There is something magical about being in the same place with people who share your passion. Some people may believe that being with like-minded people limits you, but not when you are with the members of the National Guild for Community Arts Education. The Guild hosted its annual conference in Boston from November 10-12, and offered pre-conference workshops the day before. I was fortunate enough to attend both the full conference and a pre-conference Engaging Adolescents Institute.
This was my first experience with the National Guild conference, and the experience sent me back to the West Philadelphia Branch with a head full of inspiration, new ideas and viewpoints. The Engaging Adolescents Institute was by far my favorite day of the conference. From 9:30 am through 4:30 pm, members of the Guild discussed, debated and examined the Engaging Adolescents Initiative that the organization researched and published in 2010 (which is available free of charge here).
The Guild invited youth scholars from Boston’s Hyde Square Task Force to facilitate parts of the discussion and actively advise the professionals in the room about what attracts and keeps teens in programs. Presentations from model programs were given by San Antonio’s SAY Si, Detroit’s Mosaic Youth Theatre, and Brooklyn’s Ifetayo Cultural Arts. Each organization has a different strategy for recruiting and retaining teens in their communities and offered valuable guidance and advice to the institutions gathered.
The formal conference kicked off bright and early Thursday morning with introductions by Guild staff and board. This was the largest conference in the Guild’s history! The keynote speaker was Will Power—actor, playwright, and hip-hop artist—who both performed for the opening breakfast and spoke about engaging today’s teens. His speech set the tone for conference – one of being open to dialogue and change.
I attended two luncheons, one with the Mid-Atlantic Chapter of the Guild where I met organizations from New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware and Washington, D.C. Philadelphia was well-represented with members from Settlement (of course!), Temple Music Preparatory, Mural Arts, Fleischer Art Memorial, Walnut Street Theatre, University City Arts League and many more.
Another highlight of the conference was attending Jazz at Lincoln Center’s presentation on Arts for Life: Marrying Skills-Based and Aesthetic Education Practices. As many students at the West Philadelphia Branch know, I am a huge jazzhead and a big fan of Jazz at Lincoln Center’s programming. Joanna Massey, Eli Yamin, and LaFrae Sci created a wonderful, informative and interactive presentation. They demonstrated the teaching methods that the Middle School Jazz Academy has had success in implementing and had all of us singing, improvising and harmonizing Wade in the Water.
My final day, Saturday, was spent visiting the South Shore Conservatory and attending the Annual Guild Luncheon. Jane Golden of Philadelphia’s Mural Arts Program was one of the honorees at the luncheon. Jane gave a powerful speech on the power of arts to enact true, positive change in the community. Her program is a testament to arts education that has changed the landscape of Philadelphia. As a resident of Philadelphia, I am thankful I get to view the gorgeous murals her program creates.
The Guild demonstrates that learning in the arts can be a life-long process. It provides wonderful learning opportunities for its members by holding this conference and various institutes throughout the year. I can’t wait for, and hope I have the opportunity to attend, next year’s conference in Dallas, Texas.