Monthly Mentor

Jennifer Childress (April)
Jennifer Childress is currently self-employed as a curriculum and assessment consultant in art education. She is former Associate Professor and Program Head of Art Education at The College of Saint Rose in Albany, NY, from 1998-2016. Recent projects have included in-school, after-school, and summer art programs for urban youth in the Albany area, funded by professional development and service learning grants; and run by her students.Ongoing interests have included performance assessment of higher order cognition and creativity; mitigation/mediation of poverty’s effects on learning; planning for specific cognitive skills development during art learning, making, and reflection; and near/far transfer of learning through interdisciplinary thinking and connection-making. Childress was named the 2016-17 New York State Art Educator of the Year in June 2016. Click "Go" to read full bio.



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Friday 04.21.17

How did the lab teacher build in opportunities for students to experience Kngwarreye’s approach to making art?

From: Jennifer Childress

In M.A.’s 6th grade lesson, students were first introduced to Emily Kame Kngwarreye’s work through classroom discussion based on images of Kngwarreye’s work; art criticism questioning; and contextual information about Emily’s life, her nature-based sources of imagery, and the Dreamtime. Students were very eager to discuss her work and were awed by its scale. They had also just completed a week of ELA testing and were very happy to have an extra art lesson that day. The art lesson was held in the regular classroom, so after discussion accompanied by worksheets as a class, desks were moved aside and the floor cleared for work. Shower liners were used to protect the floor, and swaths of brown craft paper were (eventually) taped down. M.A. also provided demonstrations of how to use the paint, and she invited students to help with the demonstrations as though they were apprentices.

M.A.’s lesson was developed for groups rather than individuals, for practical and conceptual reasons. First, she wanted students out of their desks and sitting on the floor (similar to Emily Kngwarreye) as they painted on large-scale lengths of brown paper. This required them to experience the full body, physical aspect of how Kngwarreye painted, and prevented a sense of preciousness that often accompanies making art on small desk-top. Hopefully this would free students up for experimentation as well.

The use of small groups made it possible for the students to finish multiple large works in the allotted time period; timed sessions urged students to work without excess deliberation; and the collaborative aspect encouraged independent problem-solving and on-the-spot visual solutions.

Students were given one size of brush to use but were encouraged to experiment making meandering lines of paint on smaller pieces of paper before moving to the larger “canvases.” They were provided with worksheets This helped them have more confidence as they took on the bigger task. Aborigine music was played during work sessions to help create a rhythmic mood, and to hopefully help students pace themselves.

Required Criteria:

1. Students must work in collaboration with their group members to create a large-scale painting based on EKK’s work.
2. Students must create one group painting using a wandering line and all paintings must include an irregular pattern with shapes in between the lines.
3. Students must work intuitively, no pre-planning (like pencil marks) except for quick check-ins with each other; and no corrections of painted lines.
4. Each student must paint 2 starting lines from one edge of the paper to the other (this was to encourage working the whole space of the paper).

Student Choice: 

1. The group collectively decides on the type of irregular pattern to apply to their painting, based on natural imagery.
2. The group decides on two color choices.
3. The group decides when the painting is complete.
4. The group decides on how to proceed, after completing two lines each.
5. Individuals create their own interpretations of the patterns within their own working space, but must make lines connect as they move towards each other’s work.

Though the painting was to be intuitive, M.A. wanted them to experience letting “one line inform the next,” which required remaining aware of the whole (natural pattern-like) as each small part was completed. Most groups were able to sustain this kind of focus for only about half of the painting time; many got caught up in the fun of painting freely, and ended up making hasty scribbly marks. It was clear after the lesson was completed that the timed work sessions needed to be shorter at first, then gradually lengthened to accommodate 11 and 12-year old attention spans (on a Friday afternoon in April, after a week of testing, no less!)

Nevertheless, most students expressed great enthusiasm for this new way of painting they had never before experienced, and were definitely eager to learn more about Kngwarreye and her work, and to do further experimentation. One student, who was standing out in the hall after school to admire her classmates’ drying works of art, declared, “This was the best art lesson I ever had!”

