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Practicing Hope: explore agency, courage, and transformation in arts in education

My hope emerges from those places of struggle where I witness
individuals positively transforming their lives and the world around them.
Educating is always a vocation rooted in hopefulness.
- bell hooks, 2003

Art-making is inherently hopeful. As we sit with our pen, brush, instrument or on a stage--with a blank page or quiet space--we imagine something that didn’t exist before and make it come to be. Art opens us to new possibilities and imagines a world beyond what exists.

Artists and educators practice hope because hope is central and essential to our practice.  

As Rebecca Solnit says in Hope in the Dark:

“Hope is not a lottery ticket you can sit on the sofa and clutch, feeling lucky. It is an axe you break down doors with in an emergency.”

In practical day-to-day reality, however, amid the dimness of hatred, inequities and injustices, what brighter futures do we imagine are possible? And how can the arts help us get there? And what practices of hope, whether collective movements or individual acts, are we already engaged in?

As artists and educators, we believe in the possibility of growth and evolution through an ongoing, dedicated practice. Practice is an act of hope.

Building on past summits, such as Delving into Difference and Response and Responsibility, this year’s Continuing the Conversation Annual Summit, Practicing Hope, will explore agency, courage, and transformation in arts in education. We will have conversations through various formats about how the arts help us to build meaningful relationships, engage in critical dialogue and -in the face of great challenges - continue to practice hope.

Questions we will explore:

  • What hopeful future are we envisioning for our young people? What practices will move us toward that future?

  • Where and when does hope meet action?

  • What are the ways that a personal practice creates hope and sustainability in arts in education?

 

THE practicing hope SUMMIT WILL ENGAGE PARTICIPANTS IN CONVERSATION, INTERACTIVE EXPLORATION, AND ACTION PLANNING THROUGH FOUR CORE FORMATS:

Plenaries: Plenaries will engage the entire corps of summit participants in activities and discussions. These full group sessions will occur throughout the summit.

Lab Sessions: These breakout sessions will be led by a prestigious group of facilitators and will engage small groups of participants in conversations of critical topics relating to our theme. Lab Sessions will be interactive and discussion-based.

Praxis Sessions: Praxis is the act of engaging, applying, exercising, realizing, or practicing ideas. These small group sessions will be a time to practice the ideas of the summit and apply them to the participants own work. Paulo Freire said, “Liberation is a praxis: the action and reflection of men and women upon their world in order to transform it.” Participants will meet with a consistent group throughout the summit in these sessions.

Keynote Speakers: The summit will feature two keynote experiences from leaders in the field to catalyze conversation, offer insight, inspire action, and provoke conversation.

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The Practicing Hope Summit will engage participants in conversation, interactive exploration, and action planning through four core formats:

Plenaries:

Plenaries will engage the entire corps of summit participants in activities and discussions. These full group sessions will occur throughout the summit.


Lab Sessions:

These breakout sessions will be led by a prestigious group of facilitators and will engage small groups of participants in conversations of critical topics relating to our theme. Lab Sessions will be interactive and discussion-based.


Praxis Sessions:

Praxis is the act of engaging, applying, exercising, realizing, or practicing ideas. These small group sessions will be a time to practice the ideas of the summit and apply them to the participants own work. Paulo Freire said, “Liberation is a praxis: the action and reflection of men and women upon their world in order to transform it.” Participants will meet with a consistent group throughout the summit in these sessions.


Keynote Speakers:

The summit will feature two keynote experiences from leaders in the field to catalyze conversation, offer insight, inspire action, and provoke conversation.

