Shey Rivera near a quote reading "an abundance of ways... to be brilliant together."

We’ve all had quite a year!

Whether transitioning from in-person to virtual learning or pivoting at lightning speed to support artists, our partners over the past year have accomplished remarkable things. Arts Ed Collaborative is proud to be in such good company! Our region has shown bravery, creativity, and resiliency throughout COVID, and we want to celebrate the folks who guided arts ed in Southwestern PA through the worst of the pandemic. Let’s take a look back at some of the highlights of the past year.

In early 2020, we began planning a new kind of workshop for educators. In mid-March, when everything shut down, our friends at the Center for Play and Exploration, as well as teaching artists Michelle King, Diarra Imani, and Ariel Barlow helped us pivot to offering Rekindle, a three-part virtual program for educators looking to avoid burnout.

A dozen educators give thumbs up on Zoom.

Our Leadership Academy 2020 cohort.

In the spring, we began work on the Creative Learning Network Anchor funded by The Heinz Endowments. Our partners at the Legacy Arts Project and United Way of SWPA helped us reach hundreds of learners with virtual arts ed activities. As the Creative Learning Network, we coordinated stipends for 149 teaching artists, supporting their practices and ongoing learning. CLN continues to support teaching artists’ professional learning and more in 2021.

In the summer, we hosted our first all-virtual Leadership Academy. Our summer intensive was supported by guest artists who worked with us in 2019 as well as new guest experts who supported our focus on cultural responsiveness and leadership, including Shey Rivera Ríos, LaTrenda Leonard Sherrill, and Jasiri X. Twelve educators participated and were awarded 358 Act 48 hours for their work through April 2021.

In the winter, we began preparations for our Teaching Artist Substitute Initiative. The six teaching artists who helped us get this initiative off the ground were Akin Lowman, Emily Gallagher, Jazmine Bailey, Lindsay Woge, Parag Gohel, and Sarah Jackson. They helped AEC investigate how to build a pathway for teaching artists to become substitute teachers and connected with Urban Academy Charter School, Nazareth Prep Charter School, Woodland Hills SD, and Duquesne City SD to better understand the current landscape. We hope this will 1) create more opportunities for youth to experience arts learning during the school day 2) address the substitute teacher shortage in districts across the region, and 3) provide better paid opportunities for teaching artists.

The six teaching artists who helped us explore substitute teaching with area districts.

The six teaching artists who helped us explore substitute teaching with area districts.

Most recently, we regranted funds to support Remake Learning Days events in Woodland Hills SD, Sto-Rox SD, Wilkinsburg SD, Duquesne City SD, and Propel Schools. These events showcased the arts through STEAM exploration, geocaching, and more.

Collectively, these partners and many others contributed toward keeping our local arts ed ecosystem thriving. As we begin to shift from crisis response mode, we want to thank all of you who approached arts ed with a mentality of abundance, love, and solidarity. As we begin to consider what the coming year looks like and pivot to new, exciting work, our hearts are full of gratitude for the support and compassion of so many talented educators.

Here’s to a better year ahead!