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Guiding Not Teaching - A Lesson in Leading Workshops by Lisa Anne Tindal

Scanning a member newsletter from an Arts Council, I read under “opportunities” several elementary and middle schools are seeking art teachers. I smile.

I smile to myself because I’m often told I look like a teacher and because my daughter has a devoted career in education. I smile as I think of what began as a challenge to teach an art workshop. After a few in-person workshops I’ve facilitated, here are a couple of things I’ve learned. It’s never teaching, but always guiding. It’s never instructing, but always encouraging. Naively and possibly a bit proud, I sat with my first group of workshop attendees to teach them how to paint a vibrant rooster. I modeled the positioning of the brush and the layering of color. The women watched and then I said “Okay, paint yours!”. The room fell silent, they sat with paints prepared and brushes. But, there was a long wait. Eventually, they started and lost themselves in the creative process. I wondered later, why the hesitation. Since that first workshop, I’ve led a few more. I begin in the same way, but now talk about how creativity is a freeing up of our minds, our hearts, our souls. I guide them into that creativity. The greatest thing? Every participant’s painting is different, never exactly like mine. Their engagement is easy. They see me as guide, not teacher. Other things I’ve learned. 1. Plan ahead with the host of your venue. 2. Have more supplies than you think you’ll need. (Participants get excited about art supplies) 3. Provide a pretty signature pen for them to keep. 4. Package their work like the gift that it is, a gift to spur themselves towards more creativity. As an artist who prefers to be alone, I initially said “No.” to workshop leading; but, I’ve found like most things in life, we learn from the things that challenge our growth. Written by: Lisa Anne Tindal


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