Why did you become a teaching artist?
I have always experienced my world as an artist. Patterns, contrasts, symbols, etc. have always presented as salient features in my daily living. Since my early years I have been highly kinesthetic and have discerned rhythms from everyday auditory experiences. Following and developing these natural inclinations was an intuitive process that resulted in me becoming a taiko drummer and a multi-media performance artist. Doing so enables me to integrate my writing, drumming, collage work, dance/movement, storytelling, theatre/improvisation, music, and installation art. Sharing these skills with others as a teaching artist became a natural extension of my creative work; I structure creative opportunities and make them available to those who don’t necessarily identify as artists.
What do you enjoy most about your art?
I learned to read at the age of four and was reading young adult chapter books as a first grader. While my peers were learning to read, my teacher would invite me to go to the school library and encouraged me to explore a wide range of literature. As a result, my head was filled with stories and I began creating, playing and directing my early “work.”
My interior landscape continues to be a vast terrain filled with a rich array of ideas. As I have matured and aged, these creative tools have effectively provided me tools to process life experiences. In 2001, I created a one-woman show that explored the untimely death of my father; the work was presented at an experimental venue in Chicago. I also co-created a feature-length multi-media performance entitled A Safe Place Re-membered that used collage, dance, writing and theatre to tell the journey from trauma to empowerment; the piece was presented at the Fort Wayne Survivor’s Rights Rally in 1997.
I am now the founding Director of Fort Wayne Taiko, the first performing taiko group in Indiana. Based on Japanese tradition, this drumming and movement ensemble has provided Northeast/Central Indiana and the surrounding region with classes, workshops and performances since 2000. As a drummer, rhythms play in my head on a more or less ongoing basis. Since taiko is a mind-body form, this practice frequently involves movement and draws some unusual and curious attention from bystanders. Taiko and multi-media performance art is no longer something I do, it’s a way of being in the world. I do art because it’s fun, but I am an artist because I am. It’s become a personal demographic, like being a Caucasian, middle-aged female or a Midwestern American. It just is.
What is your favorite thing about being a teaching artist?
I work as an artist in residence at various schools teaching drumming and creative movement classes. There is great joy in empowering others with the tools and concepts for creative expression. These explorations of artistic skills are supported by a range of life skills: focus, risk-taking, observation, listening, communication, teamwork, and commitment. Being a teaching artist is not just about teaching others to create art, it’s about learning together how to be in relationship with ourselves, each other and the world.
Like most things that are meaningful, “doing” taiko as a job requires more than just showing up and drumming or just showing up and teaching; it requires an investment, an extension of self. Fort Wayne Taiko presents its Tanoshi performance as part of the Arts for Learning roster. This show was created and customized specifically for Arts for Learning audiences. Performed by four drummers playing three chu daikos and a shime, the show includes an array of traditional taiko songs mixed with some original material, including a theatrical sound story of the Japanese folk tale of how taiko was born. The show also gives students a chance to play the drums, introduces basic taiko technique and language and teaches them to count from 1 to 8 in Japanese. The show can be adapted in the moment to appeal to kindergarteners or high schoolers.
After a Tanoshi taiko show at a middle school, a student approached me to ask how I became a taiko drummer. We spoke briefly and as she walked away I heard her say to a friend, “I want to be a taiko drummer when I grow up!” That morning she had never heard of taiko. A few hours later, she was sculpting a vision of her future self as a drummer, as an artist, as a woman. Whether she accomplishes it or not isn’t the point; her psyche now recognizes the possibility. Mission accomplished.
Allison has taught movement/rhythm programs as an outreach artist at the Fort Wayne Dance Collective for over 25 years. She is the founding Director of Fort Wayne Taiko (a drumming and movement ensemble based on Japanese tradition) and is the Director of the University of Saint Francis’ Jesters, a performing arts program for people with intellectual/developmental disabilities. Allison was a featured artist in Arts United of Greater Fort Wayne’s 2014 and 2015 fundraising campaign and received an individual artist grant from the Indiana Arts Commission in 2013. She has a Master of Arts in Movement Therapy (Columbia College Chicago).
Allison can be contacted by phone at 260-750-4838 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.