When Art Speaks: Talma Shultz’s Innovative Approach to Circle Integration

In a transformative presentation, Talma Shultz, with the support of co-presenter Penny S. Bryan, delved into the profound relationship between the arts and circle practices. Drawing on the profound insight of John Dewey – “If all meanings could adequately be expressed in words, the arts of music or painting would not exist.” – the duo presented a compelling case for the integration of arts into circles.

Talma Shultz, a seasoned educator with a staggering 25 years of experience, has always championed the symbiosis of various disciplines. Her expertise lies in amalgamating neuroscience, psychology, pedagogy, and the arts, always with an unwavering focus on equity and inclusion. Her experience mirrors this approach, having spent years leading youth leadership workshops and developing curricula that bridge the arts with restorative practices in schools.

Penny S. Bryan brought a complementary perspective to the presentation, leveraging her background in leading graduate leadership programs at Chapman University. Her recent engagement in editing two books on Arts-Based research, coupled with her eight-year journey in circle practices, enriched the presentation’s content.

Titled “When no words will do – Arts integration into circle,” their presentation delved deep into the nuances of how circles traditionally function. Circles have always been spaces where individuals gather to listen and speak their truths, often through words. However, as Talma and Penny illustrated, words are but one medium. The human experience encompasses myriad emotions and narratives, some of which may find fuller expression through art rather than spoken language.

Building on this foundation, they elucidated how the creative arts are not just supplementary but pivotal in understanding and expressing in community circles. This isn’t a mere suggestion but an avenue that paves the way for stories, often hidden in the shadows, to find light, allowing individuals previously marginalized to be seen and heard.

During their presentation, Talma and Penny did not just rest on theoretical exploration. They ensured participants had an experiential understanding of their approach. The session commenced with music, immersing the attendees in melodies, allowing them to appreciate the unspoken narratives that tunes can weave. This was followed by an engagement with visual art, offering each participant a tangible, embodied experience of how arts can be seamlessly and meaningfully integrated into circles.

In conclusion, the duo emphasized that the integration of arts into circle practices is not about replacing words but about enhancing and amplifying them. It’s about ensuring that every voice, every emotion, every memory, and every truth has an avenue for expression. Whether through a melody, a stroke of a brush, or a crafted sculpture, the arts provide an enriched palette for expression in circles.

Talma Shultz’s presentation was more than just an academic exploration; it was an invitation. An invitation to reimagine, reinvent, and reinvigorate traditional circle practices by allowing the arts to breathe life into them.