Leadership Academy Retreat 2012
By Jamie Kasper
On Saturday, April 21, 2012, a group of 17 alumni of the AEC's Leadership Academy gathered for a retreat at Touchstone Center for Crafts in Farmington, Fayette County.
The group began the day with coffee and conversation. Touchstone's Executive Director Adam Kenney welcomed the group and gave us a tour of the campus, including the blacksmith shop, which was in use. There is something really interesting about open flames, lots of smoke, and red-hot metal!
When participants signed up for the retreat, we asked for topics that they would be interested in exploring. Overwhelmingly, the two themes they identified were creativity and advocacy. We sent this article from EdWeek in advance for participants to read. When we returned from our campus tour, we debriefed on the article, which talked about the research behind students and creativity. Ellen Winner's quote in the article that there is "very little evidence that studying the arts improves grades or test scores, or that studying the arts improves creativity" got our conversation off to a lively start. We chose to focus our day on two skills outlined in that article: risk-taking and problem-solving.
After a fantastic lunch prepared by Chef Roger, participants had a chance to participate in a teacher-as-artist session. Adam and other members of the Touchstone staff facilitated a session on printmaking, while I facilitated a session in improvisation. In this session, I asked participants to take about 20 minutes to walk around Touchstone's grounds. We had brainstormed "sound" words in advance: loud, soft, short, sustained, stepping, leaping, etc. They were to listen and record what they were hearing.
After their listening experience, participants returned to the studio space and translated these sounds to instruments to create compositions. The most interesting part of the experience was that they started to experiment with found sounds, i.e. things in the room that you would not traditionally think of as instruments. For example, one participant filled a water jug with water, placed it in a sink half full of water, and used it to make different sounds. In the unpacking session following this improvisational exercise, participants talked about how it felt to take risks (by performing for their peers) and problem solve (by finding new uses for objects and instruments for their compositions).
Feedback from retreat participants was extremely positive. They said:
- "This was a ‘safe’ environment to share and gain support for our individual issues. Knowing what is happening out there is so valuable."
- "Touchstone inspired artistic creativity."
- "There was good discussion about creativity and advocacy; it flowed well from one activity to the next. It's always good to get back to why we got into the arts in the first place."
This is the second alumni retreat that the AEC has conducted. We continue to involve alumni in many different activities, including retreats like this. To learn more about Leadership Academy, please visit the AEC's website.