Jane Gray, newly appointed Education Officer at Tees Valley Arts describes the role of an arts education officer:-
“That’s great – I’m so pleased for you; what will you be doing exactly?”, is the response from friends, when I excitedly tell them about my new job at Tees Valley Arts. My career choice does seem to leave people a little mystified. Unlike friends who’ve gone into teaching, HR, law – no-one’s really sure what I actually do. The title “Arts Education Officer” tends to elicit the idea that I will somehow be teaching people about a particular painting or piece of music, that it is a formal procedure of ‘educating people in art’. Of course, the title can mean quite different things in different organisations; for instance, some arts education officers spend a large proportion of their time delivering workshops and projects as an artist. This will not be my experience, and for that, I am thankful.
My role is extremely varied, but essentially involves enabling children, young people and educators to participate in high-quality professional arts activity, enriching their wider learning. I am there to co-ordinate – to bring people, ideas and resources together to create a sustained and meaningful project which may otherwise not have taken place.
We are all aware of the tremendous job teachers do, and the pressures that are upon them; an arts education officer is there to support teachers – who want to add to their students’ learning, but simply do not have the capacity to organise such projects, which are more complex than is sometimes recognised. Matching artists to the needs of the participants is key to a successful and meaningful project, which is where our expertise in the arts comes in. The practicalities, such as arranging prep meetings, sourcing and contracting artists, finding the money, completing risk assessments and evaluations, reports to funders, problem-solving if something isn’t quite right are all tasks for the arts education officer; all things that take time, which teachers simply don’t have.
The shape and vision of a project is also crucial. The arts can affect non-arts outcomes in so many ways, and it is the role of an arts education officer to highlight these. The arts offer so much more than a nice print hanging on your wall, or a favourite band – they fundamentally affect our lives. Participation in the arts can build self-esteem, aspiration and ultimately academic achievement; they can help deal with issues in a creative and innovative way, and build key transferable skills such as teamworking and communication.
Engagement in the arts “…can change the way children and young people see themselves – even what they dream of for the future…” * and the role of the arts education officer fundamentally is to offer that opportunity to our children and young people.
* Source: Children, Young People and the Arts – Arts Council England Publication