 
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Keynote Speakers

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Amanda Torres

Originally from Chicago, Amanda Torres is a loud laughing Mexican­ American writer, educator, and strategic dreamer who has committed her life to growing the field of youth arts and social justice work. She is the co-founder & former director of MassLEAP, a youth arts and social justice non-profit. While living in Boston, she served as a Teaching Fellow at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and Artist-in-Residence at the Institute of Contemporary Art. She has been teaching for over thirteen years and has led professional developments for The Poetry Foundation, The New Museum, Andover Breadloaf and the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE). In 2018, She received the Spoken Word and Community Collaboration fellowship from AIRSerenbe and works as a creative content writer for Harper Collins. Currently, Torres serves as the director of the Poetry Incubator, a program for community engaged poets held by the Poetry Foundation & Crescendo Literary in Chicago. Exploring science and tech through art and writing, Amanda also works with Brooklyn based young women, trans & non-binary youth to imagine and construct futures for themselves and their communities through the Octavia Project. Additionally, she facilitates a multi-disciplinary year round teaching artist training program through Community Word Project in New York. Torres is committed to working with educators, organizers and young people to make the world more possible.

Aysha Upchurch

Aysha Upchurch, the Dancing Diplomat, identifies as a seed planter, soil agitator, and curious and passionate artist who creates, facilitates, and designs for radical change.  Professionally, this translates to her working as a sought after performer, instructor and education consultant whose work sits at the nexus of youth advocacy, social justice, and transformative education.   

While based out of Washington, DC, Aysha founded and directed the award-winning dance ensemble, Life, Rhythm, Move Project.  In 2007, she was commissioned by the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing arts to create Am I On?, evening-length Hip Hop work that explored the space between youth and adult voices, standardized testing, and school shootings.  The work exemplified her commitment to center Hip Hop as a mechanism to entertain, educate, and empower.   

Aysha holds an M.A. in International Peace and Conflict Resolution from American University and an Ed.M from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. She has been on faculty at George Mason University, Howard Community College, and Salem State University. Aysha is currently on faculty at Harvard, where she is teaching new courses on Hip Hop education and embodied learning, as well as launching and directing HipHopEX - a collaborative lab for high school and graduate student to experience, explore, and experiment with Hop Hop arts in education. Whether on the stage or in a classroom, Aysha is on the move to crush borders and show how Hip Hop and movement education are D.O.P.E. - dismantling oppression and pushing education.

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Adrian Anantawan

Adrian Anantawan holds degrees from the Curtis Institute of Music, Yale University and Harvard Graduate School of Education. As a violinist, he has studied with Itzhak Perlman and Pinchas Zukerman, and Anne-Sophie Mutter; his academic work in education was supervised by Howard Gardner. Memorable moments include performances at the White House, the Opening Ceremonies of the Athens and Vancouver Olympic Games and the United Nations. He has played for the late Christopher Reeve, Pope John Paul II, and His Holiness the Dalai Lama. 

Adrian has performed extensively in Canada as a soloist with the Orchestras of Toronto, Nova Scotia, Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Montreal, Edmonton and Vancouver. He has also presented feature recitals at the Aspen Music Festival and Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall. 

He has also represented Canada as a cultural ambassador in the 2006 Athens Olympics, and was a featured performer at the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics Opening Ceremonies. 

Adrian helped to create the Virtual Chamber Music Initiative at the Holland Bloorview Kids Rehab Centre. The cross-collaborative project brings researchers, musicians, doctors and educators together to develop adaptive musical instruments capable of being played by a young person with disabilities within a chamber music setting. 

From 2012-2016, he was the co-Director of Music at the Conservatory Lab Charter School, serving students from the Boston area, kindergarten through grade eight—his work was recognized by Mayor Walsh as a ONEin3 Impact Award in 2015. Adrian is also Juno Award nominee, a member of the Terry Fox Hall of Fame, and was awarded a Diamond Jubilee Medal from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II for his contributions to the Commonwealth. He is the current Chair of Music at Milton Academy and on faculty at Boston University Tanglewood Institute during the summer. Throughout the year, Adrian continues to perform, speak and teach around the world as an advocate for disability and the arts.

