By Bree Sargent, Education Director, Acadiana Center for the Arts
Originally published in Acadiana Profile on 06/01/2022
There are so many reasons to love you, Acadiana. I love the food and the festivals (I’ve danced my heart out at several recently). I love the natural beauty that surrounds us, and of course I love the people. But for me, it’s arts and culture that are especially rich here. Our artistic history runs deep, through music, dance, visual arts, theater, poetry and creative writing, culinary talents and so much more. Arts and culture have a long history in Acadiana, and I know that it will continue to thrive because of the rich community of artists who not only must make art, but also seek to pass it along.
Passing on traditions is something deeply ingrained in our culture — we hand down recipes and share stories and family photos. From the families of Cajun and Zydeco musicians passing their musical styles from generation to generation, to fine artisans who apprentice themselves to learn an art form, this community is rich with teachers.
This practice is hidden in plain sight in our public schools, where professional artists work to teach children in, through and about the arts. Through a decades-long partnership between Acadiana Center for the Arts and Lafayette Parish School System (and more recently with St. Landry and Vermilion Parish schools), practicing artists work in classrooms teaching children of all ages. Local musicians who perform on stages around the world spend their days teaching music to students in our public schools. Visual artists and dancers integrate their art forms into academic subjects, bringing science and math to life for young students, engaging them in new ways and making learning exciting.
When children learn the arts, they don’t just learn to draw or dance or play an instrument. They learn creativity, confidence, problem-solving, perseverance, focus, non-verbal communication, collaboration, receiving constructive feedback, dedication and accountability.
I feel so fortunate that this is the work I am immersed in every day. I am surrounded by excellent, passionate teachers who began their careers as artists and who have found an additional path, passing on what they love to the next generation. These teaching artists give their all, creating engaging lessons that give students the opportunity to make choices and to take an active role in their own learning.
For these teachers, this isn’t just a job but a calling — something that inspires their own work as practicing artists.
That’s why I know that this rich, artistic culture in Acadiana is here to stay. This community of teaching artists has grown in so many ways. They feed the souls of their students and themselves and have found real meaning in this work. They add to the beauty and continuity of Acadiana, and for that, I am ever grateful.
Bree Sargent is the education director at Acadiana Center for the Arts. Her other passion is baking beautiful and delicious desserts to share. Born in New Iberia, she lives in Lafayette with her husband.
To learn more about the Teaching Artist Program, head to this link.