6. Find & Hire a Teaching Artist

What is a Teaching Artist?

Before you can select and hire a teaching artist, it will be helpful to gain an understanding for how they differ from artists who aren’t instructors.

Eric Booth
Eric Booth, “the father of the teaching artist profession.”

As defined by Eric Booth, a teaching artist is:

“…a practicing professional artist with the complementary skills, curiosities and sensibilities of an educator, who can effectively engage a wide range of people in learning experiences in, through, and about the arts.”

The Arizona Commission on the Arts describes teaching artists this way:

“Successful teaching artists help provide a tangible link between the creative process and all kinds of learning, and they make manifest in classroom and community settings the human drive to survive by making meaning our of the world.”

While the local artist who has exhibited at your library may be wonderful (and may also be a teaching artist), the thing to remember is that just because someone is an artist doesn’t mean that they are a teaching artist.

Similarly, while all kinds of artistic disciplines can be employed in creative aging programs, workshops that feature “arts and crafts” instruction that doesn’t also incorporate a legitimate, formal, meaningful artistic theme isn’t considered “creative aging.”

How Do I Hire One?

One of the key planning responsibilities is to find and hire a teaching artist. He/she will be essential in helping you flesh out a program plan and design a curriculum.

Hiring an artist may involve consulting with arts organizations or educational institutions in your community to learn the names of trained artist-educators. 

Once you have identified 2-3 potential candidates you might interview them first by phone to determine if there is a possible fit, and then invite 1-2 artists for an in-person interview and a tour of the library.

It is important to make sure that you feel confident about:

  1. the artist’s knowledge, skills and experience;
  2. his/her ability to work with older adults in ways that promote positive aging; and
  3. your own comfort level in terms of working with the artist to carry out the program.

Molly Herman, a Lifetime Arts Roster Teaching Artist, discusses how she sets a tone for mutual support and social engagement in her visual arts workshops for older adults.

Teaching Artist Directories & Rosters

Sample Call to Artists

The XYZ Library is seeking experienced teaching artists, specifically in (visual, literary, performing) arts, to conduct sequential instruction workshops (minimum 8 sessions) for older adults in our library. The workshops should stress arts learning and foster meaningful social engagement. The workshop will conclude with a public culminating event. Program will be planned in cooperation with an assigned librarian. The selected teaching artist will receive an instructional fee in addition to being paid for prep and planning. This is a pilot project which has the potential to expand.

Please send an e-mail to example@library.org with “XYZ Library Teaching Artist” as the subject line. Attach a resume with teaching experience, an artist CV, and an artist statement which talks about your interest and/or experience in working with older adults.

Questions?
Please contact Jane Doe, at 555-555-5555 or example@library.org.

Tip:

Do not assume that the role of teaching artist can be assigned to just anyone who has arts or crafts experience, who has exhibited at your library, or who knows your clientele. For example, one of Lifetime Arts’ key criteria for selection of instructors is the extent to which the artist has had the requisite education and experience to teach sequential learning programs for older adults.

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