Judy Baca is a painter, muralist, monument builder, and scholar who has been teaching in the University of California system since 1984. She was the founder of the first City of Los Angeles Mural Program in 1974, which evolved into a community arts organization known as the Social and Public Art Resource Center (SPARC) and has been creating sites of public memory since 1976. She continues to serve as its artistic director. Baca’s public arts initiatives reflect the lives and concerns of populations that have been historically disenfranchised, including women, the working poor, youth, the elderly, LGBT and immigrant communities. Underlying all of Baca and SPARC’S activities is the profound conviction that the voices of disenfranchised communities need to be heard and that the preservation of a vital commons is critical to a healthy civil society. Baca’s work is monumental: The Great Wall of Los Angeles is ‘tattooed’ along a flood control channel in the San Fernando Valley and employed over 400 at risk youth and their families from diverse social and economic backgrounds working with artists, oral historians, ethnologists, scholars, and hundreds of community members. The Great Wall depicts a mile long multi-cultural history of California from pre-history through the 1950’s. It was begun in 1976. Judy Baca gives form to monuments that rise up out of neighborhoods.
KEVIN G. COLEMAN
Kevin Coleman is a founding member of Shakespeare & Company in Lenox, Massachusetts, a member of its Board and is involved in all three branches of the company: he acts, directs, teaches and choreographs in the Performance Program, he is one of the master teachers in the Training Program, and he serves as the director of Shakespeare & Company’s Education Program. Under his leadership, the artists of Shakespeare & Company’s Education Program have developed such programs as: Shakespeare & Young Company; Riotous Youth; Shakespeare in the Courts, a collaboration with Berkshire County Juvenile Court, where juvenile offenders and those in need of special services work with Shakespeare & Company artists to rehearse and perform Shakespeare as an obligation to the Court, and the Fall Festival of Shakespeare, where students from 10 Massachusetts and eastern New York high schools annually present full productions of Shakespeare in their own schools, and then collectively during a week-long celebration. Shakespeare & Company’s Education Program received the Commonwealth Award, the highest honor awarded for the Arts by the state of Massachusetts. In 2009, The Shakespeare in the Courts program he created in collaboration with Judge Paul E. Perachi received the “Coming Up Taller” award at the White House. In 2016, he was the runner-up for the Tony Award for Education.
For over forty years photographer Wendy Ewald has collaborated on photography projects with children, families, women, workers and teachers. She has worked in the United States, Labrador, Colombia, India, South Africa, Saudi Arabia, Holland, Mexico and Tanzania. Her projects start as documentary investigations and move on to probe questions of identity and cultural differences. “In my work with children and women I encourage them to use cameras to look at their own lives, their families and their communities, and to make images of their fantasies and dreams. While making my own photographs in the communities, I ask my collaborators to alter my images by drawing or writing on them, challenging the concept of who actually makes the image – who is the photographer, who is the subject, who is the observer and who is the observed. My work questions the conventional definition of individual authorship and casts into doubt an artist’s intentions, power and identity.”
MARJORIE WITT JOHNSON
Marjorie Witt Johnson was a social service group worker, educator and arts advocate who used modern dance and African-American culture as tools to inspire black youth. She received a Governor’s Award for Arts in Ohio for her pioneering development of dynamic dance-education techniques. Cleveland State University, the Cleveland Music School Settlement, the National Association of Social Workers and the National Black Storytellers Association, which gave her its prestigious Sankofa Award, also recognized her 50-plus years of leadership in the field of arts education. Born in Cheyenne, Wyoming, the daughter of a Buffalo Soldier, Johnson applied to Oberlin College at the suggestion of a high school teacher; there she pursued a degree in sociology. She subsequently earned a master’s degree in social work from Western Reserve University. At Oberlin she gained a stronger sense of herself through the mastery of modern dance. She died in 2007.
