Posts Tagged ‘Shawna Barnes’

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MALI Teaching Artist Leader Story: Shawna Barnes

February 5, 2019

Teaching Artist – Sculptor

This is one of six blog posts in 2019 that include stories of the Maine Arts Leadership Initiative (MALI) Phase 8 Teacher Leaders and Teaching Artist Leaders. This series includes a set of questions so you can learn a little bit about each leader. CLICK HERE  for more information on MALI. CLICK HERE  for more information on the 96 Teacher Leaders and 11 Teaching Artist Leaders. CLICK HERE  for Arts education resources. CLICK HERE for the MALI Resource Bank. Search in the “search archives” box on the bottom right side of this post for past teacher leader stories. Thank you Shawna for sharing your story!

Shawna N.M. Barnes is a Ceramic Sculptor who has been focused on teaching for three years. Her favorite group to teach is the one full of people who “don’t think they can” because of a disability. Or never gave art a try because of their disabilities. “Problem solving and finding ways to show them they can create and engage in creativity… is amazing.”

What do you like best about being a teaching artist?

I love all the people I have met as a teaching artist. Doors that have been opened, and opportunities presented. It has provided me the ability to share my passions with others who appreciate it.

What do you believe are three keys to ANY successful visual and performing arts education?

First, allowing for differential interpretations of a topic. Essentially acknowledging that the world is full of gray. And when it comes to art, the spectrum of how art and its concepts are perceived, truly is a spectrum.

Second, the ability to acknowledge that art is a bridge between worlds. Whether that be yours and mine, real and fantasy, or past and future. It allows for difficult conversations to be had, often bridging a divide caused by a lack of understanding. Teaching this concept to our students is vital.

Third, the ability to appreciate content, subject matter and skills needed to complete a work of art without having to like the art itself. The ability to see it with an objective eye.

Have you found assessment to be helpful in your classes, workshops and residencies, and if so, how?

Thus far, assessments have helped guide the evolution of my classes and workshops. By evaluating what is working, what is not; what different ages and abilities respond to; I have been able to fine tune the classes so that the highest number of people fund value and enjoyment from the class.

What have been the benefits in becoming involved in the Maine Arts Leadership initiative?

The benefits have been innumerable! It has been the push I needed to create the resource center in my website. I have been given the opportunity to grow my speaking career by giving presentations at conferences. It has sparked collaborations between several members for brand music, for upcoming tutorials, and similar applications. It has introduced me to a group of peers that have become my support network. It has given me the confidence in my own set business that my intuition is right and I am on the right path.

What are you most proud of as an artist and/or a teaching artist?

I am most proud of breaking barriers and showing others where barriers exist. As a disabled artist, I often chose to just not participate in events and workshops because it was easier. I’m taking my challenges and helping create solutions that benefit not just me… but hopefully generations of disabled learners and artists so that they can have access to creative outlets.

What gets in the way of doing a better job as a teaching artist?

My health, admittedly. It can cause me to be unreliable and miss deadlines. Another factor is physical accessibility to facilities that may want to host me for workshops or seminars

What have you accomplished through hard work and determination that might otherwise appear at first glance to be due to “luck” or circumstances?

Simply being an artist is hard work and requires determination every day to put the work in. I work through a variety of disabilities just to be able to create; myasthenia gravis,  cervical dystonia,  hypermobility joint syndrome, seizures, chronic pain, peripheral neuropathy and PTSD are the heavy hitters.

What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about becoming a teaching artist or is just starting out?

You will stumble as you find your footing but don’t let that detour you from continuing to put the work in to build the foundation of your career. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.  There’s plenty of room for everyone at the top, do not entertain a scarcity mindset. 

If you were given a $500,000.00 to do with whatever you please, what would it be?

Build my handicap accessible studio. Give a few grants to local artists and arts organizations looking to make their space accessible by adding ramps or stairlifts to their infrastructure. And spend a few weeks in Paris, soaking up all the amazingness that is the Louvre.

Imagine you are 94 years old. You’re looking back. Do you have any regrets?

None.

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Arts Accessibility

January 14, 2019

What does it mean?

This post is reprinted with permission from Shawna Barnes’ blog located at THIS LINKShawna is a Teaching Artist Leader with the Maine Arts Leadership Initiative (MALi). She is a ceramic sculptor and mixed media artist who loves sharing her passion with others. Shawna is a strong advocate for the arts being accessible to all. She is an Army veteran who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF 7) from 2009-2010. Shawna lives with several disabilities including myasthenia gravis, cervical dystonia, seizures, hypermobility joint syndrome, peripheral neuropathy, and PTSD. 

Shawna created a survey on arts accessibility which you are invited to complete; access it at THIS LINK

One of the things I talk about a lot is the phrase “arts accessibility” and the fact that I am an advocate for it. In discussions with colleagues and friends, I realized that it isn’t really a clear term. This point was driven home even further when I included the question “What does arts accessibility mean to you” in a survey I shared asking for feedback regarding educators’ struggles with arts accessibility in the classroom/studio. So I figured I’d take some time and provide an overview on all the different possible definitions of arts accessibility and what it means to me.

