By Amber Ebert, YPT School & Community Programs Manager

I had the pleasure of participating in the Leadership & Advocacy Lab at Lincoln Center Education in New York from July 10th to 22nd. This two-week training intensive was offered as part of the Lincoln Center Summer Forum, which takes place over the month of July and offers multi-level training for artist educators and teachers from around the world.  This was the inaugural year of the Leadership & Advocacy Lab, a program targeted for individuals with eight or more years of experience and an interest in growing their capacities as leaders in the field.

In preparing for the course, I went through a range of emotions. It felt like an honour to be accepted into the program, and I nervously questioned if I would have enough experience to fully contribute to the conversation. I was also curious about the quality of the program – I wanted it to be challenging and rigorous. Two weeks is a long time to dedicate to professional development, and I wanted to learn something new and to be exposed to new ideas. I also wanted to represent my community and colleagues that I work with at YPT well.

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The training did not disappoint. I returned home filled with inspiration and renewed confidence in my role in the arts education field (I was also very tired). Led by senior Teaching Artists Eric Booth and Jean Taylor, and supported by the expert administrative team at Lincoln Center Education, I was welcomed into a group of eleven participants from the USA, Canada and abroad – most had 20 or more years of experience in facilitating and managing arts education programs. The scope of knowledge in the room was exceptional. The lab was designed to test the notion that “teaching artistry is an expansion of one’s artistry, not a separate set of skills.” Through expert facilitation, we were asked to reflect on our personal leadership practices through a deep understanding of the fundamentals of the field, awareness and re-commitment to one’s personal philosophy of art and artistry, and establishment of plans for ongoing professional learning and development.

We thought deeply, collaborated and learned from each other. We played and met our clowns. We were given the opportunity to work with mentors and international leaders in the field. We were exhausted by the end of each day. It was a privilege to participate.

During the training Jean Taylor led the group through the process of examining and creating personal philosophy statements. During the sessions I was struck by this quote that she shared with the group:

“While a philosophy can serve as a sort of collective conscience for music (arts education) as a whole, the strength of the field ultimately depends on the convictions of its members. As necessary as a philosophy might be for the overall effectiveness of a group, it is even more necessary that the individuals who comprise the group have come to an understanding of the nature and the value of their individual endeavors.” – Bennett Reimer

Now that I am back in Toronto and sharing my experience with my colleagues at YPT, I am able to make immediate connections with my work as the School & Community Programs Manager. A favourite aspect of my job is working with a number of the Resident Artist Educators to deliver the wide range of education programs throughout our season. I also love being involved in the planning and organization of our annual Artist Educators Training (AET), which allows artists to build their capacities as artist educators. Thanks to my two weeks at the Lincoln Center, I now have new language with which to connect and support our Resident Artist Educators and the AET participants in the development of their individual practices. I am also vitally aware that my own ability to create and deliver programs, while supporting the learning of the artist educators that we work with, is directly impacted by my own deep awareness of my personal philosophy and artistry.

In the work and reflection that we did around creating and refining our philosophies, there was never a time that we shared the statements publicly. We openly discussed the impact of mentors in our professional lives. We continued to write and revise our philosophy statements individually while being encouraged to back up each sentence with practical, real life examples found in our current practice. We engaged in a reflection process to better understand our personal impact on group collaborations.

Ultimately I learned that establishing a personal philosophy is an ever-evolving activity. And, although it may come in handy when applying for programs or project grants, your philosophy is not something that is spoken, but practiced everyday.

YPT’s next Artist Educators Training takes place Sept. 14 & 15 – see details here. Registration deadline is September 1, 2017.