The Right Brain Initiative


Artist Network: Learning how to talk.

January 24th, 2011 by Robb

Artist Network attendees; illustration by Right Brain artist Pascale Steig

Much like our Principals’ Network, Right Brain’s quarterly Artist Network meetings exist to bring our roster artists together to share experiences, and to workshop the obstacles involved in implementing this program still new and unique to the Portland area. Below, artist Tony Fuemmeler responds to our most recent Artist Network meeting in which the artists discussed the challenges and successes they’ve experienced when collaborating with school staff to design customized residencies that meet the specific needs of the students in the building.  

(We forgot the camera, but were delighted to discover that Pascale Steig, one or our roster artists in attendance, made some wonderful sketches at the meeting. That means that instead of inserting here bland photographs of a bunch of people sitting  in a basement meeting room heavy with flourescent lighting, we get to provide an artist’s genuine visual response to the meeting. We encourge you to take a look at more of Pascale’s sketches on her fascinating blog.) 

Without further ado, Tony: 

The Right Brain Initiative took on a new light for me after January’s Artist Network meeting.  It was my first time joining such a meeting, and it was pretty remarkable to note the breadth of experiences and the depth of support from fellow artists in the room.  We were all there to discuss our successes and challenges in navigating a framework of partnering with schools, and this was no great surprise to any of us.
What was interesting is that what we were also doing is learning how to talk.

How do we talk to each other as fellow artists?  How do we communicate with a school administrator?  What information seems to fall through the gaps? How do we know that the messages we are sending are being received? How do we have enough time to figure out a residency with a new school in one meeting?
In hearing the various tactics, pitfalls, questions and promising solutions that were put forth, it becomes clear that there cannot be a programmatic protocol that will solve the issue of communication, or an algebra of forms that lead to a good residency.  However, some helpful guidelines did emerge from the conversation. I chose to think of them like this:
• Be proactive. Ask the Right Brain Arts Integration Facilatator about the school’s history and its programs. Research the school a little—they have researched you.  Extend yourself and create a relationship with the school.  Think about potential curricular tie-ins before your planning meeting.  Create a cheat sheet of sample program options and costs.
• Be yourself. Help make yourself and your work real in the planning meetings.  Do what you can to make it clear what working with you will look and feel like to your new partners.   Bring some tools or gear you use, lists of basic vocabulary, potential curricular tie-ins, past examples of student work, etc.
• Be creative. Think of ways to extend the relationships you’ve begun beyond the school day. Check in with teachers during your residency to see how your teaching is landing with their students. Work with your teachers to create a follow-up letter for parents of your students that explain the work you’ve done.  Offer a resource list for teachers or parents that help them continue to explore your art form after your residency.

Artist Network attendee, by Pascale Steig

—Tony Fuemmeler