Participants describe ‘formative experiences’

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

Roundtable participants were asked to describe formative arts experiences that had an impact on how they view arts education.

Lynne Horoschak: “I taught K-5 and special needs children. The absolute best times [were] in collaboration with the classroom teachers. Having the arts infused into the classroom, where [students] are learning social studies and history and geography, really tweaked the children’s excitement and energy. It also took art out of the art classroom. Like, “You don’t do art in this room – you do art with your life.”

“[There] is a book, Traveling to Ancient Greece, written by Philadelphia public school kids who were seven years old. It was written and illustrated in class. It came about because everything about ancient Greece was up at this level [indicating over children’s heads]. Instead of bellyaching about it, we said, ‘Okay, we’ll make our own textbook.’ And this is the textbook now that [this] school uses when they’re teaching ancient Greece to the second graders. Their whole life, [those students] will never forget doing that book.”

Valerie Harris: “I went to John Bartram High School in the late ‘60s, early ‘70s, and I was an art major. That meant that I went to art class in eleventh grade for a full period every day. As a senior, I went for a double period every day. It was an elective, so I was with like-minded students. Art now is no longer that kind of selective kind of situation. For those of us who have worked in the schools, it’s not easy. I’ve worked with students who were not really interested, and I found [them] to have an inhibiting effect on those students who were.”

Eric Joselyn: “For me, it was a space we could go and hang – I chose to go to the art room after class. When I had a choice, I chose to hang with those [art] teachers. My thing was the alternative space: a funky, counterculture art teacher who was supportive of kids who weren’t the achievers in sports or academics; emotional support for the people who weren’t fitting in the other ones; and an implied different set of criteria for success within the school.”

Jacqueline Barnett: “I went to the High School of Creative and Performing Arts and was a dance major. The teachers were creative in their methodology and their pedagogy. Having Carolyn Pritchett as my English teacher, we would dissect Death of a Salesman and then talk about it, narrate it, or re-enact it. [We would] figure out what would that sort of pain look like in dance, or how would that be expressed in music or in a theater production. To me, I think that arts allows for critical thinking that is absent from strictly adhering to test questions.”

Germaine Ingram: “At Girl’s High in the early ’60s, I had individual violin instruction from teachers who were employed by the public school system. Every year the orchestras from the various high schools would have a competition. We played the Ruy Blas Overture. And I just have this very distinct recollection of being in the middle of something that was so much larger than myself. And that had a profound impact on my sense of what community means, of what it means to be a part of something that is engaged and engaging and committed and constructive.”