Rajeeyah Finnie-Myers reports back from the Power of Arts Conference in Washington, DC, organized by the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation in May 2014. She was joined by The LP’s founder and board chair Risë Wilson (also Director of Philanthropy at the Rauschenberg Foundation) and teaching artist Rosemary Taylor (pictured in photo L–R).
As I danced on canvas with my masking taped-bubble wrap ballet shoes moving paint around with my feet, I couldn’t help but think of how lucky I was to be in a room with such creative, dedicated and caring people. The Dance Paintings workshop with artist Meghan Snow was just one of many moments that I felt this way. From the student-led tours of The Lab School of Washington, to the embodied synthesis with Urban Bush Women’s Maria Bauman (and really just about everyone and everything in between), the experience of The Power of Art Conference was inspirational. It was a reminder that we—artists, arts educators, arts administrators, advocates, activists—are a part of a community. We are not alone.
One participant—a visual art and dance teacher from Philly—talked about her appreciation for feeling “taken care of” at the conference. I too felt the love. An artist from Mississippi shared that he looked forward to incorporating new elements into his own work inspired by a Photoshop workshop. Others expressed that the conference provided a much needed outlet for dealing with their frustration and even anger that comes from the day-to-day grind of working towards equity in classrooms, neighborhoods,and communities. There were lots of “aha” moments and lots of opportunities to see myself.
The theme of this year’s conference was Connect and Reflect. We experienced art making as students by trying new things and by looking at familiar things in new ways. We brought our artistic selves to the table to look at art works and asked questions about what we saw—honing in on problem solving skills, collaboration and imagination. We talked to each other. We listened to each other. We took a much needed opportunity to do just what the theme called us to do—connect and reflect. My biggest take-away was that the teacher / facilitator is as much a learner as the students / participants and that we have to take care of ourselves and each other to sustain the power of art.