted to continue and bring into the larger field.
What is the role of arts education when it comes to issues of social justice? How does the summit community address that?
Greenberg: The arts in education community is getting broader and more cross-sector and so we are really working to welcome individuals from all different sectors, bringing all different perspectives. We approach our gatherings with the question, “Why are we as arts educators in a unique position to respond to the issues that are put forth?” In this case, it’s “Why are we uniquely positioned to respond to injustice in our work and how can we support each other in doing that?” Artists are always at the forefront of social movements and addressing the things that are happening in our world. By creating this space, we’re hoping we can push things forward and act as a catalyst for social justice.
Often times the artist in the education sphere can take on the role of the squeaky wheel and bring that into the classroom. I think educators do these things in many different ways, not just the in arts, but the arts offer a really accessible and open way to delve into these questions with students. I think it could be anything from really broad projects that might take months in the classroom to even just the other day I was wearing my “I voted” sticker and got to engage in conversations with my students about that. If you think about it, wearing a sticker in general is an artistic statement so that can even be a really big catalyst.
White: I think one of strengths and a beautiful element of the AIE Program is that it’s not an arts education program, it’s an arts in education program. It takes a broader view of the field than a lot of other programs might so the folks that we reach out to are not all art teachers. We have such an amalgamation of people that touch on the arts in their work … it allows the conversation to have a bit more flavor and a bit more complexity. And we give space and we give voice to that.
This year’s summit is focused on linking self-care with the social justice movement. Why is that?
White: I don’t think there should be a huge difference between thinking about social justice and thinking about self-care. … There’s a lot of risk in addressing issues and putting yourself out there as someone who’s going to stand up for more marginalized people with the power [your] voice. And that’s big.
Greenberg: We, as arts educators, are already taking such a risk just to be arts educators because of the financial strain and challenges that come with trying to make that work happen in any setting. I think what we’re trying to do through these summits is to build practice and help people build practices to support the work they’re doing, and support the deep questioning I think we all want to do.
I think it can be very hard to raise questions in a workplace setting or school. I’ve seen a lot of arts teachers have a hard time advocating for the work that they’re doing. What we’re hoping is [that] these summits help participants create a practice for self-care, for risk-taking, for engaging in these social justice acts and the conversations they want to engage in with us and back in their communities.
To learn more and to register, visit https://www.aieconversation.org/response-and-responsibility-1. HGSE students can register for free, using the code HGSEstudent.
Photo: Citi Performing Arts students perform as part of 2017's Continuing the Conversation Summit.