Article: Teaching Artistry – How To Think Like An Artist

“The art of creation is to ignite an individual’s imagination.”

What do you think of when you hear the words New York? Go on; let’s play a game. Write the first five things you think of on a piece of paper in 30 seconds. Ready, steady, go! Can you hear the scratch of your pen, feel the paper, and sense your brain buzzing? I am curious about what you just jotted down. Shall we share? Here’s mine:

  1. “Start spreading the news -New York New York” Frank Sinatra’s signature tune
  2. 9/11
  3. Central Park
  4. Pizza
  5. Yellow Cabs

So, there you have it. My idea of the city I had only ever seen in movies, but yet to visit. Now compare it with my list post-visit:

  • Friends
  • Inspiration
  • Arts For Social Change
  • Creativity
  • Possibility

So what do you notice when you compare the lists? How did I transition from list 1 to list 2 in just two weeks? Simple, I did something out of my ‘ordinary’; I ‘dared greatly’ (thanks to reading Brené Brown). I reached into the unknown, jumped on a plane, trusted others to guide me and invested in an intensive training course at Lincoln Center Education that has re-ignited my passion for both my teaching and performing practice.

New York.

It’s no longer just about yellow cabs and skyscrapers. It’s become about the people I met and what they teach us if we choose to listen. It’s about a city where I saw inspiring programs in communities and schools empowering people through the arts to make the world a better place. This city is where I rediscovered how much I like meeting people and hearing their stories; where I experienced ‘learning joy’ and felt my brain sizzling with powerful new ideas; where I made ‘art’ I cared about everyday in so many artistic disciplines; where I designed and experienced workshops that illuminate the arts; where we passionately discussed how the arts can help the world and where I re-connected with my purpose; making classical music accessible, meaningful and visible in my community.

Don’t you find that sometimes you have to leave home to find yourself? New York was a trip like that for me. It was a consequence to being curious. Three months before my trip to New York, I typed the words ‘Teaching Artist’ into my search engine. Out popped “”.


Bang – just like that. I followed my curiosity.

Was I at that moment looking for deeper meaning, wondering what is all this music education and performance work I do everyday really all about and does it really matter in this big wide world anyway? You bet I was! Being a professional musician who is also an educator is truly enriching but boy, it can be frustrating and draining if you are struggling to find ways to spark your community of learners because your own enthusiasm for what you do has experienced a rapid succession of battles and beatings. But let’s not get into politics. I have BIG questions that keep gnawing at my soul like; ‘who cares about classical music anyhow? Why does what I do matter when half the world is starving and has no means to safety, health or education?’ Yes, the BIG picture stuff.

“It’s hard to argue with clean water but the best philanthropy deals with issues before they become problems with debate, new ideas, imagination, and surprise. The arts provide that.” David Pledger

Some might call it a mid-life crisis – a classic artistic burnout. I like to call it the ‘discovery of my personal quest’. At that moment surfing the web, I decided I wanted to find my TA tribe. I want to experience being around others who get what teaching through the arts is all about; who understand that experiencing the arts is an essential part of being human; who illuminate, create and inspire others and make the world a better place through their sharing of their art – but who are also tenacious and bold enough to not stop creating and playing in their art form themselves, who enjoy extending themselves and others through artistic practice.

“I want to find innovators, storytellers and wholehearted people who choose to help their communities through their artistic practice” Louise King

So, after talking it through with my husband and children, borrowing money from my parents for the airfare (thanks Mum & Dad xox) and writing lengthy grant applications, I experienced a two-week intensive training in New York. Thanks everyone for writing support letters and getting me there!

What was it like?

Inspiring and busy. I loved New York – vibrant, bustling and glorious city. We were exposed to a wide variety of events at the Lincoln Center Education Summer Forum including: Daily Key Note Speakers, Learning Labs, Round Table Discussions, Workshop Facilitation, Intermediate Teaching Artist Training Program, Panel Discussions, Working Breakfasts, Performances, Teaching Artist Action Research, Advocacy in the Arts Talks, community arts case studies. We also visited key community spaces and programs actively engaged in employing Teaching Artists in the wider community.

What can you share from the Lincoln Centre Education Teaching Artist training program?

Here are some of my favourite quotes taken from my journal.