 
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Lab Session Descriptions

Memes as digital graffiti and political cartoons

led by Ashley Woodson

Drawing on hip-hop pedagogies and critical race humor, this lab celebrates the anti-rape commentary of memes created by Black high schoolers in a summer credit recovery program. When connected to rich histories of graffiti and political cartooning in Black communities, the creation of memes becomes a process of empowerment, and the sharing of memes becomes a way to “tag”, disrupt and transform consciousness on social issues. This lab offers important historical grounding for educators who hope to make connections between contemporary online activism and art foundations.


How might we find hope in the gift of student work?

led by Jeff Hopkins

Where does an arts educator find hope when facing fatigue, frustration, or exhaustion? Most often I am reenergized by the work of my students. I find hope in how a student moves a paintbrush playfully across a paper, or in a student’s sculpture that finally stands tall after repeatedly falling over. Perhaps that is what makes us educators: that we are able to see things in student work that others may not, and that we are able to transform those observations into hope. In this workshop, I will create a wall of dozens of images of New York City student work that I have collected over two decades. I will ask participants to spend time with the work and choose a piece that inspires hope – not necessarily because of the content or message but perhaps because of the artistic choices a student has made. Then, each participant will engage in a dialogue with the selected piece by creating a work of art or writing (or both) in response. MY hope is that finding beauty - and voice - in this student work will help to remind us that this is what our work as arts educators is about.


How can arts educators support students in developing agency over their own stories?

led by Jori Ketten & Ashley Frith

Our students are creative, full people, with important stories to tell – but the world we live in doesn’t readily support them in connecting to their power and potential. As educators, what are the practices we can bring into our classrooms (traditional and non-traditional education spaces) and into student-teacher relationships to help young people develop agency over their stories? How can we learn from our own experiences and struggles as a way to inform this work? This session will explore the work of the MusicWorks Network, an interlinked cohort of 10 youth development music education organizations committed to wrestling with the intersection of social justice values and string instrument pedagogy, with a focus on active facilitation processes developed by MusicWorks Network Fellow Ashley Frith.


All American Boys - PRESENT.

led by Joy Arcolano, Jody Drezner Alperin & X. Alexander Durden

You are part of the ensemble chorus, who help create the world and share the story, in an interactive experience of an excerpt of ALL AMERICAN BOYS, a new play adapted by Brooklyn, NY’s Off The Page from the award-winning novel by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely. We can’t wait to add your voice! ALL AMERICAN BOYS is the story of the violent arrest of a black teenager, the white teen who witnesses it, and how it impacts their communities over the course of a week. There will be a post-experience talk back, led by a team of emerging leaders and seasoned professionals in the arts education world. We will discuss the issues raised in the play as well as examine how making art across lines of difference, and blurring the edges of actor and audience, can be an active practice of hope. Our reflective practice will focus on a generative session around what actions we - you and us! - can take next to build bridges of hope in and across communities. Come ready to lend your voice, your passion, and your hope to help create this piece together.


"Art Makes Me Feel Like. Human Being" Shay American Horse, Lame Deer Junior High School student

led by Lori Taylor & Kojiro Umezaki

This lab session will introduce the arc and key milestones of a seven-year collaboration between Silkroad and the Lame Deer schools and involve creating a piece of art in the lab that draws on from the student ideas generated over the life of the collaboration. Over the course of our time together in the lab we will explore how art makes us feel more like a human being, a quotation from one of the young people from the Lame Deer reservation, and how listening to student and teacher driven ideas helped SR co-create responsive and meaningful activities that shaped the collaboration to come. Possible lab activities may include participants exploring notions of home through associations with a place or with a food, sharing stories, activities with VR technology as a way to understand home or sounds of home, and creating a collective soundscape of home. Part of this session will also identify key learnings for Silkroad but also outstanding missteps and ongoing questions. Assuming practicing art makes us feel more like a human being, how does this translate into action in the world? And what are the ramifications for SR as it listens, designs and partners with other cultural institutions and communities? How does listening to students help foster the design of art activities that help all of us, from vastly different backgrounds, feel more like a human being?


