Thursday, October 14, 2010

Reflection on today's Arts and Activism Conference

So I just got home from the Arts and Activism conference, where I attend a 4 hour youth development workshop. On the whole it was quite educational, and the tools presented regarding youth development outcomes are going to prove useful. I was also pleased to see the BYAEP frameworks so thoroughly examined. I wish more community arts students were present, as I'd love to discuss the event.

I do, however have some critiques of the day. I'm mainly doing this not to change the event in the future but rather for my own practice and reflection.

At the end of the session, we were divided up into small groups and asked to apply the outcomes and the BYAEP framework to the process of a youth based film making project. It was the first time that we had group conversations about real, concrete examples of activities that would facilitate these possible outcomes, and the only time we saw but one example. And we were just getting into the good, nitty gritty stuff of conversation about these activities when the exercise was over. Personally, I felt that the time spent on some other activities was not useful. I know I tend to be the grumpy dwarf about some sorts of activities (i.e. scarf dancing, etc.) as an administrator, but in a professional development setting, I'd rather get down to studying useful, applicable examples than inventing a movement that expresses myself. I know, too that many of you will disagree with this, but perhaps if the day were longer we could have fit everything in. In the end, I did not get enough time to discuss real world applications that utilize the concepts we were learning.

Another thing that really bothered me today, and something I have noticed at other points since I've begun this program, is a lack of professionalism. I'm not saying we all aren't professionals, but I noticed some behaviors and some instances that speak to this.

There were several times during the day that individuals were talking over someone else, perhaps in the corner in private conversation, or in the circle as a prior exercise wrapped up. If we are going to be generous of our time and attention, we must also respect other's time and attention. This sort of thing would never fly in a business meeting. I do understand that the nature of artistic work can be self indulgent and that freedom of expression is encouraged. But this isn't a romper room- we all have goals for what we want to accomplish for the day.

Another instance is being respectful of the assignment/directions given during an activity. For example, the facilitators asked for a response from each person around the circle of a word or a few words, but soon enough people were talking for minutes at a time about themselves without any real point or direction. I am not trying to detract from the fact that people in the group had much to reflect upon, and it's great that everyone was buzzing with ideas and appreciation, but spilling your innermost feelings as you have them was not the given task. I think sometimes in this work we forget to apply our "is this useful towards the goals of the session?" filter. In class when we are in a nurturing environment there is more room for the babbling process of self reflection, but in a limited time frame it can be frustrating. Perhaps this is a critique on both sides of the relationship here: the facilitators need to intervene when time constraints are not being respected, and the participants need to respect that there will be avenues to express their reflections, and those avenues need to be made available to them after the event or at a different time.

Ugh: crying. I might be unpopular in this opinion (and please comment if you disagree) but I don't think crying is appropriate in these sorts of gatherings. If we want our work to be taken seriously, we need to encourage ways of expressing that you have been moved in ways that are not only professional but useful to the group. Crying does not effectively illustrate to me how you are going to use this new information in ways that will carry the work forward.

I think there were many excellent things that came out of the session today, but there was a part of me that was looking for a more pragmatic experience.

I realize I've put a lot of negatives in this post. The positives are getting their OWN POST! because they are so special. Grumpy dwarf is done, for this episode.


  1. Ok so I'm just going to say now, that I will continue to be a fan of your blogging for years to come. I appreciate the way you take a stance on things, and then invite the reader in --in the most engaging ways.
    I have to agree on all counts!

    That said...I wonder how we can make a better workshop frame when so many of these issues repeat themselves in this field!

    P.S. I did get a little misty eyed at the story shared in our group but nothing was shed!

  2. Hi Grumpy :) This is Sleepy...
    I know exactly what you mean..unfortunately I couldn't be there..wish I could have but I was working. I often have two to three voices in my ear here at Lesley. (No, thank goodness I am not schizophrenic) One tells me "Oh my God this is SO flaky! (That is my Dad and my husband and the nurses I work with...) Another voice says "Why does this make you feel awkward and ill at ease, and why will others see this as total b.s? Examine your feelings about this and get over it!" And the weakest voice says "This is perfectly acceptable"

  3. Sleepy ran out of space..I could never allow myself to cry in public,but I think, and hope those who are openly emotional know the difference between being in a "safe" group here at Lesley, vs a board meeting for example. I have often wondered why my dance with a scarf at the age of 5 was the best performance I had ever done, (I still remember the praise from my teachers!)and why it is so weird and silly..Angela

  4. Ok so my earlier comment disappeared! say it again...Loved reading your comments...and you make numerous excellent points. I'm curious how this might figure into your work with BYAEP --how might you be able to shape how such a program is orchestrated in the future...

  5. Hi Sleepy ;)

    I agree with you about the awkwarness, and understandin WHY it is that you are feeling it? because there's so much to be learned with that.

    I actually think I need to amend my post, because in Ideas into Action, there were two crying moments, and they were very appropriate and moving. Then I felt like a jerk! haha. But i think it all comes down to appropriateness, and establishing clearly the type of environment you are in.

    I think what it came down to in the conference was a situation where no one was very used to a large group environment when it came to their work, and therefore felt overwhelmed.

    I do still think there is a lot of 'self indulgence' in this world, but I think the more important lesson here is: how do we acknowledge each person's unique offerings, while at the same time respecting the time and professional nature of the gathering? thanks BOTH! your comments are really getting me thinking.

  6. OH and Lisa your comment is back now! IDK where it went!