“Experience Before Information”

“Integration, develop, connect”

“Passion = Pedagogy”

“Describe, analyze, and interpret”

“A Teaching Artist is an observer, critic and creator”

“Western tradition of teaching music is based on the virtuosity of technique, imagine if this could develop into the practice of virtuosity of expression and communication instead?” Eric Booth

Thanks Eric! I resonate with that quote through my own musical training. Imagine if Australian institutions and community music schools began to train and employ Teaching Artists and set up programs in the community to enhance communication, cultural identity and debate on social issues rather than the primary focus being on musical ability? Would the current social issues of refugee crisis, religious intolerance, cultural identity and injustice have another creative outlet?

Think BIG:

Through exploring art works and artistic practices and processes, we develop reflection, personal development, and creativity and enhance the connection between art and life. As a Teaching Artist I can engage learners and invite in new audiences by opening up the artistic experience and allowing the development of personal aesthetics and creative processes for learning.


I met so many inspiring people from around the world that are passionate about arts experiences, education and audience development – my worldview has become BIGGER and richer because of it.


We were trained in Teaching Artist purpose threads i.e. To Enhance an Encounter with a Work of Art / To foster the development of art making skills / Arts Integration / Community Enhancement / Social Development; To understand the scope of Teaching Artistry; To become familiar with Excellence and Sustainability in Teaching Artistry; To explore Teaching Artistry habits of mind; To develop lesson planning, facilitation skills, and to incorporate and deepen inquiry and reflection in my teaching practice.


My little purple book of priceless passion, scribbles, doodles, quotes and purpose

“To be a successful learner, drive your learning through AUTONOMY, MASTERY and PURPOSE.”

What is next?

I am on the quest for opportunities within Australia and my community to utilize my interest in this field. If you know of any opportunities such as Musician In The classroom, Artist In Residence, Teaching Artistry programs in the community or education sector please get in touch.

What are Teaching Artists?

Teaching Artistry is a field of inclusion. We teach people how to think like an artist. We open up possibilities to experience the world and community in a different way. We work with schools, performing art venues, concert halls, festivals, museums, cultural institutions, art galleries, community centers, families, business, wellness centers, local government and hospitals to make the arts accessible to all, regardless of circumstance or ability.

When the artist moves into the classroom or community to educate and inspire students and audience members, this is Teaching Artistry.” Eric Booth

Fancy a read? Check out this illuminating article online from Eric Booth.

5 Essential Items in a Teaching Artist’s Toolkit:

  • Butcher’s Paper (lots of it)
  • White board or chalk board
  • Markers / chalk / fun writing utensils – the brighter, the more colourful, the better
  • A welcoming circle of chairs matched with a warm and welcoming attitude
  • A line of enquiry and related artistic activities that are SO deliciously enticing and meaningful that everyone just can’t help but want to respond and create stuff that we care about!


My arts education philosophy statement:

I aim to illuminate the importance of arts education through my performance and teaching practice: to show how to put ‘things’ together (or how to break things down). To guide learners, listeners or education partners in how to create enriching art education experiences that are deep in learning and personal meaning. Through exploring art works we can develop reflection, personal development, creativity and enhance the connection between art and life. As a teaching artist I actively engage learners and invite in new audiences by opening up the art experience and allowing the development of personal aesthetics and creative processes for learning.

“The arts cultivate a unique skills set that is indispensable for the 21st century: problem solving, collaboration, communication, imagination and creativity” Lincoln Center Education

Want to find out more?

Here are some places you can start:

Lincoln Center Education

Maxine Greene Center for Aesthetic Education and Social Imagination

Teaching Artist Guild –

Teaching Artists Journal –


Music Teaching Artistry In Action:

Manhattan New York – New Music Project –

El Sistema USA –

Los Angeles Young Musicians Foundation –

New York – network of creative music conservatories within the prisons and jails of the United States –

Carnegie Hall Lullaby Project –

Shelter Music Boston –

Young Audiences –

National Association for Music Education USA

Music For All USA –

The Australian Children’s Music Foundation

Symphony For Life Foundation Australia –

Arts Access Australia

The Australian Children’s Music Foundation

Symphony For Life Foundation –

The Song Room –

Sistema Australia –


This individual development project was made possible by receiving a Regional Quick Response Grant Regional Arts Fund towards accommodation expenses – an Australian Government initiative through the Regional Arts Fund supporting the arts in regional and remote/isolated Australia auspiced through Sunshine Coast Creative Alliance and an individual development grant towards the cost of registration through the Sunshine Coast Council.


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