By Leah Padow, P.S. ARTS Visual Arts Teaching Artist
As I child I was fortunate to have been exposed to the arts, which naturally inspired my participation in them. My mother is an artist and my father is very arts-interested, so we spent time together as a family visiting museums and art galleries, seeing plays, and hearing live music. When at home, I could often be found building sculptures out of Xerox paper and Scotch tape or making up dance routines to 80s music with friends. I was involved in my temple’s drama program (somewhere there exists a VHS tape of me performing in a Chanukah play dressed as a potato latke). I took piano and guitar lessons and song-writing classes. If I was interested in something, even fleetingly, I was supported in exploring it. Thanks, Mom! Thanks, Dad!
However, I must point out that my childhood arts experiences took place primarily outside of school. I attended public schools and though I remember playing the clarinet in the fourth grade (I had to beg to be one of the five kids who got sent out for music) and dancing the Virginia Reel, I didn’t have access to a sequential, reliable standards-based arts education. And I craved it in a big bad way. The missing piece in my education only became more noticeable and devastating once I got to high school where I was told that even though the school offered visual arts classes, I was in the wrong magnet portion of the school and could not enroll in them. So my parents and I proceeded to get me released from my local school district so I could transfer to another local district where I was able to take visual arts classes galore. Of the 12 years I spent in the public school system, the two I spent at a school where I took design, ceramics, drawing and painting, were by far the happiest time in my public school education.
In college, I majored in studio art and prior to graduation began teaching visual art at local museums and for a public school district program before going to work full-time for P.S. ARTS, where I have now been a Teaching Artist for over eleven years. I am currently earning a Master of Liberal Studies in Arts Development and Program Management from Denver University. I have temporarily scaled back my work schedule to part-time while completing my graduate degree and taking care of my young daughter (you shouldn’t be surprised to read that at just fifteen months her arts education is well underway).
What I love about my work as a Teaching Artist is that it enables me to begin to repair one of the deficits in public education. I believe my students – and all students for that matter – have a right to access and explore the arts in the schools and to become arts literate in a way that is on par with how society expects students to be proficient in reading, writing, and arithmetic. I obviously cannot change the injustice that was done to me in the first ten years of my public school experience, but I can see to it that my students experience the visual arts in a way I only dreamed of as a child. And guiding them through the experience of being a rigorous young artist gives me (and them) great pleasure!read more