The slides included in this post have been excerpted from the lesson portion of M.A.’s lesson PPT (slides 28-54). They capture key moments of this lesson based on Kngwarreye’s artwork and painting methods, and include pictures of student work in progress.

In the full version of the PPT, the lab teacher includes her formative and summative assessment methods, evaluates the student work to note what students understood and struggled with; and evaluates her planning and instruction after completion (the full PPT in PDF form can be downloaded here).

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Wednesday 04.19.17

What guides the selection of an artist’s thinking and working processes, and contextual information for a lesson based on that artist’s work?

From: Jennifer Childress

In this lesson on Emily Kame Kngwarreye, the lab teacher (M.A.) and I dug into a range of sources to learn about Kngwarreye. Her life experiences, imagery, inspiration, and cultural cosmology deeply informed Kngwarreye’s working methods and artistic outcomes – indeed they were inseparably intertwined with how she created her art. In Emily’s words, they were “Whole lot. The whole lot.”

The question the lab teacher had to wrestle with was how much could our students understand, and could they (or even should they try to) produce work that was informed by ideas from that belief system, without being disrespectful, duplicative, and/or shallow. Since this was a short lesson, the opportunity for 6th graders to learn about Aboriginal Dreamtime and Dreamings was limited. Fortunately, they had just completed a previous art lesson from another lab teacher on a different contemporary Aboriginal artist, Lin Onus, and already had some background on Aboriginal belief systems, the terrible treatment of Aboriginals in Australia, and their long struggle to gain civil rights. Even with this background, however, students had difficulty grasping the concept of Dreamtime as a past and present force, essential to the cultural life of Aborigines. It is such a non-Western concept that even we as teachers could only understand so much. That meant the struggle to understand, and why it was so hard would need to be discussed with students too.

Through our discussions, M.A. and I decided that Kngwarreye’s attitude towards sharing her art and teaching others about her culture provided an opening for this lesson to take place; and she would choose nature as a “neutral” source of imagery for the students. Kngwarreye saw the natural patterns and formations on the earth’s surface as visual evidence of her cosmology; nature could be an inspirational source for students from many different cultural backgrounds. Our lab school was a small urban Catholic school, which served a very diverse international population of students, not all of whom practiced Catholicism. The school’s curriculum encouraged learning about other religions and belief systems as well.

The slides included in this post have been excerpted from the research portion of M.A.’s lesson PPT. They capture much of the research that informed her lesson and eventual choices of working processes (the full PPT in PDF form can be downloaded here). It’s important to note that our research was much broader than what was selected for the PPT; the bibliography on slides 25-27 of the downloaded version provide many accessible sources for further exploration.

The lesson itself (starting on slide 28), contains a further reduced selection of contextual information – enough to help students grasp an essential facet of Kngwarreye’s work in the short 80 minutes they would have to learn about her and try out her methods of painting.

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The research M.A. and I did together uncovered many topics that would have informed a much lengthier exploration of Kngwarreye’s life and work, suitable for an older grade level. What wasn’t included in her lesson PPT are these “hot topics”:

 - The ancient roots – over 40,000 years – of Aboriginal culture and the renewal of that culture in the second half of the 20th Century.

- A deeper view into several centuries (including the 20th) of colonialism, labor exploitation, and genocide of Aboriginal peoples in Australia; and comparison to the treatment of Indian nations in our own country.

- Kngwarreye’s unusual background as a station (ranch) hand, an occupation she chose for herself instead of house servant, as most Aboriginal women were forced to become in the first half of the 20th Both occupations were little more than slave labor; but being a station hand gave Emily much more physical freedom.

- The wellspring of Kngwarreye’s work – interconnected forms of ritual practice, including song, music, dance, body paint, and sand painting.

- The cultural practice of using dots to cover sacred or sustaining information in art, not meant for the uninitiated (especially whites). 

- A more in depth review of Kngwarreye’s artistic background, her multiple and innovative painting styles spontaneously developed as new media were provided, and some comparison to Western art and artists. 

- The issue of ownership of Aboriginal artworks, the positive and negative effects of commercialization and fame on Aboriginal artists, including Kngwarreye; and once famous, the resulting claim of kinship to Emily by many who actually were not related by totem or blood. 

