|Artist Clown, by Sam Vance|
1. How long have you been a teaching artist?
I started teaching right out of my undergraduate program back in 1996. I had the fortune to already be involved with a growing acting studio in Seattle where my wife was teaching.
2. What discipline(s) do you teach?
Theatre predominantly but I have also taught visual art and music.
3. Describe the setting(s) in which you teach.
I am adjunct theatre faculty at Northwest University where I teach Intro to Theatre, Improvisation and Principles of Acting. I am also a regular instructor at Taproot Theatre Company where I have taught classes, workshops and summer camps. In my last job as Director of Education at Teatro ZinZanni, I taught juggling and circus skills to PE classes all over the Pacific Northwest.
4. Who shaped your initial thinking about teaching art?
It's not something I ever really thought about. It seemed to be a natural extension of my art practice and it has always been a factor when it comes to piecing together a living.
5. Describe the relationship between your personal art practice and your art teaching?
It used to be purely financial. But I have come to enjoy teaching and have been able to make connections to my own practice. The most noticeable shift has been personal confidence when standing up in front of people, speaking, acting, improvising or directing. I used to be very shy and nervous in front of people.
6. How do you sustain your art while teaching?
The important aspect for me is to keep building a body of work while teaching. That is the thing that keeps me relevant and viable as a teaching artist.
7. What training in the arts and/or education have you had?
I have an Applied Associate of Arts Degree in Music & Business (after a failed attempt to get a degree in commercial art) from the Art Institute of Seattle, a BA in Theatre from Seattle Pacific University and I am currently a degree candidate for an MFA in Interdisciplinary Arts at Goddard College. I also studied classical painting from a private instructor in Spain.
8. What are the biggest challenges you face as a teaching artist?
Complacent or uninterested students- it's rare but it happens.
9. What are the unexpected rewards of being a teaching artist?
Drawing connections from the classroom to the studio in ways that feed my practice. Usually that is some sort of improvisation or "a Ha!" moment that makes me think about something I'm working on.
10. What advice do you have for other artists interested in teaching?
I think you have to really like people and want to relate to them in order to teach. It's one thing to be a master of your subject but you have to possess the ability to break that information down into reasonable chunks, build on that info in order to give your students a sense of accomplishment immediately. Teaching art should be fun for you and your students.
*Please share one anecdote of a memorable Teaching Artist experience.
I was working with world-class Russian juggler, Sergey Krutikov on a circus camp for kids. At the beginning of the week we had a 10 year old student who flat refused to participate. His reason was that he didn't want to learn to juggle because he didn't want to live on the streets, juggling for a living. Sergey was great because he didn't pressure the kid. He just kept introducing different items to the entire class- juggling balls, rings, cigar boxes, scarves... gently drawing him into the enthusiasm the rest of the camp was experiencing. By the end of the week, that kid was juggling like a crazy person. He is now living on the streets.
Please share any upcoming events or shows you are involved in so we can find out more about your personal art practice. Provide links to websites, event sites, etc.
I will be acting, singing (and doing a little clowning) in an upcoming show that my wife and I wrote. Le Club Noel opens at Taproot Theatre Company in Seattle on November 29th and runs through December 28th. Tickets and info can be found at: