Donna Wissinger has been published as a poet, teaching artist and arts consultant in the US and UK.
The Magic Flute: An Ensemble of Community Partners Enriching Lives Through the Arts and Out of Chaos Comes Art serve as models for teaching artists and communities building meaningful artist residencies. Please contact Donna for more information.
Ms. Wissinger article Artists as Arts Advocates in the Community has been published by the Florida Department of Cultural Affairs, Arts for a Complete Education and VSA arts of Florida. (Read more below)
The Florida Association of Museums recently published Music and Musings: Leadership Through the Lens of Art Volume: October 2004, Number 3. (Read more below)
Artists As Arts Advocates in the Community:
Residencies That Go Beyond The Classroom
Premise: Artists engaged in artist residencies can be among the strongest advocates for integrating the life-enhancing power of the arts into society. We can utilize the dedication and excellence we practice in our artforms to inform the excellence of our residencies.
“We must be the change we seek in the world.” Gandhi
A successful artist residency requires tremendous amounts of time and effort particularly in planning for both the artist and cultural institution sponsoring the program or project. Successful residencies mean, in part, that the children, the host site, the artist, and the individuals responsible for planning and funding the residency are enthusiastic about what the arts and artist accomplished, and need no further convincing to participate in and fund a future residency. Artists do well to understand and to acknowledge that there is a lot at stake for the residency sponsor. We can never forget that art is about people and relationships.
Art is the putting together of who we are, what we dream and hope with the world around us!
We can provide successful experiences for all by considering the human aspects of our work. Among these:
· Implementing residencies usually involves fund-raising and grant writing for the sponsoring site. The site is people! Artists who have endeavored to fund raise or write a grant have insights into the effort required, and appreciate the time, work and thought involved in acquiring funding for residency projects.
· Often someone feels they take a risk selecting the artist and target group. Should the project be assessed less successful than promised on any level, someone will receive negative comments. Careful thought about ideal outcomes and a solid plan are useful in assuring a successful project.
· Frequently someone must be a strong advocate for the arts as a valuable educational and life-enhancing resource in order to get the initial interest and cooperation from the organization. Those willing to be supportive of the arts need to be supported themselves!
Artist Residency programs are often developed to target a select group of individuals in a school or community. It makes sense, and is practical, to set goals and parameters that enhance the project’s chance to be effective. This concept is not unlike that of form in art. Music generally has forms that allow composer, performer, and audience to organize sounds effectively for communication. Art, poetry, dance, and the visual arts have their effective organizations or forms.
As with art, what an artist does within the form of their residency can make the difference in the successful experience of it. One can stretch the boundaries of form to create art that is special and far-reaching. An artist can similarly imagine the form of a residency in a grand context and thus extend the possibilities for success.
The artist can extend the possibilities of success by involving as many people as possible in the residency. An artist can get to know the personnel in the front office of the school or institution. Do any of them play, sing, draw, etc.? In the school setting, is there a way to involve the principal, assistant-principal and guidance counselors in the sessions? It is important to facilitate involvement, to invite administrators to stop by the classes and to engage them as apprentices or collaborators in some way. I have enjoyed many life-enhancing moments by inviting principals to play tambourine accompaniment with me to the delight of all. What fun for the children to experience the artfulness of the adults in their lives! At the very least administrators can be involved in roles of introduction and express their enthusiasm for the program.
· An artist has a far greater impact when all in the community are aware of the project and feel a personal connection to it.
Are there any teachers who played instruments or were active in drama or art in high school and still enjoy making music or art? Is there an opportunity for these teachers to perform or talk about their experiences with you or the students during or after the residency? When opportunity is provided for teachers to shine:
· fellow educators are amazed to learn about their colleagues’ talents
· students enjoy feeling pride for their teacher, and share that among themselves and with their families
· the teacher’s own pride and self-esteem is nourished.
I have often found that teachers who renewed their interest in their artform by participating with me in residencies continued to do so in their churches and other community activities. What greater impact can we have than encouraging others to engage in the artfulness of their lives!
For dance residencies, calling upon the athletic staff can be a catalyst for enthusiasm. Did the physical education teacher have dance instruction during college sports? Do they know of professional teams who use dance for injury prevention and enhanced performance? Are there other ways they know the arts enhance performance in sports?
