This is the online stream for sharing conversations that happened throughout the Greater Bay Area from March through June 2012 around the question:

How can we collectively transform public education through the arts to create a better future for everyone?

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Making Room for Collaboration

By: Jennyann Carthern 

Wikipedia defines collaboration as working together to achieve a common goal and repeating that process where two or more people or organizations work together to realize those shared goals. I believe this has to be our starting point.  As a Teaching Artist behind the scenes. I’ve noticed a sheer separation between Teacher and Artist, and Arts and Learning among faculty. There is a perception that art doesn’t bring any true value into the classroom. Teachers pass out illustrated worksheets and projects that students have to do for homework, but the assignment is just another assignment. It’s a norm, where the attention to art and intrinsic value is a matter of getting it done.

Teachers seem to value the structure and repetition that they’ve already built in the classroom, by using the same curriculum, the same assignments, and the same literature, yearly. Accepting it as fate, something that cannot be changed. This is their comfort zone.

What if we challenged faculty to step out of that zone, by working with them to create a New Monster! Designing new structures, materials, and coursework that fit their package?  New legs to stand on!

This would be a challenging feat though! Anyone who has ever left their comfort zone eventually has to stand up to resistance.

So how do we battle this resistance, and work with them to be for them?


We must meet Teachers where they are, many Teachers I’ve come across simply resist Art, because their no Picasso. They’re like many of my students when I first meet them. “I can’t draw!” Art is more than a pretty picture on a piece of paper. Meaning we need to present faculty with new definitions of what Art is.


We must change the perception of the Starving Artist. YES! This one is important because if Teachers and institutions feel that Art has no future. Art has no future! We need to initiate entrepreneurial programs into schools. Entrepreneurs and Game Changers depend on creativity, and ideas to move forward. They’re not afraid to make changes, think outside of the box, even at the cost of failure. Failure is a light, a comeback to start over, and create a new picture.

Maybe by seeing, Teachers can start doing.

As of now the only ideas in schools are structures and wheels.

Go to School ~ Go to College ~ Go to Work ~ Get Benefits ~ Get Insurance.

What if it looked more like this?

 ~ Go to School ~ Go to College ~ Generate Ideas ~ Make a Plan ~ Start Business ~ Get Own Benefits ~ Set up Retirement Packages ~ Collaborate ~ Network ~ Create Financial Goals ~ Etc Infinity!

 The starving Artist only exists, because we haven’t created a picture that works for them or their trade. We leave those students with a D.I.Y. approach to education. So, we must change that perception, and present a new  picture that Teachers can model, with value already attached to it. Giving students more options and choices to make for their creative futures.


We must ask Teachers what they value, and connect those values to learning. All of us come from different places and have different stories to tell. Why not approach Teachers with a lens of themselves. To initiate passion and optimism in the classroom. Many Teachers have it when they start, their pumped up and ready to go, years pass, and their engine dies. They get tired, frustrated, and give in to their circumstance. When we’re able to be in our own bliss, that’s where we’re most effective in life. So why not in learning. We need to give Teachers ways of bringing themselves into the classroom using creative tools and connections that match who they are.  Such as recordings, community projects, poetry, crafting, paintings, music, whatever you can imagine. Our personal life shouldn’t be separate in the classroom, within reason. It should be fuel for the fire!

What do you think?


2 Comments on “Making Room for Collaboration”

  1. lmusic says:

    JennyAnn ~
    I love your challenge to abolish notions of the starving artist, or the teacher tied to curriculum – and rethinking our equations so that they are values based and open us all to unlimited possibilities – infinity! Yvonne Cerrato is organizing a conversation in a box for teachers. I kno wshe would LOVE to have you help her frame the meeting. Here email is
    You will love working with her!

  2. Jennyann says:

    Thanks Louise. I’ll email her sometime this week.