Teaching Art to Captive Audiences | Teachers College Columbia University

Skip to content Skip to main navigation
News & Events Header

Teachers College Newsroom

Skip to content Skip to content

Teaching Art to Captive Audiences: Rebeka Burns (M.A., Arts and Education)

Rebeka Burns (M.A., Arts and Education)
Rebeka Burns (M.A., Arts and Education)

‌Life before TC

If art can be liberating, Rebeka Burns came to arts education as her vocation by working where it is most needed: hospitals and prisons. Before coming to TC, she worked in two women’s prisons in South Florida with a respected local non-profit called ArtSpring. Earlier, while an undergraduate at the University of North Carolina, she had started a program to bring artists into campus hospitals after studying in a similar initiative in a hospital in Gainesville, Florida. A painter since childhood and an art major in college, Burns says she became less interested in studio practice than in “the community aspect of art, and its potential for social change.” 

Why TC 

Burns’s initial plan was to earn a doctorate. As a native New Yorker, Burns was drawn to TC because of its stature on the local cultural landscape and because it offered her the chance to explore arts education in non-traditional settings through a lens of critical pedagogy. She remains interested in the latter focus, but opted for a master’s degree after deciding she most passionate about working as a face-to-face educator where students seemed most in need. While at TC, she has interned as a teacher at the Rikers Island jail and worked with seniors at the Lenox Hill Neighborhood House, where she is now on staff.

TC Takeaway

For her master’s thesis, Burns interviewed facilitators of prison arts projects in California, Connecticut, Michigan and Pennsylvania. She analyzed how they conceived of their work, addressed its challenges, and reconciled their own feelings about the corrections system. She also expanded her horizons to arts education in a broader range of settings.

What’s Next

Burns now works as Assistant Director of Arts and Education at New York’s Lenox Hill Neighborhood House, but also recently started a non-profit of her own, Arts + Humans. Its goal is to help front-line workers in social service fields bring art into their practice by showing them how to run arts workshops, how to talk to clients and patients about art, and how to use art in activism. “I want to bring back to community workers what I’ve learned about art in communities,” Burns says.

 

Published Friday, May 1, 2015

Rebeka Burns (M.A., Arts and Education)
Rebeka Burns (M.A., Arts and Education)

‌Life before TC

If art can be liberating, Rebeka Burns came to arts education as her vocation by working where it is most needed: hospitals and prisons. Before coming to TC, she worked in two women’s prisons in South Florida with a respected local non-profit called ArtSpring. Earlier, while an undergraduate at the University of North Carolina, she had started a program to bring artists into campus hospitals after studying in a similar initiative in a hospital in Gainesville, Florida. A painter since childhood and an art major in college, Burns says she became less interested in studio practice than in “the community aspect of art, and its potential for social change.” 

Why TC 

Burns’s initial plan was to earn a doctorate. As a native New Yorker, Burns was drawn to TC because of its stature on the local cultural landscape and because it offered her the chance to explore arts education in non-traditional settings through a lens of critical pedagogy. She remains interested in the latter focus, but opted for a master’s degree after deciding she most passionate about working as a face-to-face educator where students seemed most in need. While at TC, she has interned as a teacher at the Rikers Island jail and worked with seniors at the Lenox Hill Neighborhood House, where she is now on staff.

TC Takeaway

For her master’s thesis, Burns interviewed facilitators of prison arts projects in California, Connecticut, Michigan and Pennsylvania. She analyzed how they conceived of their work, addressed its challenges, and reconciled their own feelings about the corrections system. She also expanded her horizons to arts education in a broader range of settings.

What’s Next

Burns now works as Assistant Director of Arts and Education at New York’s Lenox Hill Neighborhood House, but also recently started a non-profit of her own, Arts + Humans. Its goal is to help front-line workers in social service fields bring art into their practice by showing them how to run arts workshops, how to talk to clients and patients about art, and how to use art in activism. “I want to bring back to community workers what I’ve learned about art in communities,” Burns says.

 

How This Gift Connects The Dots
 
Scholarships & Fellowships
 
Faculty & Programs
 
Campus & Technology
 
Financial Flexibility
 
Engage TC Alumni & Friends