Artist Teachers Forum

I have recently set up an Artist Teacher Forum in collaboration with Henry Ward and Kate Thackery, an opportunity to bring London artist teachers together and share. The first session was on the 2nd October at the Freelands Gallery, Chalk Farm and attracted 35 participants representing formal (primary, secondary, FE, HE) and informal (freelancers, sessional tutors in galleries) sectors and a range of artists (Fine Art, design, art historians etc).

I identified the need after realising that the years of decline in CPD for artist teachers has led to no provision or funding being made available for specialist training or development in art education. The UCL IOE PGCE, for 20 years, has developed the philosophy of the artist teacher with its training teachers. The students are encouraged to maintain their art practice and yet the moment they have qualified and move into school to teach, the profession rejects this position, schools neglect their needs, and they find it hard to maintain their own practice. I set out to try to develop a supportive environment, a community of practice for art educators to maintain or develop again their artist teacher identity and practice.

I believe that being an artist teachers allows us to benefit in a number of ways:

* that teachers’ personal development as artists can have a directly beneficial impact on their effectiveness as teachers and, as a result, on their students’ learning and creativity;

* that the richness and complexity of contemporary fine art practice and the diversity of thinking and influences which inform it can enhance teachers’ subject knowledge (an identified need for art teachers) and can enable them to make positive contributions to the delivery of the curriculum;

* that partnerships between major galleries and museums of contemporary art and prestigious institutions of higher education can provide the most stimulating locations and contexts in which to achieve these ends, can foster the raising of teaching standards and pupils’ attainment and can assist cultural entitlement by creating greater access to the visual arts and culture.

The Artist Teacher Forum will be a special community of practice, an opportunity for the participants to review and develop their personal creative practice and maybe consider tensions between education and making. Firstly it starts with a dialogue, a dialogue in a supportive environment.

Our second meeting on 6th November was framed around a pop up exhibition in the Freelands Gallery. Participants were instructed 'to make or bring an object to discuss', as a way of introducing themselves to the community. We set up an art school ''Crit' situation, in small groups, where participants shared and engaged in their display. It was an highly energised evening, again 35+ participants, eager to review, question and talk.

We have started the dialogue to shape the path forward; participants have volunteered to speak and present, and we are targeting mutually agreeable areas for debate. I also asked each participant to answer the following questions on post cards:

* On one side write a statement about what you 'Hope' for as an artist teacher.

* On the other side write a list of what you need to do to achieve this.

I intend to use this research to analyse the responses and look to share the findings at the next session in January. This may help with consider potential planning and support for the group. Maybe we will understand the motivations, maybe the multiple notions of identity that are associated to artist teachers.

On the next occasion we are asking each participant to send in an image of their creative making space, where do they work? We will use this as the focus for the next pop up exhibition. I look forward to their responses.

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Andy Ash