Does the Resource Officer or other regular guests of the school participate in the arts? At one school in which I was the resident artist, the D.A.R.E. officer moonlighted on drums. He was delighted to be able to share this with me and happily played snare drum during my Revolutionary War program. Not only did the other officers learn of his collaboration, but children and their parents saw him in a new light and the local coffee shop he frequented spread the word of his participation in a school residency. It is experiences such as these that are remembered and cherished in our lives!
Learn who funded the program and encourage some of them to make room in their schedules to attend a session. Leaders in the community are often the supporters of the arts. Allow these leaders, some of whom may be parents active in PTA, to see that touching individual lives in small settings through art is beneficial to those individuals as well as to the larger cultural institutions and community at large.
If some of the targeted children of the residency are in special classes, engage them in apprentice type roles should you be providing school presentations for other children. This kind of activity greatly enhances the self-esteem and proficiency of the children who participate with you, and builds awareness of these children and their programs throughout the school.
An artist can look to the community arts organizations for models of audience development. Community orchestras, theatre, and opera companies perform with the local chorale or with children’s theatre groups creating an instant audience of family members. A culminating event featuring the children’s work as well as that of the artist ensures family participation in the residency.
Enthusiastic word of mouth is the best advocacy for arts residencies. As artists we must transfer the techniques of excellence we use daily in our artforms to our residencies. Those techniques can make art come alive in the community. As artists, we love the process of art. Art and our lives are one. If we involve more people in the everyday work of art, we do our part to ensure that art becomes a valued and essential component of a community’s life.
Florida Association of Museums: Museums of the Future Keynote 2004
Donna Wissinger, Concert Flutist and Arts Consultant
Due to Hurricanes Frances and Ivan and the subsequent cancellation of the Florida Association of Museums (FAM) Conference scheduled for September 11-15 in Naples, Florida, I have endeavored to capture some of the message I had sought to bring to the FAM gathering. As the keynote message, Music and Musing: Leadership Through the Lens of Art, was conveyed through music, poetry, storytelling, and activities that highlighted participants balancing feathers, making holoprints, playing rainsticks, listening and thinking together, it cannot be distilled into words. However, I have selected some key points upon which to elaborate. These points I believe will have bearing upon our successful growth into the future.
- We must be as passionate about bringing the ‘news’ we so value to our communities as we are of our ‘news’.
- We are co-creators of the places into which we would like our communities to come.
- It is in the turning to one another, the moments created when people connect to people, that magic occurs.
- We must allow the heartbeat of our communities to become a part of our heartbeats if we want ours to become part of theirs.
The success that we have of becoming the places in which people satisfy their longings for community as well as the nourishment of their core beings will determine our future. You may find an outline of the keynote including the poetry at www.donnawissinger.com in the Keynote and Consulting link. Should you be intrigued, please do not hesitate to call upon me.
My heart rouses thinking to bring you news……….words of William Carlos Williams. At the heart of who we are, artists and safekeepers of the treasures both of human hearts and of human knowledge, is passion. We have passion about our news. Our news is not the black and white of the newspaper page or musical score, but beyond the black and white, the poetry, the ‘what is it really’? Science, history, and art are not only about facts. The poetry of science is the ‘joy of finding things out’. History is a collection of people who composed their lives and who inform us as we write our own life stories. Art is the putting together of who we are, what we dream and hope with the world around us. About this we are passionate. We must be equally passionate about bringing our news. It is not an option to feel our communities should and will just choose to come to us. It is not we and they. It is us.
Who and what are we really? What is it we really want to do in our communities? Have we expanded our own vision, our poetry, our listening, to hear, understand and include that for which our communities long? What it is that we can authentically offer them? Do we know and care about their heartbeats? We are the safekeepers of humans, of communities of humans. If we can believe we are essential to our communities, that we are co-creators of a place in which people can come together to discover each other and expand their vision, the force of this belief forms the perception we have of ourselves, and the perception our community has of who we are and what we have to offer them. Moments of discovery and ’the joy of finding things out’ happen when people come together to connect and to share their thoughts and their stories. Can our communities share their stories in our spaces?
If community is what we offer, I believe we are the places to which people will come. Our hallways, my music, must be open in such a way as to invite them into our places, our poetry. If we are as passionate about bringing our news as we are of our news, I believe we will become the co-creators of places of meaning, insight and community, and we will thrive.