Name: susan wolf
Job/Role/Title: teaching artist, arts coach, visual artist, printmaker
Organization/Affiliation/School: previously Kala art institute, currently arts coach at Jefferson Elementary School
District or City/County: San Leandro
Email: swolfprojects [at] gmail
Tell us about yourself. Who are you and what do you do? I am a parent of a recent graduate from BHS class of 2012. I am a visual and performing artist. I am a teaching artist.
How did you find out about this process? I am on the acoe mailing list. I attended the first mapping event. I enjoyed seeing the momentum and the structure that was in place to organize the comments and ideas being solicited. I am interested in learning the ways people and ideas can make connections with hopes that it will result in forward momentum.
What inspired you to get engaged? I am always thinking about how things work or… don’t work. I am ready to advocate for dramatic improvements in the current state of education.
What do you think of the conversations? I like seeing conversations being reported from meetings attended by the… ‘deciders’ for lack of a better term. This transparency is important to see.
How would you answer the framing question: How can we collectively transform public education through the arts to create a better future for everyone? Invite the opinions from many different vantage points. Conduct interviews. Build an archive of individual stories to know who the community is. Utilize teaching artists as a catalyst, as documentarians, as interviewers.
Hailing from the Chicago area a Bay Area implant since the early 80’s teaching artist Susan Wolf has worked at various East Bay school sites through Kala Art Institute’s artists-in-schools program. As an Arts Coach at Jefferson Elementary School, Ms. Wolf matches her interest in process with her curiosity for what it means to understand. Her growing familiarity with digital media tools supports the value of making learning visible while engaging with a community of teachers interested in the practice of integrating arts.
As a performing artist her work explores the membrane of and the dialogue between her public and private personas. Wearing a mask or costumes of concealment her performances document her curious perspective of being there while being elsewhere.
As a visual artist her work makes connections with curious archaic texts and original artifacts connected to disciplines and inherent systems of biology, mathematics and mapmaking to inform a more personal re-contextualization of forms using printmaking, collage and mixed media techniques.
There are many wonderful things that work in the education of young people today, however the most deeply positive work can be found wherever curiosity leads and creativity follows. We are born curious; we want to know; from infancy we touch, taste, reach for, wonder; and then we try to make something of it, shape it. In so doing we more throughly can understand it and transform it. Cell phones, automobles, noodles, and rubber ducks, the Sistine Chapel, and hip hop lyrics are all a result of human curiosity and creativy. Wherever that spark is allowed to enter the classroom wonderful things happen. I have seen the children involved and experienced the joy, excitement, and pride of accomplishment when they learn they are capable of answering the questions they wonder about after a process of discovery and interpretation.
The arts tap into our need to understand and to create, to change the world in so many ways–intimate and social, tiny and enormous. The artist, whether wondering dabbler, serious student, or professional is engaged in perception, conceptualization, expression, and transformation of self, culture, and medium, all of which are at the core of making meaning of the world. Because the struggle of transformation and expression is so personal the work becomes relevant and ownership increases. One can see the impact on young people involved in arts-based work in the way they focus and participate. It’s a wonderful thing we must acknowledge, educate people about, and demand room in the curriculum for.
Dr. Mary Stone Hanley, Professor, Initiative for Transformative Education, George Mason University, has been an educator in public schools and higher education for more than 35 years. She is a playwright, screenwriter, and poet. In Cultural Responsiveness, Racial Identity and Academic Success: A Review of Literature In (prepared for the Heinz Endowments, June 2009) she highlights the necessity to employ the arts as a means to racial uplift and building on student cultural assets.