About 2 years ago, I was told…not asked, but told that we (we being 4 of us that met and became fast friends at MassArt in Boston at the 2nd TAB institute) were going back in 2019. So, I put that kiln on hold I was starting to save for and instaed saved for my return to Bean Town. Fast forward to January 2019. 2 of us could not make it. I was sad. But, I put on my big girl pants and signed up as soon as registration opened. Andy was still going and so many of my friends were going to be there for faculty…I couldn’t not go. And besides, I had told everyone I was going. Lastly, I really needed some PD that was for me and that I was interested in. Come on art teachers–you know what I mean.
My experience this time was like a complete 180 from my first experience. The first time there was about 40+ attendees compared to 80 this time. Also, the HS section grew from about 4 of us (not including Ian and Clyde) to about 20. Gone were the excursions to Fenway Studios and the local museums. In their places were affinity groups, a mini-conference, ample studio time, and a pop-up art show. I was told we had a studio last time, but I couldn’t tell you where it was.
The week was full. Our time opened with Sunday dinner at The Squealing Pig before going over to the Kennedy to tour the student gallery–photos of work, along with artist statements, from a student carefully chosen by each attendee. Throughout the week, we often met with out grade levels, facilitated by a carefully selected group of amazing TAB teachers–Julie Toole, Clyde Gaw, Roni Rohr, Ian Sands, and Clark Fralick.
Thursday was our mini-conference. Experienced teachers were asked if they wanted to present. This was a great day of teachers teaching each other. I learned a lot about my friend Andy and the connection between being an artist/art teacher. Practice what you preach. I presented on TAB and the single media. I like to share, so here is my slide show. (Just know, TAB teachers like to share openly. We just ask, if you take anything, please credit me. Thanks.)
On Friday early evening, we had our pop-up art show. It was amazing. I mentioned we had ample studio time this year. We had access to 3 studio rooms, which were set up as the wet room, the dry room, and the sculpture room. Clyde had made 3 very inviting spaces. It seemed every time I went in there 20-30 people were spread out in these rooms creating and sharing. It was a wonderful experience. New techniques were being explored. Art was being created–by many that have a hard time finding the time (unlike I fortunately am able to) to create daily or even weekly. On Friday, the student gallery was taken down, and the pop-up show went in. It was amazing to see what came from the explorations of the week. I loved getting the glimpses into the minds of the teachers I had been working with and learning from all week. I think it was a perfect way to end the week. And, it was a nice way for new to TAB teachers to experience what they will be asking of their students this year.
Learning happened all week long–not just in our classrooms, but in affinity groups at lunch and after dinner. It happened in the studios and through conversations held in the lobby, over breakfast, and in the dorms. It happened as Andy and I headed up the “Drink and Draw” excursions. Drinking isn’t a requirement, but bringing your sketchbook is. We sketched everywhere we went. We even did a 5-minute drawing of the street outside a pizza restaurant near the Paul Revere monument.
Being a veteran TAB teacher along side those who had either just gotten their toes wet in the past year or two and those who were completely new, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I didn’t know what I was going to learn about the philosophy that I wasn’t already aware of, or where I would find places to grow in my practice. I didn’t take many notes this time around. I did talk often though–hopefully Ian wasn’t too sad every time I had something to interject. I do wish there was something more for those of us that consider ourselves further along the journey. But, I’ve felt that way for a while, and I think that is why I focus on other aspects of my art teaching–taking care of me and continuing my arting journey.
What I did discover at the TAB Institute was that I figured out my place on this journey. I am at a place where I need to teach others. I need to keep moving forward and spreading the TAB word and helping to keep true to the philosophy. I need to keep looking at my practice and my population by challenging myself to always do what is best for their learning as they become artists and/or supporters of the arts. I know that seems like something I could have figured out at home without flying all the way across the country. But, I don’t think I would have found the answers I was looking for without being around my tribe. I got to be with old friends and strengthen my relationships with them. I got to make new friends. I got to have invaluable conversations–face to face–that don’t happen the same way on the interwebs. It was through the experience of the “hot as soup” air in Boston that gave me what I was searching for.
Do I recommend the TAB Institute to anyone who is on the TAB spectrum–from TAB curious to TAB Veteran? Absolutely. Would I attend again in 5 years? Oh Ya! You betcha! (said in my best Minnesotan accent.)