Poet KennethKoch brought the outside world and outside experiences into the classroom. He wrote several books on teaching writing and poetry to young children and residents of nursing homes. The books include Wishes, Lies, and Dreams, and Rose, Where Did You Get That Red and have been in print for decades. He was a poet, playwright, opera librettist, and fiction writer He was awarded the Bollingen Prize for a lifetime of creative achievement. In 1969 he spent several hours a week visiting Public School 61 in Manhattan, teaching poetry to elementary school children of all abilities. The Academy of American Poets funded his visits at first. Teachers & Writers supported his work following the initial Academy of American Poets funding. Kenneth Koch insisted that children must be taken seriously as poets and believed they have a natural talent for poetry. Koch observed that children, unlike adults, write better in a classroom surrounded by young, excited writers with a writer close at hand to encourage them than they do at home in perfect quiet. He died in 2002.
Richard Lewis founded The Touchstone Center in 1969. He has been the director of the Center since then, initiating and implementing its various programs. He has edited and written a number of books highlighting the poetic and mythic traditions from diverse cultures, among them Miracles: Poems by Children of the English-speaking World; All of You Was Singing: A Retelling of An Aztec Myth, and The Way of Silence: Prose and Poetry of Basho. His essays on the imaginative and poetic life of childhood were collected in his book Living By Wonder: The Imaginative Life of Childhood. His recent books include: Sea Tale, illustrated by Gigi Alvaré, Shaking the Grass for Dew: Poems by Richard Lewis; Each Sky Has Its Words, illustrated by Gigi Alvaré; The Bird of Imagining, illustrated by children from New York City public schools; CAVE: An Evocation of the Beginnings of Art, illustrated by Elizabeth Crawford; A Tree Lives, illustrated by Noah Baen, and In the Space of the Sky, illustrated by Debra Frasier. Forthcoming are From the Sleep of Waters, illustrated by Susan Joy Share and Taking Flight, Standing Still: Teaching Toward Imaginative and Poetic Understanding.
Phillip Lopate was one of a group of writers who founded Teachers & Writers Collaborative in 1967. The group believed that professional writers could make a unique contribution to the teaching of writing and literature. He edited Journal of a Living Experiment, A Documentary History of the First Ten Years of Teachers and Writers Collaborative and was awarded a Christopher Medal for Being with Children, first published in 1975, his classic account of his relationship to his craft and to his young students teaching poetry in an urban school. After working with children for twelve years as a writer in the schools, he taught creative writing and literature at Fordham, Cooper Union, University of Houston, Hofstra University, New York University and Bennington College. He is a professor at Columbia University’s School of the Arts, where he teaches nonfiction writing.
CAROLYN OWENS MANN
When Carolyn Mann’s oldest son was 5, she began teaching at Far Brook, in Short Hills, New Jersey, founded by Winifred Moore in 1948. She taught there for twenty-four years. There were always plays, sometimes with music, sometimes without. Eventually there was no time for her to do anything else but plays, ten or twelve a year. Her pedagogy on the value of Youth Theater for children developed from this experience. Her family moved to Rochester, New York when her husband, Alfred Mann, accepted a teaching position at the Eastman School of Music. Inspired by the surroundings and front porch of her new home, and driven by the desire to resume teaching drama, Carolyn founded the Front Porch Theater in 1982, and taught children from ages 7 to 17, until 1994. She believed that for children “the play’s the thing wherein we’ll catch the conscience of a king,” and devoted herself exclusively to Youth Theater. She died in 1995.
David Marquis founded Marquis Studios in 1977 and served as the Executive Director until 2017. He brought to his work as an educator his considerable experience as a theater artist of many capacities. David began his artistic career in London, where he studied and taught acting for five years. From 1985-1989, he sat on the Board of Directors for the Puppetry Guild of New York. From 1988-1990, he was a site reporter for the National Endowment for the Arts theater program. From 1992-2000, he was a member of the Board of Directors of the New York City Arts in Education Round table. He was a founding member of the Association of Teaching Artists and sat on the Board of Trustees of Brooklyn’s Pratt Institute from 2005-2014 as well as the Board of Directors of the Delaware College of Art and Design 2010-2014. As a puppeteer, he toured the United States and had been placed prominently in many international festivals. As a Teaching Artist for 38 years, David Marquis taught numerous classroom and professional development workshops. Subjects include puppetry, architecture, theater arts, writing, video editing, literacy, and mask making. In the late 1970’s, his work with video and computer generated images of his own design was the first integration of this technology into Puppet Theater in the United States. He died in 2017.
