2024 Summer News

Jun 18, 2024


A Note from Founding Director, Paddy Bowman

As the summer unfolds…

…and as most K-12 students wind down their school year and look forward to a break, many of their teachers embark on new learning adventures through summertime professional development training, seminars, and courses. Local Learning has a long history of designing and leading such opportunities and we will find ourselves in several communities this year.

June 4 and 5 I was honored to be among the 50 local and national presenters at the Arts Express Summer Conference hosted annually by the BYU Arts Partnership in Lehi, Utah. The Arts Education and Folk Arts Programs of the Utah Division of Arts & Museums were among the conference partners, making possible the participation of numerous folk and traditional artists, including musicians who performed during meal breaks.

The first half of our Local Learning session, “Every Artist Comes from a Family and a Community,” featured traditional teaching artists experienced in classroom residencies. Terry Goedel of N8tive Hoops is a member of the Yakama and Tulalip tribes. An educator of 30 years, Terry has taught high school and junior high math. He and his family perform hoop dancing around the state and the nation. Judy Mansfield, a bead worker, was raised on the Yakama Indian Reservation and taught college math for 16 years. She builds math into her teaching bead work. Jenna Ehlinger, Administrator of the Chase Home Museum of Utah Folk Arts joined me in leading activities to ground participants in some personal traditions (“Who eats funeral potatoes?” “What is something you know how to make?”) and interviewing Terry and Judy along with the audience. Conversations centered on culture, with questions about cultural appropriation and interest in cultural stewardship as a framework for helping young people determine what traditions are important to them and their communities. One teacher reflected, “I loved the idea of opening our hearts to who we really are (each child) and the idea that all students have a culture (even the white, middle-class kids!).” Two hours of hands-on engagement followed, with teachers rotating to learn bead working, Chinese calligraphy, Mexican paper flowers, and pysanky.

The Arts Express keynote speakers reminded the audience of 500 classroom and art educators that the arts bring sensory pathways to learning. Eric Stern, a choreographer and educator, asked us to watch a dance performance twice, each time noting “What do you see, sense, and feel?” (“Tracking our experiences is hard,” he said). Inspired by an origami artist, he choreographed the piece for six professional dancers, who interacted with one another and large, multicolored pieces of paper. Eric interviewed two of the dancers. They said it was interesting to work with an everyday, ordinary object like paper, which changed throughout the performance, and how challenging it was to have minutes when they had to improvise within the choreographed movements. Eric called the piece “Unfolding.” The author and illustrator of the picture book The Circles All Around Us, Brad Montague, is also creator of the web-based series “Kid President.” He focused on finding and generating wonder—be awesome, be joyful, be kind, which contributes to children’s relational health. He emphasized that idea formulation is messy in the middle, and messy is more than okay. Brad and his wife Kristi Montague will launch a new picture book in September, Fail-a-bration, and invite young people and adults to “celebrate the way failing actually means you tried and learned something. Failing doesn’t have to bad! It’s just part of the process of learning to do something better.”

Over the two days of Arts Express, teachers and artists shared, laughed, and learned to do something better. Thank you to all the teachers in our lives, seek wonder this summer!

Read our full bulletin here.