To start off 2013, here is an excerpt from a recent essay by the arts education and policy researcher and consultant Nick Rabkin.
Artists have always taught but teaching artists are a fairly new development in cultural history, associated with social change, reform, and community-building from the start. The first teaching artists in the US were hired to run the arts programs at Hull-House (1889), the pioneering early social service and reform ‘settlement’ founded by Jane Addams in Chicago. They taught music, theater, ceramics, painting and drawing, and dance. By 1914 there were over 400 settlements across the country, most modeled after Hull-House, and most with robust arts programs led by teaching artists.
The settlements’ arts programs were gateways into the arts for some of America’s greatest artists. Benny Goodman took clarinet at Hull-House. Langston Hughes wrote and produced his first plays at Karamu House in Cleveland. The influence of the settlements was enormous. One of Addams’ great reform campaigns led to the creation of our system of juvenile justice, which made rehabilitation a higher priority than punishment for young offenders. Louis Armstrong took cornet lessons while confined to the Home for Colored Waifs, a juvenile detention facility with a band program directed by, that’s right, a teaching artist.
Those great artists
notwithstanding, developing professional talent was not the mission of the
settlements. Their idea was that the arts are for everyone, and cultural
authority was not the sole possession of the ‘high arts’ conservatories,
museums, and orchestras that emerged alongside the settlements at the same time
in our history. At the settlements, the arts were tools for weaving the
webs of social connection that build strong communities and facing the
challenges of social and emotional development for individuals living in
Read Nick's essay in its entirety here.