Connecting, Cultivating and Creating Space: PACE Hosts the First Ever Arts Education Directors Forum for the Region
Forums have long been a staple for arts professionals seeking support in their chosen field. Forums provide an opportunity for collaboration, and a platform to exchange ideas and opinions. Other industries in the region benefit from the existence of forums, in Seattle, Marketing Directors have one, Development Directors too! Why not Education? It seems simple enough, but the logistics of contacting, hosting and facilitating a forum on a mutually beneficial day often slips to the bottom of the ever-growing to-do “wish” list. This is especially true when arts education departments are in the thick of programming; when by nature we spend most of our careers fostering growth in others; and when our jobs are to support and serve. Somehow that study guide, student matinee, in-school residency, teacher workshop or the ever-growing email inbox takes precedent over making time for and with each other. Therefore, I take it as a personal and professional victory that on October 14th, Arts Education Directors from across the region gathered in the PACE Boardroom for the first ever Arts Education Directors Forum.
While the idea of it had been hovering above the ether for a while, it was after a series of one on one meetings with local arts organizations that I put action behind the thought. Initial emails to a small group of theatre educators quickly grew as word spread that PACE was taking up the helm to make this happen. As the date approached, there was a sense of pride in the way that finally Education Directors could connect, share advice, ask questions and open the door for possible cross-collaboration opportunities. And, the group grew! Multiple Education Directors from across disciplines including music, theatre, dance and visual arts were represented.
Through round table discussion style facilitation and with pre-determined topic prompts, voices were lifted, ideas exchanged, and sometimes, emotions were confirmed with a collective laugh or shared nod from across the table. And yes, while we talked of challenges there were also moments where we celebrated our successes in the only way fellow education directors can fully comprehend. In two hours, it seemed as if the often-felt siloed worlds in which we all exist became unified and visceral in a way that had us returning to our respective offices a little stronger in our arts education convictions, and little more grateful for our community in which we exist. A victory for sure as we each individually returned to the email inbox, the teaching artist meeting, the study guide deadline, the classroom of students or the fundraising event scheduled for later that day. After our meeting I received a flood of positive feedback for the event and everyone expressed excitement for the next opportunity to meet as a group.
With a vision statement where PACE Arts Education is called upon to champion the performing arts by connecting, cultivating and creating arts integrated learning opportunities to enhance equity, diversity and inclusivity within our community, I believe we have successfully taken that first step in our first Arts Ed forum.