May 10, 2015
The New School Seminars Spring 2015
…I think of how much beginnings have to do with freedom, how much disruption has to do with consciousness and the awareness of possibility that has so much to do with teaching other human being. And I think that if I and other teachers truly want to provoke our students to break through the limits of the conventional and the taken for granted, we ourselves have to experience breaks with what has been established in our own lives; we have to keep arousing ourselves to begin again.
The words above are excerpted from the reading for the first seminar in March, one that featured two speakers, Michael Gillespie, Dean of The Borough of Manhattan Community College, and John Toth, Artist/Distinguished Lecturer, School of Education, Hunter College, CUNY. Each speaker shared thoughts related to our reading, "Teaching for Openings", from Releasing the Imagination. Their remarks will be attached to this article, as they become available, for our reference and reflection. A rich discussion, regarding the reading and catalyzed by the speakers’ remarks, made the occasion meaningful and centering.
Our next meeting, a music workshop, had participants exploring the work of Percy Grainger, specifically his arrangement of an old English tune called The Knight and the Shepherd’s Daughter. Small group work was designed, by teaching artist and musician Heidi Upton, to have those present consider age-old social issues, such as wealth/poverty, gender, and rape in the context of musical arrangement. Social imaginations were ignited, and music created that grew out of this rich exploration. Finally, the work of art itself was shared and discussed.
Our third workshop, led by visual artist Barbara Ellmann, was centered on Event Horizon, a mural by Kara Walker, a work commissioned by The New School and housed on its campus. In the preparatory workshop, participants were asked to engage in journeys of their own making, freely interpreting that term, and creating together unique expressions of journeys in black and white. Subsequent viewing of Walker’s piece encouraged meaningful discussion, based on each participant’s workshop experience, personal perspective and approach to the meaning of the work.
Taken separately, or together, the MGC Seminars at The New School for Drama, provided opportunities for aesthetic engagement in a variety of media. Teaching artists, educators and scholars worked and explored together throughout, inspired by the words of Maxine to arouse… and begin again.
This conversation is a form of reflection on these events, and a chance to continue our thinking about ideas that emerged from these workshops and discussions.