Developing and managing an artsworker program
A diverse pool of professional artsworkers is an asset to any program for children and young people. Artsworkers not only facilitate high quality experiences for children, they also provide invaluable advice and collaboration. This section outlines the process for developing an artsworker program, from recruitment through to ongoing professional development. The information is also useful for those interested in hosting one off events/ artist led activities. Recognising that not all organisations have the capacity to develop and deliver an arsworler program it is essential that organisations consider the following skill and attributes of potential staff and volunteers that will work in their children's space.
While all Artsworkers should have some experience or expertise in working with children, their specific skills and knowledge may be quite diverse. Consider the following list of specialised knowledge that could be included in an Artsworker program: musician, painter, sculptor, dancer, dj, yoga instructor, storyteller, actor, nutritionist, drama teacher, chef, scientist, gardener, fashion designer, writer… Professional networks of artists are a good place to start however you may also find these skills hidden in parents, teachers or shopkeepers or local librarians.
Example of artsworker duties and responsibilities:
- Develop a series of engaging two hour play based workshops for children under 8 that are grounded in a specific art form or specialist knowledge and respond directly to the curatorial brief provided
- Facilitate and lead workshops in The Corner - the State Library's space for children under 8.
- Commit to ongoing reflection and evaluation of activities and report feedback to supervisor.
- Contribute to collaboration and peer evaluation processes by sharing work experiences, current research and professional reflection through online staff forum.
- Undertake staff briefings and professional development as required.
Example of selection criteria:
If you are the right person for the job you will have:
- Sound knowledge of the needs and interests of children and young people and demonstrated ability to deliver high quality creative experiences.
- Demonstrated ability to develop, deliver and evaluate creative projects by, for, with and about children and young people.
- Sound communication (both written and oral) and facilitation skills that enable active and creative engagement by children and young people in devised activities.
- Demonstrated ability to work in a complex and changing environment to deliver quality client services.
- Demonstrated ability to undertake research, analysis and evaluation.
State Library employees, contractors and students working in positions that involve child-related duties, are required to undergo Employment screening as part of the 'Blue Card' system managed by the Commission for Children and Young People and Child Guardian (CCYPCG). State Library volunteers are required to hold a current Blue Card before commencement.
More information can be found by contacting CCYPCG.
In addition to standard workplace induction programs, artsworkers should also be inducted into the philosophies and frameworks that guide your program. This could involve a group discussion around the effective practitioner attributes described in The Corner Toolkit. If you have volunteers in your program, be sure to include this element in their induction as well as the specific expectations of their role.
Regular program briefings provide an opportunity to share the conceptual and logistical components of new programs. When staff and volunteers have a deep understanding of the overall intent of a program, they are better able to align their own practices. The occurrence of briefings will depend on your program activities, however, getting everyone together to reflect and share experiences is a professionally rewarding and team building experience so should be undertaken as often as possible.
Here at the State Library, we roster a different artsworker for each day of the week. We have found that this provides a balance between providing a diverse program whilst also providing some predictability for visitors who like to know which sessions to attend depending on their own interests.
The session format you offer will obviously vary depending on the program. The following example is a useful reminder of elements to consider.
- Arrive 15-30mins prior to the session to set up materials. Think through your activity and spend time setting up everything you need- time put in now will save rushing later. Having a well organised and clearly delineated space also assists children to understand what is expected of them and engage more readily with the activity you have organised.
- Introduce yourself to children and their families as they arrive. Let them know what is happening and answer any questions they might have.
- Round up the troops! Invite visitors to the activity area. You might find it helpful to show visitors what you will be making or the story you will be reading as way to get them engaged.
- While delivering the activity, stay mindful of visitors who may still be arriving - invite them to join in wherever possible.
- At the end of the session, thank visitors for coming and let them know about upcoming programs. Seek feedback from children and families either formally or informally. Children may also enjoy helping you pack up. (Sample feedback form for downloading)
Ongoing research and reflection is essential for a program to stay vibrant and relevant to community needs/ interests and strategic intentions. Provide structured time for artsworkers, staff and volunteers to reflect on their sessions and research additional resources. Forums and blogs can be a good way to do this as these formats also foster collaboration and peer evaluation.
From time to time, your pool of artsworkers, staff and volunteers will also benefit from professional development. This could be as simple as an opportunity to observe/collaborate with other artsworkers, staff and volunteers. Alternatively, you could organise an externally facilitated session on a specific area of interest such as story telling or visual arts. You may even find that one of your pool has a specialised skill that they could share with the rest of the team.
In addition to a regular program, there are often opportunities for one-off events such as author visits and holiday events. Keep your finger on the pulse for opportunities and state/nationwide initiatives. Examples include: children's books published by local authors, National Simultaneous Storytime, Santa Mail (a program run by Australia Post), Library Week, The National Year of Reading and Summer Reading Club.
Last updated: 23rd September 2011
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