When we talk about arts education, the conversation often focuses on the students rather than the teachers. This week we sat down with Michael Parrett, teaching artist and director of community programs at Craft Alliance (an A&E grantee) , to learn how teaching has shaped him as an artist and an individual.

“What I really enjoy is the making process and seeing what art does to kids who have never had experience with art,” says Parrett. “The change that happens to somebody when they’re out of control, and they come into the clay studio and they’re working with their hands, and they suddenly find this calmness within them – it gives me goosebumps. It’s really neat to see how artwork can affect and change individuals and communities.”

That transformative  power of the arts is what first inspired Parrett to join Craft Alliance as a teaching artist while completing his MFA at Southern Illinois University - Edwardsville in 2004. Thanks to Craft Alliance’s artist-in-residence program, Parrett has been able to support himself entirely through his art.

“The whole reason I’m in this community programs position is because of Craft Alliance. When I was in the artist-in-residence program, I was able to quit my [other] jobs and live off of just teaching.”

In addition to providing living wages, Craft Alliance’s teaching artist program allows teachers to expand their artistic horizons by taking free classes in other media. “It’s great because you get to teach and go learn [something new],” says Parrett.

“Craft Alliance is pretty unique,” he continues. “We have a great reputation everywhere I go. Most cities don’t have a fine craft arts organization like we have here.”

This month, Parrett’s metalwork will be on display in Craft Alliance’s Biennial Faculty Exhibition.

Your gift to the Arts and Education Council supports organizations like Craft Alliance, an Operating Support grantee, through financial and technical support, incubation services and professional development opportunities. To keep art happening in our region, click here

To learn more about Craft Alliance and the upcoming exhibition, visit craftalliance.org.