Transformations and Beginnings: On ART21 Educators’ 2016 Summer Institute

IMG_3224Last month, on July 6th, ART21 kicked off our eighth annual ART21 Educators Summer Institute and welcomed the sixth new cohort of educators from the United States, Canada and, for the first time, Mexico.

For six exciting and packed days, from July 6th through 11th, educators from a range of disciplines engaged in workshops at the Joan Mitchell Foundation, The Frick Collection and the new Whitney Museum of American Art, to learn about teaching with contemporary art and more specifically, teaching with ART21 resources, such as our films, educator guides, and ART21 Educator-developed lesson plans.

But compared to those we have run in the past, this was no average summer institute. Far from it. For the first time, this summer, alumni of the program were largely responsible for facilitating the workshops that occurred over those six days. It has been our vision at ART21 to have the ART21 Educators take more control of the program as it develops, and this year was a definitive step in that direction. Seventeen ART21 Educators facilitated workshops that included “Teaching with Big Questions,” “Facilitating Difficult Conversations and Themes,” and “Contemporary Art in Interdisciplinary Classrooms.” From our community of over seventy-five educators in three countries, thirty-one participated in this year’s institute.


Sounds fun, right? At the risk of sounding like an infomercial, wait… there’s more.

I will truly treasure the time we had together. It was an amazing week.  I have ‘found my people.’

ART21-featured artists Laylah Ali, Arlene Shechet and New York Close Up artists Whoop Dee Doo (with Jaimie Warren and Matt Roche) joined us this year for special presentations about their work. Whoop Dee Doo even treated us to a dynamite participatory event that concluded with a dance party and celebration featuring more junk food than you’ve probably ever seen in one place outside of a 99-cent store. Past participating artists have included Oliver Herring, Janine Antoni, Allan McCollum, Mark Dion, Shahzia Sikander, Jessica Stockholder, Mary Mattingly, and Diana Al-Hadid, to name a few.

Over the course of this coming school year, twelve new educators will be mentored by eight amazing alumni. This brand new mentoring model includes monthly online meetings and special guests who will help our new educators develop curriculum initiated during the institute. One of the expectations of the program is that all ART21 Educators who attended the institute—new teachers and alumni alike—will implement curriculum that was drafted collaboratively at the institute. Teachers have the ability to refine this curriculum with their mentoring partners as they progress through the school year.


I definitely feel like the whole institute was a beginning—and now the work starts.

As many of you may already know, ART21 Educators is no average summer institute where participants come together for a week, listen to some interesting presentations and then go home never to see each another again. ART21 Educators is a yearlong professional development experience that continually nurtures a special community of professionals including elementary, secondary, Art, English, Science, and Social Studies teachers. ART21 Educators is also made up of teachers from various college programs, as well as teachers who work in museums and even with incarcerated youth. I am so proud and excited to work with everyone in this program and I am very much looking forward to the work we will do together this year.

To conclude, here are some of our ART21 Educators describing their experience this past July in their own words:

“This institute and entire experience with ART21 Educators has been transformative, invigorating, and beautiful. When I met Dom on the first night, he talked about how it is the best professional development I would ever experience and that it would be difficult to express to others outside the program how powerful it is. I can see now how that’s so true.”

—Stacey Abramson


“I definitely feel like the whole institute was a beginning—and now the work starts.”

—Alisa Rodny


“I want to say thank you to everyone, again. Thank you to my fellow new educators for the conversations and vulnerability. Thank you to my mentors who supported me. Thank you to all of the alumni for building relationships and being a mentor even if you weren’t assigned to be! I will truly treasure the time we had together. It was an amazing week.  I have ‘found my people.'”

—Amber Arnold


“For me personally, this has been the most transformative institute in my three years of attending. The content led me to generate so many questions and ideas that it was hard to process when I was sitting in the airport not ready to come home. On top of that—the positivity, connection and love from every member of group is unprecedented… We really have a community that is rare and wonderful.”

—Dennis Greenwell