Alchemy: When Hope Turns to Certainty

led by Melissa Alexis

The lab session, "Alchemy: When Hope Turns to Certainty," is an exploration of the energetic spectrum from hopeful expectation to clarity of conviction. This spectrum represents the wisdom of ancestors who faced traumatic breaks in their lineage. Focusing on African and African Diaspora traditions, participants will discuss a tracing - from wounds to resiliencies - through to self and collective healing. Using movement research, verbal dialogue, and reflective journaling and sharing, we will explore what mindfulness has to contribute to the issue of equity and inclusion.


How can we use our personal geographies to transform classrooms into spaces of radical love?

LED BY Natalia Torres, Lisa Green & Ellen Hagan

We will be building small "living" altars that include poetry, movements and collage making. The prompts for the art making include: Who are your people? What are the places that have shaped your spirit? When has your racial identity made you feel safe? When has your racial identity made you feel proud? Who has loved you unstoppably, relentlessly? We will facilitate a hands-on journey through the different art forms, allowing participants to engage in an experiential exploration of their personal geographies: the people, places, and stories that have shaped them personally and artistically. There will also be space for community building, individual reflection, partner sharing and group imagining.


What can we learn from the collaborative art-making process in pursuit of racial equity and institutional change?

LED BY Rachel Watts & Nancy Kleaver

This interactive, arts-based lab is geared towards practitioners who have been challenged with managing up and around when advocating for racial equity and institutional change within their organizations. Framed by literature and personal case studies, we will artistically explore specific equity and inclusion issues in the arts education field. Through their creative work, participants will be guided to find ways to make institutional and systemic racism more deeply understood, felt and heard within their organizations in order to make noticeable shifts in organizational culture. This will be done while paying attention to addressing the emotional and professional risks that come from doing this work. In addition, we will explore simple actions we can model to be the change we want to see and, consequently, create a contagion effect within our respective organizations.

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Lab Session Presenters

Ashley Woodson

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“Memes as digital graffiti and political cartoons”

Ashley N. Woodson is a mother, sister, daughter and counterstoryteller. Inspired by principles of critical race theory, she researches the possibilities of Black kids’ civic imaginations. She is an Assistant Professor of Education at the University of Missouri - Columbia, and Faculty Fellow for Community Engagement in the Office of Inclusion, Diversity and Equity.


Jeff Hopkins

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“How might we find hope in the gift of student work?”

Jeff Hopkins is a storyteller, educator, and illustrator. He has performed his "Pictures Come to Life" programs at arts institutions all over the country and has illustrated nearly two-dozen early reader books for children. For 20 years, Hopkins has been a teaching artist for arts organizations including the Guggenheim Museum, American Ballet Theatre, The Jewish Museum, ArtsConnection, MoMA, and the Whitney Museum of American Art. He currently teaches art education at The City College of New York. He holds a BFA from the Rhode Island School of Design and a Masters in Education from Harvard University. Jeff's website is: www.picturescometolife.com.


Jori Ketten

Ashley Frith

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“How can arts educators support students in developing agency over their own stories?”

Jori Ketten is the Director of the MusicWorks Network at Community MusicWorks and Associate Director of Academic Engagement at the Swearer Center for Public Service at Brown University. Jori has worked with youth arts organizations for over 20 years and in addition to her work with CMW and Brown is a curator and coordinator of arts events at large, a parent, and bass drummer in the What Cheer? Brigade, a 20+ member brass/punk band.

Ashley Frith is the current MusicWorks Network Fellow and a former Community MusicWorks Fellow. Ashley studied viola with Lila Brown at The Boston Conservatory and has served as a resident musician and as teaching artist with the Greater Miami Youth Symphony, Newport String Project, and with El Sistema Somerville and Revolution of Hope in Boston. Her current work focuses on healing practices grounded in an ethic of love and care.