JANINE POMMY VEGA
When she was sixteen, Janine Pommy Vega, inspired by Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, traveled to Manhattan to become involved in the Beat scene there. In 1962, Vega moved to Europe with her husband, painter Fernando Vega. After his sudden death in Spain in 1965, she returned to New York City, and then moved to California. Her first book, Poems to Fernando, was published by City Lights in 1968 as part of their City Lights Pocket Poets Series. During the early-1970s, Vega lived as a hermit on the Isla del Sol in Lake Titicaca on the Bolivian-Peruvian border. Out of this self-imposed exile came Journal of a Hermit (1974) and Morning Passage (1976). Following her return to America, she published more than a dozen books, including Tracking the Serpent: Journeys to Four Continents (1997), a collection of travel writings. Her last book of poetry was The Green Piano. In the 1970s, , Janine Pommy Vega began working as an educator in schools through various arts in education programs and in prisons. She served on the PEN Prison Writing Committee. Pommy Vega was a pioneer of the women’s movement in the United States. She had worked to improve the lives, conditions, and opportunities for women in prison. She died in 2010.
Faith Ringgold was born in New York City in 1930. While working as an art teacher in public schools, she began a series of paintings called American People, which portrayed the civil rights movement from a female perspective. In the 1970s, she created African-style masks, painted political posters and actively sought the racial integration of the New York art world. During the 1980s, she began a series of quilts that are among her best-known works, and she later embarked on a successful career as a children’s book author and illustrator https://www.scholastic.com/teachers/authors/faith-ringgold/ She took the traditional craft of quilt making (which has its roots in the slave culture of the south – pre-civil war era) and re-interpreted its function to tell stories of her life and those of others in the black community. One of her most famous story quilts is Tar Beach, which depicts a family gathered on their rooftop on a hot summer night. As a social activist, she has used art to start and grow such organizations as Where We At that support African American women artists. Her foundation Anyone Can Fly, is devoted to expanding the art canon to include artists of the African diaspora and to introduce the African American masters to children and adult audiences.
Bertha Rogers is a master Teaching Artist. In 2007 she received the Association of Teaching Artists’ Distinguished Service to the Arts in Education Field Award https://www.teachingartists.com/ataaward07.htm. She served as program director for the New York State Literary Map Web Site https://brighthillpress.org/nyslittree/, the first Literary Map of New York State (2005), in partnership with the New York State Council on the Arts. She was a member of the New York State Writers in the Schools Panel as well as the Empire State Writers Hall of Fame panel. Bertha Rogers was the founding director of Bright Hill, which she founded with her late husband Ernest M. Fishman. She has juried and/or curated more than 100 exhibits at Bright Hill and has exhibited her paintings, drawings, and artist books in more than 250 juried, invitational, and solo shows nationally and abroad. Her word-and- image work is collected privately and in museums, including the Harry Ransom Archive at the University of Texas. She has published several poetry collections, among them Sleeper, You Wake (Mellen) and Heart Turned Back (Salmon Pub, Ireland). Her illustrated translation of the Anglo-Saxon epic poem Beowulf was published in 2000 (Birch Brook Press). Her illuminated translations of the 95 Anglo-Saxon riddle-poems from the 10th-Century Exeter Book will soon be published under the title of Uncommon Creatures, Singing Things.
In August 1981, Tim Rollins, then twenty-six years old, was recruited by George Gallego, principal of Intermediate School 52 in the South Bronx, to develop a curriculum that incorporated art-making with reading and writing lessons for students classified as academically or emotionally “at risk.” Rollins told his students on that first day, “Today we are going to make art, but we are also going to make history.” Together, Rollins and his students developed a collaborative strategy that combined lessons in reading and writing with the production of works of art. In a process they call “jammin’,” Rollins or one of the students read aloud from the selected text while the other members drew, relating the stories to their own experiences. Their signature style was born as Rollins and K.O.S.—Kids of Survival— began producing works of art directly on the pages of these books, cut out and laid in a grid on canvas. The collaboration between Rollins and his students soon outgrew the classroom. Frustrated with the strictures of the public school system, Rollins opened the Art and Knowledge Workshop, an after-school program in a community center five blocks from P.S. 52. After teaching, Rollins would meet K.O.S. members at the workshop; homework would be done and art would be made. In 1987, Rollins and K.O.S. implemented a traveling workshop to spread the ideas and inspiration behind their project beyond the South Bronx. He died in 2017.
