Eric Booth Brilliance

“Wait, really? I get to do that? I get to learn that? I get to be in the same room as THAT brilliant person?! NO WAY!”

Grad school is full of those moments. Those moments when you can’t believe how lucky you are to get to _______ (fill in the blank). This week was no exception. On Monday, I had the privilege and pleasure of going to not one, but TWO workshops/talks with Eric Booth, the founder and chief editor of Teaching Artist Journal, the man who has been credited as the father of teaching artistry. Yep, THAT Eric Booth.

I was searching my multiple pages of notes from the cumulative three and a half hours I got to listen to Eric spout brilliance and insight about teaching artistry (in a humble, engaging and kind manner, I might add), and it’s impossible to pick one thing to share with you all, so here are SEVERAL key thinking points from Eric for teaching artists:

  • “Make Stuff You Care About” This is Eric’s definition of art. Making stuff you care about and having the courage to share it with others are what make you an artist. Plain and simple.
  • The Law of 80%: Eric’s law (so-called to “make it sound important”) is that 80% of what you teach is who you are. Students are assessing your whole person: your clothes, your voice, your energy, how well you listen, how much fun you’re having. These are all clues for students, especially when they meet you for the first time, about what this experience is going to be like.
  • Engagement before information: for artists and people who identify with the arts (which, according to Eric is a frighteningly small percentage of Americans- around 7% of us), information about an artistic experience IS engaging. But we have to remember that spouting a bunch of “fascinating” facts about Shakespeare will, more often than not, turn someone off to Shakespeare and theatre entirely. The most immediate way to engage someone in the arts is to help them make a personal connection to the experience. Artists make these connections so immediately that we often take them for granted. But how can teaching artists facilitate these discoveries about the intersection of one’s self, one’s world and the arts?

And the last point from Eric Booth that resonates with me the most is that teaching artistry is its own art form. It’s the fifth arts discipline. This belief is what drives me to keep ArtSmart going, it’s why I’m going to grad school, it’s the drive behind my research and practical interests in training teaching artists and the relationship between artistry and pedagogy.

Which of these pieces of Eric Booth brilliance resonates with you the most?


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