Teach MAM: An Exciting Partnership to Strengthen Arts Education Across Louisiana
Join Annelise Cassar Tedesco as she encourages students to
build community and overcome barriers through her conversation
and performance series titled Arts Strong
Community is one of the essential components of Louisiana. Louisianans are famous for good food, good times, and most importantly, good people. In today’s world, where emotional distance has developed amid social distance, we must prioritize building connections and community. Students need connections that extend horizontally to their peer group. Still, they are better when they become part of a vertically growing community, connecting with generations both younger and older than they are. When this occurs, and students connect with and learn from role models outside the classroom, they gain a broader world insight and learn valuable lessons from professionals working in the field. Students understand the interconnectedness of disciplines, grow in confidence as they form relationships, begin building a professional network, and most importantly, they gain strength from meeting new people and learning how every adult is the result of, or maybe better stated, is in the midst of a journey through challenges and joys.
Louisiana is a great place, but its people are dealing with and working to recover from many storms; meteorological, emotional, financial, and physical are just a few of the storms of life that batter the shores of our state. Many people are hard at work to rebuild lives and overcome challenges. Today, some of the obstacles to overcome are disconnection and isolation. Lack of relationships can be a barrier that creates inequity. Feeling isolated in life’s challenges that parallel an academic or artistic journey can cripple even the most capable and talented students. To prioritize overcoming these challenges, I have created Arts Strong, a series of conversations with guest artists who are passionate about joining with me to invest in the next generation and help them overcome life’s storms.
Arts Strong is a series of episodes where students have the opportunity to meet and interact with guest artists of diverse occupations, racial backgrounds, and artistic abilities who share their art as well as their stories. Episodes are filmed with a live studio audience and made available free of charge online, contributing to equal access to educational art resources across our state and beyond. Students experience an active learning environment that transcends traditional classroom tactics as guests share performances, pro-tips, joys, struggles and ultimately reveal their strength through their connection to the arts. These artists have weathered some of the same storms the students face in their own lives, and healing, success, and opportunity have been the outcomes. Their talent, teaching, and testimony are profound. Students learn about being performers, but more importantly, students learn about being people who can overcome.
This type of learning breaks down barriers and increases engagement in fundamental ways. Recently, one of my highly talented friends, who is black, came and worked with my students. When students were asking questions, one of my white male students asked with genuine concern if this guest felt like his career had taken longer because he was black. The grown man on stage was moved to tears by this young man’s concern and willingness to acknowledge the topic. He answered, “Yeah, I do, but I still go on anyway … Art’s purpose is to lift us above all of those things that would separate us; art wants to lift us above it and bring us together.” The student’s question foreshadows positive change, and the lives of young and old are changing for the better.
My goal is to help students across our state and nation by providing more significant equity of access to arts education resources. For schools that already have an extensive established network of art education resources, this series offers an additional outlet for enrichment and a way to build community connections beyond traditional boundaries. For schools that do not yet have resources in art education, this series can be a beginning to connect people to art and build connections with each other through art. In doing this, we work together to take down walls of isolation and help the next generation of future artists come together.
The arts can bring us together, encourage us, help us find a place of unity, and help us overcome the storms and challenges of life. If we come together through the arts, we can indeed be Arts Strong.
I invite you to join me in this journey to build community and help inspire the next generation.
Join the conversation with Annelise Cassar Tedesco and her Arts Strong series at https://www.twosistersoneart.com/arts-strong
Annelise Cassar Tedesco
Louisiana State Teacher of the Year, 2022
Teach MAM Music Ambassador, Louisiana First Foundation
Music Director, CHS Voices and
The Performing Arts Academy
St. Bernard Parish Public School District
Chalmette High School
1100 East Judge Perez Drive
Chalmette, Louisiana 70043