Michael Rutherford, Teaching Artist and poet, flew his own hot air balloon, taught at-risk teens film-making, and spear-headed Dial-A-Poem in Albany where callers could hear a new recorded poem being read to them each day. Michael Rutherford later founded and directed Alternative Literary Programs in the Schools (ALPS) and for over 25 years he brought writers in residence into schools throughout New York State. He was the co-founder and for co-editor for twelve years of the arts in education newsletter, Artists with Class. He was the author of countless stories and poems, including his 1973 poetry collection Meat is My Business, his 1986 fantasy novella The Tale and Its Master, and the 1990 follow-up of Infinite Kingdoms. He died in 2014.
Luvon Sheppard has always played an active leadership role in the Rochester, New York arts community. In 1970 he became the University of Rochester Memorial Art Gallery’s first Neighborhood Affairs Coordinator. He was instrumental in the creation of the All Of Us Workshop, a groundbreaking organization created to provide community art classes. He also worked as an artist in Rochester schools. He is a faculty member of Rochester Institute of Technology’s School of Art and Design. He is known for his watercolor street scenes and portraits of local African-American heroes, including Frederick Douglass, Garth Fagan, and community activist Mildred Johnson. His work is in many permanent collections, including the Memorial Art Gallery, the City of Rochester, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, the University of Seoul, South Korea, the Henrietta School District, the Rochester Institute of Technology, the Rochester Savings Bank, and Garth Fagan Dance, and many other institutions.
Judith Tannenbaum taught poetry at San Quentin in the 1980’s through California’s Arts in Corrections. Her Disguised as a Poem: My Years Teaching Poetry at San Quentin and By Heart: Poetry, Prison, and Two Lives, a two person memoir written by her former student, Spoon Jackson classics. She is also the author of Manual for Artists Working in Prisons. She has taught in urban, rural, and suburban public schools in California. She has also served as the training coordinator for San Francisco’s WritersCorps.
Agnes Wilcox was a major force on the St. Louis theater scene for years. In the 1980s, she founded The New Theatre — known as TNT — which concentrated on contemporary plays. It quickly established itself in the burgeoning “off-Broadway” movement in St. Louis. When TNT folded in 1999, Agnes Wilcox turned her full attention to theater performed, and sometimes created, by incarcerated men, women and youth. She charted new territory in St Louis with both. Her work with Prison Performing Arts brought her wide recognition. In 2015, the St. Louis Theater Circle gave her its special award for the body of her work, and in 2016 the Arts and Education Council of Greater St. Louis gave her its award for lifetime achievement. The acclaimed Prison Performing Arts program drew national attention when NPR’s “This American Life” devoted an entire show to production of “Hamlet” at the Missouri Eastern Correctional Facility in Pacific. She retired from Prison Performing Arts in 2016 and served as artistic director at Bread & Roses of Missouri at the time of her death in 2017.
In 2006 Bill Zavatsky wrote in The Poetry Foundation on holding it all together to make a living as a writer in the schools and also be a publisher and writer http://www.poetryfoundation.org/harriet/2006/08/journal-day-one-13/ “The only population groups that I haven’t served are the unborn and the dead, and there must be ways for a poet to get to them!” He became a teacher and taught at Trinity School in Manhattan for twenty-four years http://www.poetryfoundation.org/harriet/2006/08/journal-day-two-13/. He did not think he ever would have become a teacher were it not for the poet in the schools programs, “programs founded on the fact that you were a writer.” In the seventies and eighties, Bill Zavatsky directed the publication efforts of SUN, an independent literary press, bringing out thirty-five titles as well as several issues of SUN magazine and a two-shot specialty publication called Roy Rogers. He is the author of two books of poems, Where X Marks the Spot and Theories of Rain and Other Poems, two volumes of translation (Valery Larbaud and André Breton), and has published his work in many magazines and in anthologies, including The Face of Poetry, Up Late: American Poetry Since 1970, and The Jazz Poetry Anthology. His poems have served as liner notes for recordings by jazz pianists Bill Evans and Marc Copland. He has been a musician since childhood and specializes in jazz piano and the blues.