Jody Drezner Alperin

X. Alexander Durden

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Joy Arcolano

“All American Boys - PRESENT.”

Jody Drezner Alperin is the Artistic Director of Off The Page an arts education and theatre company in New York City.

X. Alexander Durden is a Boston based classical tenor and actor, trained at Morehouse College and The Boston Conservatory, he has also performed in grand halls and intimate black boxes from Lincoln Center to Bermuda, Canada, Atlanta, and Puerto Rico. MDW. www.XavierAlexander.net/@XADurden

Joy Lamberton Arcolano is a Voice Catalyst and Theatre Teaching Artist working in public and private spheres to start and continue the conversation. Joy is emeritus founding chair of Continuing the Conversation (AIE Ed.M.04) and is on faculty at the Boston Conservatory at Berklee while continuing to gig as a professional actor, director, and producer. Additional Artist Activists and Teaching Artists affiliated with Boston Arts Academy and/or The Boston Conservatory at Berklee to be announced - students, educators, humans.


Kojiro Umezaki

Lori Taylor

“‘Art Makes Me Feel Like. Human Being’ Shay American Horse, Lame Deer Junior High School student”

Japanese-Danish performer and composer Kojiro Umezaki, originally from Tokyo, is renowned as a virtuoso of the shakuhachi, but his work also encompasses traditional and technology-based music mediated by various forms of electronics. His recent commissioned works and producer credits include those for Brooklyn Rider, Joseph Gramley, Huun Huur Tu, and Silkroad. Umezaki is currently associate professor of music at the University of California, Irvine, where he is a core faculty member of the Integrated Composition, Improvisation, and Technology (ICIT) group.

Lori Taylor is the Acting Deputy Director and Director of Learning at Silkroad, a non profit dedicated to the creation of new music that engages difference and sparks radical cultural collaboration. Prior to Silkroad, Lori served as Project Director for the Actors’ Shakespeare Project (ASP) in Boston. Lori helped forge ASP, one of the largest professional theater companies in New England, and directed and facilitated ASP’s Incarcerated Youth at Play program, community programs, artist residence programs and summer teacher institute with Salem State University. Before working at ASP, Lori directed the Teacher Residency Program at The Met in Providence, Rhode Island. Lori worked for nine years at the Cambridge School of Weston where she designed and taught history courses, integrated studies courses, was Dean of Faculty and founded The Shakespeare Ensemble. She was a teaching assistant to Ted Sizer at Brown University where she received her M.A.T. and personal assistant to legendary cartoonist HerBlock at The Washington Post. She is the recipient of numerous awards for teaching, including the Margaret Stewart Lindsay Spirit Award for her work with young people in juvenile detention and residential facilities across the state of Massachusetts.


Melissa Alexis

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“Alchemy: When Hope Turns to Certainty”

Melissa Alexis is, a dance artist/educator, certified yoga teacher, facilitator, writer and entrepreneur with no separation among these roles. The threads that hold them all together are the urge to create, the need to serve, and the desire to envision and support a world full of people who do good for the common good. She founded Cultural Fabric in 2016 to help individuals, businesses, and communities tap into their inner power to elevate internal consciousness and transform external environments. Melissa leads the core program, The Healing Arts Institute, guiding participants to conduct movement research as critical race inquiry for self and collective healing. In addition, her work takes the form of leadership coaching, public speaking, workshops, performances, and customized consulting solutions. She has facilitated customized workshops and solutions for: March for Our Lives Boston, Historic Newton, Tufts University, Wellesley College, South End Community Health Center, Boston Public Library, and more. Melissa is passionate about sharing movement’s utility both in and beyond the studio and stage. She has served as faculty at Bates Dance Festival 2019, Sarah Lawrence College, Boston University’s REACH Program, Amherst College, Smith College, and Bard High School Early College Newark. A first generation Trinidadian-American, Melissa’s movement research is rooted in exploring the intersection between African, Eastern, and Western perspectives, as well as psychology, social justice, sustainability, and mindfulness studies. She most recently choreographed Marcus Gardley’s acclaimed play, black odyssey boston, produced by The Front Porch, Underground Railway Theater, and Central Square Theater. Prior to this, her dance works have been presented as part of Brooklyn-based The Creators Collective, and at the Boston Center for the Arts, Sarah Lawrence College, Tufts University, The Dance Complex, Green Street Studios, Smith College Department of Theatre, Wheelock College Center for Race Amity, and as a ritual healing practice, at many public and historic spaces, among them, Arlington Street Church with Black Lives Matter Boston, Myrtle Baptist Church, and the Museum of Fine Arts. Melissa earned her 200-hour yoga teacher certification from JP Centre Yoga, and continues her yoga/meditation education through the Isha Foundation, Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health, Black Yoga Teachers Alliance, and more. She holds a Master of Fine Arts in Dance from Sarah Lawrence College and a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Spanish from Amherst College but is most proud to be a mother, daughter, sister, friend, and community member. FB & IG: @culturalfab


