The ¡CityArts! “Around the Table” conference on August 14 and 15 will offer educators tools for unifying their classrooms through art. The conference is for public school teachers, teaching artists, artists-in-residency, museum educators and others who work with youth. It will follow the six phases of the ¡CityArts! Cycle: connection, creating a safe space, discovery, ideation, creation and reflection / presentation. Topics to be addressed include, but are not limited to, Implicit Bias Training, Nonviolent Communication Training and Social Justice and Art Integration. I spoke with ¡CityArts! executive director Jennifer Dalton Vincent and program manager Michelle Nugent to better understand their vision for the event.
Vincent and Nugent were clear that participants do not need to have a background in art in order to reap the benefits of the conference. The focus will be on actively modeling techniques that promote the social-emotional health and well-being of young people and can be applied to any content area in a variety of learning environments. While art is the vehicle, participants do not need to be artists themselves. Vincent and Nugent described the conference, in part, as a time and place for teachers and other youth workers to “share ideas and experiences and better their practices” as well as a “space to network with other creatives.” Their enthusiasm was palpable.
The conference will be highly interactive and will include a lively segment called Seven by Seven, which is a modified Pecha Kucha (seven images as opposed to 20) delivered by select presenters. The overall format is one of modeling and active participation and is predicated on one of ¡CityArts! fundamental beliefs, which is that all students have the capacity to learn about content when they feel safe and have choices.
¡CityArts! is a non-profit, after school arts provider dedicated to ensuring that PVD youth have equal access to performing and visual arts programs unhindered by socio-economic barriers. Since 1992, ¡CityArts! has offered free in-school, after-school and summer arts programs to thousands of children in PVD. The “Around the Table” conference is the inaugural event for The Rhode Island Teaching Artists Center (RITAC), a partnership between City Arts and the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts (RISCA).
In speaking with Vincent and Nugent, I could sense the value they place on a spirit of collaboration. They spoke of artists, teachers and youth at ¡CityArts! working together and sustaining positive relationships over time. They were also eager to credit their partnerships with the RISCA and the Rhode Island Foundation for co-creating RITAC. I have no doubt that this spirit of collaboration and their commitment to creating a space in which multiple voices can be heard will permeate the “Around the Table” conference.
For more information, go to providencecityarts.org/conference