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Artist-Educator Abilities and Knowledge Skills Guide

As part of their work in recognizing and supporting the professional field of the teaching artist, NECAP has developed a guide that outlines what they believe the artist-educator (teaching artist) should know and be able to do, with the goals of:

    Helping to define the role and profession of the artist-educator.

    Serving as a resource for people who hire artist-educators and organizations that manage artist-educators.

    Encouraging the New England state arts agencies to develop similar standards.

    Informing future artist-educators of standards within the profession.


Nationally-recognized actor, teaching artist and author Eric Booth has developed the following definition of the teaching artist:

"A teaching artist (artist-educator) is a practicing professional artist with the complementary skills and sensibilities of an educator, who engages people in learning experiences in, through or about the arts."

Karen Erickson, writing in the Teaching Artist Journal, notes three distinct areas of their work where successful teaching artists demonstrate mastery. They should:

    Be an accomplished artist in their field.
    Provide expertise in teaching that includes organizational abilities, people management, knowledge of organizational systems (e.g. schools, prisons, park districts, etc.) ability to teach (to transfer knowledge to others governed by age, gender, physical cultural and brain development considerations), and knowledge about current trends in the organizational system into which they have been hired.
    Be able to operate with business acumen.

The specific skills and knowledge of those aspects (artistic, teaching, business) of the work of teaching artists include:


Teaching artists should work towards acquiring the following:

Ability or Skill:

    Have formal training and/or years of experience in arts discipline or traditional arts practice.
    Demonstrate professional practice: performs, exhibits, publishes, maintain a healthy body of work as appropriate to the art form and cultural community.
    Provide authentic model for power of artistic thinking, creating, perceiving, reflecting, and attending.
    Take risks as an artist (model behavior).
    Develop self-assessment/critique/evaluation skills.
    Model flexibility and adaptability.
    Possess artistic skills to deal with any situation that might arise.
    Use components of art form to teach in new ways.
    Transform passion for own art form and motivates participant to push their own aesthetic experience.
    Synthesize and make connections.

Knowledge Base:

    Historical and societal context of own art form.
    Wide range of materials and methods within art form.


Teaching artists should work towards acquiring the following:

Ability or Skill:

    Collaborate with teachers, administrators, staff, students, parents, community.
    Conduct a needs assessment in collaboration with the classroom teacher or site contact person.
    Engage a roomful of people who have different abilities.
    Teach across gender, age, race, and cultural boundaries.
    Create successful sequential lessons that are developmentally appropriate.
    Assess participant learning and evaluate overall program effectiveness.
    Be flexible, assess progress and success of classroom in progress and make any necessary adjustments (in teaching style, materials, equipment, timing, sequencing, teacher/staff involvement).
    Model behavior and best practices.
    Access resources to support own teaching, e.g. people, organizations, literature.
    Use the arts to foster and build healthy self esteem.
    Share genuine affection for the audience/population that one is teaching.
    To build community through art.

Knowledge Base:

    Classroom management skills.
    Multiple intelligence theory and its integration into teaching practice.
    Current state curriculum standards and an ability to link them with teaching practice.
    Developmental capabilities of their participants, and child development in general.


Teaching artists should work towards acquiring the following:

Ability or Skill:

    Manage time and schedule effectively, not over-booking, ability to be on time.
    Communicate: to talk with teachers, staff, administrators, parents; ability to follow up on conversations.
    Manage an office: administrative skills, book keeping.
    Be organized and prepared.
    Be professional in demeanor: respect for school/community space environment, materials, rules, schedule, and property.
    Use good presentation skills: using voice and body language to captivate audience.
    Be able to write workshop descriptions, promotional literature and more: literary skills.
    Plan and promote own work as an artist-educator.
    Write grants and raise funds.

Knowledge Base:

    Understand how to access different communities and to facilitate meetings with a diverse group of people.
    Negotiation skills and working with contracts.