Natalia Torres

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Lisa Green

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Ellen Hagan

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“How can we use our personal geographies to transform classrooms into spaces of radical love?”

Natalia Torres earned her BA in Art and Ethnicity, Race, & Migration from Yale. She worked as a middle school counselor supporting students of color in independent schools before attending the Harvard Graduate School of Education, focusing on racial justice and educational equity, and earned a master’s in education. She joined DreamYard in 2016 as a School Programs Coordinator, and is currently Department Director of Visual Art & Maker, supporting Teaching Artists with professional development and coaching.

Lisa Green is the Department Director of Dance and Music at DreamYard. As a community artist and cultural worker she has over 15 years experience in the public school system and community based programs. She has worked closely with schools and organizations collaborating to integrate arts into curriculum and leads arts engagement events. Lisa has had extensive experience as a citywide training facilitator, conducting several workshops that focus on, youth/community development, arts integration, self- care practices and social justice through the arts.

Ellen Hagan is a writer, performer, and educator. She is the author of two poetry collections: Crowned and Hemisphere, and Watch Us Rise, a YA collaboration with Renée Watson from Bloomsbury. Ellen's poems and essays can be found on ESPNW, in the pages of Creative Nonfiction, Underwired Magazine, She Walks in Beauty (edited by Caroline Kennedy), Huizache, Small Batch, and Southern Sin. She is the recipient of a NoMAA Creative Arts Grant and has received grants from the Kentucky Foundation for Women and the Kentucky Governor's School for the Arts. National arts residencies include The Hopscotch House and Louisiana Arts Works. Ellen is the Director of the Poetry & Theatre Departments at the DreamYard Project and directs their International Poetry Exchange Program with Japan, South Korea and the Philippines. She co-leads the Alice Hoffman Young Writer's Retreat at Adelphi University.


Rachel Watts

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Nancy Kleaver

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“What can we learn from the collaborative art-making process in pursuit of racial equity and institutional change?”

Rachel Watts is a multidisciplinary arts educator who designs programs and facilitates professional development workshops that promote organizational equity and support participant growth as learners, artists, critical thinkers, innovators and designers of their own professional pathways. She is currently the Director of Teen Programs and DEI initiatives at ArtsConnection in NYC. She serves on the board of the NYC Arts in Education Roundtable and just began her Ph.D. in Urban Education at CUNY. https://rachelwattsarts.com/about/

Nancy Kleaver is a consultant who advises clients on a range of nonprofit management issues from strategic alliances to talent recruitment to program assessment. She has held leadership positions at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, Young Audiences New York, and DreamYard and serves as Arts In Education Network Leader for the National Guild for Community Arts Education. When not consulting, Nancy is busy working on called PARADE, which collaborates with artists and the people of Queens, NY to launch large scale public art that sparks civic engagement. Learn more at www.paradenyc.org.

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