Arts Accessibility – Definition #1

For me, it started when I was exploring different opportunities for artist residencies, workshops,  and seminars. As someone with mobility impairments, I always had to ask if the facility was accessible. No…….handicap accessible, not accessible from the highway. One of the things I discovered was that most of the facilities are not friendly or easy to navigate for those of us who have any type of mobility impairment/disability. This was a discovery made long before I became a teaching artist leader with the Maine Arts Leadership Initiative; it was then, however, that arts accessibility became my pet project. I was disappointed and downright bummed out about missing out on some amazing learning opportunities because the studio spaces were on the second floor of an old barn with no elevator access… or down several flights of outside stairs down the side of a cliff…or lacking any sort of climate control (air conditioning or heat source). And those barriers were from just a few of the locations I looked at locally. The facilities themselves are spectacular and amazing; drawing high caliber artists and professionals from around the world… This is just one example of what arts accessibility could look like – the most literal definition of the phrase – physical accessibility to a facility.

My disabilities are acquired; I was not born with them.  As a result, I am acutely aware on all the amazing things I am missing out on as a result. That FOMO (fear of missing out) is real ladies and gentleman, and the sting is one that is ever present. I quietly made it my mission to let the administrators of these facilities know that I was deeply saddened to be missing out because the facilities were not accessible. Some enlightening and hopeful conversations have been had as a result of this dialogue.

Arts Accessibility – Definition #2

Another quite literal definition of the term is actually having access to the arts. This includes students having access to art classes at their school, having nearby museums or art studios to attend, local theaters and dance halls, et al. There was a big focus on STEM curriculum, and as a result the creative arts saw a lot of cuts in Prek-12 curriculum. Recently however, administrators, educators, and clinicians are acknowledging the importance art has in youth development. This re-discovery has transitioned STEM curriculum to STEAM with the A standing for the arts. There are still many students who do not have the opportunity to take an art class – either one offered as part of their daily curriculum OR after school activities. This access barrier extends well beyond academic and includes all people who have interest in learning more about a topic in art.

Arts Accessibility – Definition #3

A third definition of “arts accessibility” is one of economic hardship. Learners of all ages who live in impoverished communities lack the financial means to be able to explore the creative arts. In areas where art and band are still offered as part of the middle/high school curriculum it’s less of an issue; at least they have the exposure to a creative outlet. However for others where these classes are not available, lacking the financial ability to enroll in after school classes at studios or arts organizations is a barrier. Economic barriers prevent access… which leads me to my next definition…

Arts Accessibility – Definition #4

Accessibility to the arts could have nothing to do with infrastructure and everything to do with the abilities of the staff. For adults and children with a wide range of developmental disabilities, the physical access definition is less important than having access to teachers who are able to meet them where they’re at. What I mean by that, is that for many in this demographic, teaching/leading them through an art class takes considerable patience and an understanding of how their brain functions. When families find artists/educators who ARE qualified and adept at working with these populations, the financial barrier is then factored in. Finding and hiring experienced artists can be expensive.  Investing in custom equipment and tools to allow the student the highest level of engagement in activities can be cost prohibitive.

Arts Accessibility – Definition #5

My fifth and final definition for arts accessibility, is one of the psychological variety. It has everything to do with the possible/potential student. The commonly accepted definition/understanding of creativity is that it’s something artists have. If the student feels and truly believes that they just don’t have the skill to create anything worthwhile and thus are defeated before they even try, that is a barrier to access. If it’s one thing I LOVE doing…it’s breaking down this particular barrier to arts access. It is a barrier that anyone can break down and help the student over if the teacher has the right tools in their toolbox.

And there ya have it. Those are MY five definitions of what  arts accessibility barriers could look like. There’s likely more that I haven’t thought of or come across yet. In future posts, I will break down each definition and explain how I personally work towards overcoming the barrier to access. It’s just as much about breaking down the stigma that only artists can appreciate art and reap benefits from a creative outlet as it is about providing opportunities for people to explore activities they’d never considered.

What does “arts accessibility” mean to you? How do you overcome the barriers?

You can follow Shawna at the following: 

www.shawnabarnes.com
www.facebook.com/shawn.n.m.barnes
www.instagram.com/shawna.n.m.barnes

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Arts Accessibility

January 8, 2019

Complete a survey

Shawna Barnes is a Teaching Artist Leader (TAL) with the Maine Arts Leadership Initiative (MALI). She is reaching out to the Maine Arts Education blog readers to assist in completing a survey. In Shawna’s words…. has created a survey to collect information on accessibility and I ask you to take a few minutes to complete it so she can get a comprehensive picture As part of her work as a TAL she is collecting information and providing resources and opportunities for others to gain knowledge about accessibility to arts education.

Shawna has created an Arts Accessibility resources website and it is at the beginning of being an amazing website!

SURVEY

Hello! My name is Shawna Barnes and I am a teaching artist leader with MALI. My project for the year is to work towards and advocate for arts accessibility in ALL its definitions. I am a disabled Operation Iraqi Freedom Veteran turned artist and know the challenges I face when it comes to arts accessibility – especially as it relates to residencies. Truth be told, not many of the facilities are wheelchair or mobility impaired friendly. But that’s just one layer of this cake. That’s where YOU come in. I am looking for input from anyone and everyone who is touched by arts education.  Whether you are a teacher/educator, artist, occupational/physical therapist, caregiver or parent to a person with disabilities, home school coop, arts organization leader… I want to hear from everyone. If a question doesn’t apply to you, there’s an option to select N/A. This survey will be used to help inform my next steps in this project.  It will help me know where and what to focus my workshops on that center around developing creative adaptive solutions to help learners of ALL abilities. For more information or with any questions, please feel free to email me at info@shawnabarnes.com.

SURVEY

If you know someone who’s input I should have, PLEASE send them the link. It will stay up indefinitely. The more information I have, the better!!

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