Denise Jones lights up the Genesis thread with hope

Hey, hey! It’s #FollowFriday – and we can’t wait to share this TA with you today.

Have you caught on yet that there are multiple threads in the TA Interview Series? In fact, there are eleven threads of connectivity that have been activated in the Series. Each state and the District of Columbia Director starts one thread that moves from TA to TA in the state/District where they operate.

Black woman smiles, wearing large framed glasses, a blue strapped tank, a gold necklace, and a white and pink feather headress.
Denise Jones during Carnevale Camp she ran in summer 2021.

Then there is the Teaching Artist Leader thread and the Teaching Artist Advocate thread. Those two threads bounce from a TA in one state (say Maryland) to a TA in another state in the region (say New York). We hope that through these ten threads of conversation we are growing our connectivity throughout the region. But there is one more thread –

The Genesis Network’s Thread

Genesis is a network for TAMA’s Black and Brown TAs who support, uplift, and give voice to all Artists of Color, especially those with ties to Africa by way of direct lineage, heritage, bloodline and/or experience, and have been impacted by any form of racism. This network was organized on April 21, 2020, when individual teaching artists of color were hit especially hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Genesis meets monthly on second Tuesdays at 1PM. In fall 2021, Genesis, with the help and support of TAMA members, wrote TAMA’s Disruption Policy. The policy aims to disrupt the systems of knowledge, wealth, privilege, and power present in the field of teaching artistry within the mid-Atlantic region and create an equitable and just arts ecosystem. It addresses three areas of TAMA – our website, our programming, and our organizational structure and policies. But, it’s a work in progress, and it needs your ideas, perspective, and feedback to be finalized.

Already TAMA Board and members are in the progress of developing initiatives that align with the plan.

Denise Jones is a Maryland-based Community Teaching Artist working on those future initiatives. As a proud Genesis member, she starts the Genesis thread of connectivity for the TA Interview Series! We asked Denise:

  • Why are you a teaching artist and what sets your practice apart from others? 
  • What is next for you that we should be keeping an eye out for?
  • What song would play to underscore your creative journey?
  • Looking back over the pandemic, what is the program you are most proud of?

Why are you a teaching artist and what sets your practice apart from others? 

I’m a Teaching Artist because I believe in the power of art to help deepen learning, empathy, to unlock creative solutions, and most of all, to remind people of the spark of hope, even in their dimmest hour. My work centers on equity, inclusion, and social-emotional wellness. The business of my practice is divided into three areas: Expressive Creative Art, Arts Integration, and Learning and Development programs for children, youth, adults, and parents. I’m also a youth development practitioner and a certified Teen Life Coach and pay attention to my professional development in many areas. I bring to my practice years of work as a consultant, technical writer, and instructional designer, which informs all of my work, in thinking about process and connection. What will this experience be for participants? What will they discover or reignite in themselves? How am I creating space for the lowering of barriers and creating pathways for connection? My goal is to help people reach beyond their real or perceived barriers and discover what art can do to strengthen them and their communities. We are better together, and art can be a wide welcoming bridge for lifelong learning and community building.  

What is next for you that we should be keeping an eye out for?

An upcoming project I’m working on to launch this year, formerly called The Freedom Project, now renamed Rising Sun in homage to the powerful hymn, Lift Every Voice and Sing, known as “The Black National Anthem” which is a pledge of unity and resilience of Black Americans. Rising Sun is a collection of multiple Brass Ring Company programs that examine Black life from 1619 through 2019, and efforts in surviving, striving, and thriving through a variety of arts and STEAM engagement. It’s multi-disciplinary and I hope to invite other Teaching Artists to work with me in delivering this project in time.  

What song would play to underscore your creative journey?

There are actually 3 songs and a poem that underscore my creative journey: Be Optimistic by Sounds of Blackness; the Navajo prayer, Now I Walk in Beauty; and Al Jarreau’s song that speaks to the long healing arc of the arts in my life, My Old Friend. The poem that sustains me is Our Deepest Fear by Mariane Williamson, “‘Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.” God has kept me.

Looking back over the pandemic, what is the program you are most proud of?

Description of “Rising Sun: 1619-2019 and Beyond”

If you are a TA who resides in DE, DC, MD, NJ, NY, PA, VA, or WV? Join the forum conversation for this blog here. TAMA forums are private discussion boards for TAs based in the mid-Atlantic and listed in TAMA’s Directory. It’s a great place for us to connect, share, support, challenge, and empower each other!

Black woman in dark shades sits in car seat buckled in.  Her hand with turquoise nails is positioned at her lips to blow the viewer a kiss.
Denise Jones shares her love and gives thanks!

Are you not a TA in the mid-Atlantic but want to connect with Denise? Check out her TAMA TA Directory profile. Learn more about Denise’s work by visiting my site or TAMA’s TA Directory.

It’s Black History Month but this thread of connectivity shines all year long! Support Black and brown Teaching Artists. Step 1 – Follow Denise on FB. Step 2 – Spotlight her on your social media accounts on next week’s #TATuesday #TeachingArtistTuesday.

How else to get involved in TAMA?

If you are a TA in the mid-Atlantic, check out our events calendar. Join us at our bi-monthly TA Cafe – First Mondays at 9:30 AM, and Third Fridays at 2:30 PM!

Wait a second, is that next week?

Yes.

It.

Is.

Check out our events page here to mark your calendar, and see you there!

Who will we spotlight next week?

Stay tuned!

#FollowFriday #TeachingArtist #ArtsEducation #Genesis

Know of an event we should include?

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