Gamm Theatre to house first resource center for professional teaching artists

Gamm Theatre to house first resource center for professional teaching artists

PAWTUCKET - The Sandra Feinstein-Gamm Theatre, in collaboration with Rhode Island State Council on the Arts, has announced the creation of the Rhode Island Teaching Artists Center, aimed at connecting Rhode Island-based teaching artists with job opportunities in the public and private sector.

The center, funded by a $29,900 grant from the Rhode Island Foundation, will be housed at and administered by The Gamm Theatre, 172 Exchange St. RISCA will be providing additional funds, as well as staff assistance.

The foundation's support for the initiative came out of a national study on the state of teaching artists and the future of arts education, headed by arts and cultural policy analyst Nick Rabki. Providence was one of the 12 cities included in the project, which has provided the largest data set on teaching artists in the United States to date.

"The study found that teaching artists bring innovative teaching methods and curriculum into schools," said Mary-Kim Arnold, the foundation's grant officer for arts and culture. "Developing collaborative professional development opportunities like these were among the key recommendations to support the future of arts learning."

RISCA Education Director Sherilyn Brown reiterated the need for professional development in the field.

"Teaching artists around the country have fostered academic learning, social and emotional growth, creative thinking and innovation, and health and healing with all ages and in diverse kinds of settings, from school rooms to corporate board rooms, to community centers, to nursing homes and hospitals," she said. "Yet the profession of the teaching artist has gone largely unsupported and unrecognized. The RITAC project is an exciting opportunity to support and promote one of Rhode Island's most valuable natural resources, our teaching artists."

Starting in September, RITAC aims to establish a physical and virtual resource for mentoring, professional development, employment opportunities, and marketing assistance, among other needs. The center will also evaluate the impact of teaching artists within government, business, health care, social services, creative industries and education right through college, with an emphasis on greater collaboration.

Teaching artists will be invited to share pedagogy, methodology, lesson plans, employment opportunities and ideas for improving the profession. A website, now under development, will serve as a virtual platform to share that information.

The Gamm Theatre's Education Department has been serving the Pawtucket School Department since 2006, supplementing its small staff of in-house teaching artists with freelancers in order to meet the growing need. In recent years, that work has expanded beyond the classroom to include nonprofit organizations and social service agencies such as The Autism Project and the R.I. Department of Health. "Despite the documented value of the teaching artist in all learning and healing environments, there is a distinct lack of support systems to bridge the gap between professional teacher's aides and those industries that would benefit from their skills," said Gamm Education Director Steve Kidd. "As one of only two year-round professional theaters in the state, The Gamm is proud to collaborate with RISCA to address this need in a very practical way."