This essay aspires to trace briefly the history of teaching artistry.
Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach—according to George Bernard Shaw, who also wrote that he never learned anything from a teacher, he taught himself everything; so maybe GBS had a little ax to grind. He got it quite wrong—the truth is that those who can do two things well, at the same time, in almost any setting, are teaching artists.
“A teaching artist is a practicing professional artist with the complementary skills, curiosities and sensibilities of an educator, who can effectively engage a wide range of people in learning experiences in, through, and about the arts.” I have read a dozen other definitions that are at least as good, and have written more than a few myself. Some people think that the lack of a consensus definition demonstrates weakness in the field; perhaps so, but please show me the consensus definitions of “creativity,” “teacher,” and “friend.” Part of the challenge of defining the role is its essential hybridity—it is neither one role nor the other, but intentionally both. In an economy of specific job titles, traditional silos, and government employment coding, this makes teaching artistry inconvenient to categorize, until the world catches up to recognize the new category. It is worth noting that surveys show that its two component professions—teachers and artists—are both held in low to moderate esteem in the U.S. public eye, or at least not in high regard.