October 30, 2014

You Just Had To Be There! The best conference ever.

This week I went to our state's art education conference. I have to say it was really refreshing to be face to face with so many art educators.

Here's how my day started. I dropped my daughter at PreK and started driving to the conference. I was daydreaming about my lessons for November and missed my exit by 10 minutes! There was no consequence for me being 15 minutes late (which usually would be earth shattering!) that in itself was refreshing. I slipped in the back of the conference hall just in time to hear about a monumental art installation that is happening in my state. 

Artist Ellen Griesediek is on a mission (for the past 15 years) to create the largest piece of interactive indoor artwork in the country to celebrate US! Okay, not exactly "us", but to celebrate working Americans. This piece has been in production all over the US for the past 15 years and children are taking part in every square inch of this mural/installation/sculpture. It is going to be erected in a local factory building (after they raise the roof three stories to the toon of a million dollars.) Although Ellen has created the design of the mural it is ever changing as kids from around the country work on each piece. It is not a "paint by numbers" as each child has lots of freedoms within their section of the mural. You know what I'm thinking??? YES, our school HAS TO BE PART OF THE MURAL. Working in the inner-city and hand to mouth most months I have mixed feelings during her presentation. Every emotion from excitement (this is beyond comprehension) to confusion (we used how much of our tax payer money to create this piece) to disbelief, but the big take away is this, energy is contagious. Her energy for the project was palpable in the room and we were all excited to be a part of the madness. YOU HAD TO THERE to feel momentum her passion created.

Next was a hands on clay workshop. I always learn something new in clay workshops. This was no exception. Want to stop making hundreds of slabs? Cut a piece of paper the size you want the slabs to be. Have students flatten a circle to larger then that size, then use the paper as a template and cut off the excess clay. The best part of this workshop though was how the presenter engaged us with his silly antics. For example, when we were learning the proper way to roll a ball of clay he would say, "NEVER roll the clay in the palm, because (pause for the dramatic effect) there is hot lava in your palm." SEE it just doesn't sound funny online! YOU HAD TO BE THERE.

From our clay workshop.

I need this book! Josefina. . .
crazy long for me to read aloud.
Did I mention it is a great book to have for a parent volunteer;)

Friends that I met while at the conference, went to the weaving workshop where they learned ideas for weaving with non traditional materials. SO COOL! I wish I was there!
The beginning of a weaving on a plastic fence.
The possibilities are endless! Right?!

Another highlight was the Self-Hypnosis workshop. WHAT??? This is something that YOU HAD TO BE THERE to get. First the energy of everyone in the room was completely open. One of our local shamans, Joyce St. Germaine always goes out on a limb and offers a completely amazing experience for art educators. We learned how to calm our left brain (by giving it analytical work to do) to open our right brain up to self hypnosis.

I am risking half my readers thinking I've lost it by telling you about self hypnotizing, but it was so amazing I think someone out there might benefit from the practice. First I have to tell you I am NOT a skeptic. I believe in the power of the mind. Basically all you are doing is using the power of your thoughts to manifest a focused and relaxed state. It's what new self-help books namely, The Secret try to claim as well. . .  a "secret."

The most amazing part of the workshop was when she asked how long we all thought we were doing the hypnosis for. I truly believed it was a solid 10 minutes. When I looked at my cell phone I realized it had been 49 minutes! I never felt better and every ache in my back disappeared. We learned a way to relax in shorter time periods between classes. I even asked her if to show me a way to help my brain remember all the names I encounter in a day.

The absolute most valuable part of the workshop was meeting people face to face.  I have notebook full of people I want to contact about about collaborations, or just to reconnect. I went to the conference alone and was really happy I did because I got to sit with lots of people and learn about their schools, programs and lives.

What I learned from this workshop was much more then  self-hypnotizing, day dreaming, clay lava loving, fence weaving nonsense, what I learned was that energy can be CONTAGIOUS! In a world of screens and online learning, we need to sometimes remember, to make connections, get to know people, get inspired by the energy in a room, it takes time, energy and sometimes a little money. But it's worth it, because sometimes you just HAVE TO BE THERE.

I hope you all had a great state conference! I am thinking of presenting next year, which scares me to death (and that's a good thing for me!) Does anyone go or present at their state conferences? Tell me something good!


Phyl said...

Hey there, Erica! I've been presenting at my state conference every year now for about 10 years. It is the best thing ever. Sure, they don't pay you, it's a lot of prep work, and it limits your time to attend other workshops. But the balance is this: you meet SO many people, you learn a lot as you prepare, you refine your techniques and presentation skills, you get more comfortable presenting to adults, and you get 'groupies' who come back each year looking for your workshops. I love it so much that I'm presenting 4 workshops this year (our conference is in November), and for the first time ever, I'm presenting at the NAEA convention this spring! So go for it!!

Paintedpaper said...

Hey, jump in and present at a conference. It makes you refine your presentation skills and like Phyl said you meet soooo many fun and exciting people. I have been presenting for at least 12 years. Glad you go to recharge your batteries. My conference is next week. :)

Anonymous said...

Hi! I have presented at my state conference twice and I will be presenting at NAEA in the spring. I always present with Ms. Gram from http://www.artwithmsgram.com/

I love presenting because I feel like I have so much to share! If you are nervous, consider pairing up with another art teacher who shares your interests. That way you can split the prep work or presentation design and you will have someone to room with!

As long as you have a solid idea and have put in the time to create a meaningful experience for your attendees, it ought to go great. PLUS it looks really great in evaluations :)

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