The arts, in and out of education.

By Samantha Rideout, Student Intern 

I am an arts educator. What that means exactly is something I have continued to explore and challenge throughout the past six  years. I know for sure that it means I work in a space that involves the arts and educating people around it. I also know that the work I do daily is a part of a stepping stone for possible future artists; waking up everyday and playing the role of arts educator is accepting that I have the potential to completely change the way a child grows. 

Aside from being an arts educator, I am a graduate of, Brock University, in the class of 2021. I have a degree in dramatic arts and a minor in geography, both of which will be subjects that I can teach after August 2022. I am also a student, working to complete my second degree in education in order to fulfil the requirements to teach within an Ontario high school. So many title words to add to my imaginary profile, but over the last three weeks at Suitcase in Point I obtained a new title, student intern. The education program I am completing allows for a three week placement where teacher candidates get the opportunity to explore professional development in an experience that is outside of the traditional classroom placement. With my love and longing for theatre at the forefront of my mind there was no question about exploring the arts in a capacity I had not previously.

The past three weeks working with Suitcase in Point reminded me what it means to work within the arts and entertainment sector in Ontario, and more specifically, in the Niagara Region 

The roles that I fulfilled while working as a student intern had no direct involvement with education, butI was frequently reminded while working in this role that there are obvious links between my title of a teacher and student intern. There were three distinct tasks that I worked on which displayed clear parallels and blended my two worlds into one distinct identity.

1. Marketing 

I had the opportunity to work closely with the marketing team on the marketing for RHIZOMES: Lost & Found as well as the general day-to-day marketing that takes place for a multi-arts company. The most valuable lesson learned throughout the marketing portion of my placement was the level of organisation and planning that took place to ensure that all social media channels are covered daily and that the assets being posted directly reflected the mandate of the company and its current programming. Every day I was astounded at the level of time and effort that goes into something that seems so simple, such as a social media post. The marketing team works hard to ensure that the posts are reaching their target audience, considering how they can reach a larger audience and also ensuring that their brand’s aesthetic is being conveyed in the posts.

As an educator, it is imperative that I have a high level of organisation to ensure that I am meeting all curriculum requirements while also monitoring student progress alongside those goals. Similar to arts marketing educators need to create detailed lesson plans that are tailored towards a target audience while also taking into consideration the various needs of our students. The organisational and detail-oriented skills that I observed within the marketing aspects were directly paralleled in the work I have done as an educator. 

A stop at RHIZOMES: Lost & Found. Photo credit Lauren Garbutt Photography.

2. Event Coordinating 

One of the larger expectations I had throughout my internship was working closely with the team who was creating RHIZOMES: Lost & Found. It was a really exciting time to be able to fulfil my internship, as the Suitcase in Point team was right in the thick of presenting the final showcase of this site-specific weekend-long installation. I was able to see and contribute to the work leading up to this large-scale event in a capacity that I had never experienced in all my years of working in theatre and the arts. Each day leading up to the event required a different skill set to be harnessed and a variety of aspects were considered on each level of creation, whether that meant technical needs, artist needs, facility maintenance, or general odds and ends tasks that could have been easily overlooked.

The amount of work and dedication that goes into a piece such as RHIZOMES: Lost & Found is nothing short of exhausting yet fulfilling all at the same time. Pouring yourself into your work and experiencing exhaustion is a familiar feeling for me as a teacher. As an educator I am constantly thinking about my students and what I can do to ensure that each moment they have within my classroom is one that is pushing them to their greatest potential. Artists and teachers share the same drive in a way that puts themselves second in many of their endeavours. Whether I am putting my heart into a theatre piece or devoting hours to marking, I have discovered the similarities of artist and teacher in a very clear way. 

Adding a human touch to let neighbouring businesses know what we’re up to. Postcards written by Kaylyn Valdez-Scott (Artistic Associate).

3. Outreach 

Outreach, in all its forms, is a large part of the work that is done at Suitcase in Point. The outreach team at Suitcase in Point varies in their work, whether it’s through creating and facilitating workshops or connecting with artists throughout the region there are numerous conversations happening at all times. I was lucky enough to be able to sit on conversations with artists from all over Ontario that create art in a multitude of ways. I also had the chance to sit in on conversations that challenged my views and provided space for voices that are often marginalised and left unheard. Working in outreach allows for you to create connections with people you may have not initially felt connected with while also learning more about the community you live in and the voices that are both present and not/underrepresented.

As a teacher, it is my job to create a classroom space that allows for everyone to feel heard and represented, which is easier said than done. As a teacher I need to constantly challenge the traditional norms of education and the voices that have been represented for generations. It is common for names like Shakespeare, Shaw and other traditional white forms of literature and script to be the main text within our classrooms, but to challenge this and introduce texts that are traditionally outside of our canon allows for students to begin to feel represented and valued within the space. Those who work in outreach and education are both in positions that require connections to be made and conversations to be had, although it is paramount that through the connections and conversations, equity, diversity and inclusion are constantly at the forefront of our priorities.  

Connecting with Arts Mentorship Program (AMP) members and emerging artists during “Chillin’ in the Green”, a weekly online networking session hosted by Suitcase in Point. Pictured, clockwise from top left: Shendel Rogers, Marcel Stewart, Fiona Dunbar, and me!

Although I spent much of this blog talking about three specific areas where I experienced parallels between education and arts administration, there are numerous more examples that I will be taking back with me as I finish my teaching degree.

My time at Suitcase in Point allowed me to learn alongside amazing artists and administrators who reminded me daily of the importance of keeping arts in education and the potential that our arts education can have both in and outside the classroom. I am excited to return to my title of teacher candidate while never forgetting the lesson learned as a student intern, taking these two titles, and the many others that I already have, to help create and clarify my identity as Samantha Rideout.