- Kngwarreye’s ambidextrous artistry, and the impact of a stroke late in life that changed her technique, her palette, and her imagery.

Sources for these topics are included in the bibliography.


Monday 04.10.17

What is the artist’s process, what do we learn from it, and how do we teach it?

From: Jen Childress

In the art education pre-service course, Curriculum and Assessment in Art, my students had to select a work by an artist from a non-Western culture and design a two-hour lesson around it. The lesson would roughly equal a short, extended lesson that could take place over three or four 40-minute class periods, but it would be carried out in an after-school program at our lab school. Students were encouraged (though not required) to sidestep the most obvious examples and look at works by artists who combined long-standing cultural traditions with contemporary life. I wanted them to expand their thinking about other art forms beyond the past, especially when those forms were no longer practiced, and beyond the usual suspects. In this way, they learned to have a primary experience with an unfamiliar work, rather than teach a “canned” or pre-made lesson that so often loses resonance after too much thoughtless repetition.

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The Teacher Thinking Process – Building Up

I designed the following process for investigating any work of art that would become the basis of a lesson, but the non-Western lesson was the first time these students practiced the steps.

1. The first thing that my students had to do to make a deeper connection with the artwork they were investigating, was to simply respond to the artwork and be with it.

2. The next step was to “from the gut” identify 5 or so big ideas they felt were connected to the work, or that the artist seemed to be exploring through the work. The theoretical background for this step came out of Sydney Walker’s Teaching Meaning in Artmaking (Davis, 2001) and Wiggins and McTighe’s Understanding by Design (ASCD, 2005). To supplement, I created a handout on big ideas early on, and later added an article I wrote for the NYSATA News in 2010. After research, these big ideas would be revised and narrowed down to one or two, to guide the curriculum and working process in the lesson.

3. The third step was RESEARCH. Students needed to find multiple sources of information on that particular artist (when possible), style, culture, and time period; that particular artwork and its content; and what we called lateral research – any special media or techniques, location/geography, things featured in the work that raised questions and provided supporting context. Sources were found, read or listened to, highlighted, and then documented.

4. The fourth step was to analyze the artwork’s structure, starting with a graphic movement analysis and then – after narrowing down to 1 or 2 big ideas – selecting particular content, elements, and principles that seemed essential to the impression of the chosen big idea(s). In this way, the resulting lesson was sure to focus on how form creates meaning, rather than using an artwork to teach form or technique alone. And because I wanted students to reach beyond the traditional “7+7” commercialized list of e’s and p’s, I created a list for them to work with that referenced Walker and Gude; and summarized lists of design principles culled from multiple sources, which differ according to time period, author, publication, and/or institution. This list has undergone quite a few edits over many years of its use. You can find our 2015 Analysis Cheat Sheet version here. I first created this list many years ago when I noticed that my students lacked a rich vocabulary to describe the visual aspects of works of art.

5. Next, the students filled in a matrix with the analysis terms, that required them to build from simple to complex based roughly on Bloom’s Taxonomy. The matrix included a cell for special artistic working and/or media techniques; which should have arisen from the research. Later, as students designed their lessons, they would need to write questions utilizing a selection of these terms; the Bloom’s matrix would help them think about scaffolding the critical thinking process for their own students.

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6. The next step in the teacher thinking process was for the students to write statements that explained how the chosen analysis terms supported the chosen big idea(s) and were supported by research when possible. Research, however, could not be substituted for these statements. It was important that my lab teachers processed these connections on their own. Though guidance from their readings could help focus their thinking, without this step, students tended to substitute their art history/contextual research for having a direct and deep personal experience with the art; and in fact, at times did not even understand what they read. (Our program’s art historians also found a majority of our undergraduates and sometimes graduate students struggled with critical thinking; indeed, this seemed to be a college-wide issue in liberal arts courses).

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The Teacher Thinking Process – Narrowing Down

7. At this point, my students had to stop and consider which understandings – and therefore which terms – were appropriate for the age level they would teach and the amount of time their students would have with the lesson. “Less is more!” and “Break it down, then break it down again, then break it down some more!” were common refrains as they narrowed the concepts down to an essential core, that would allow students time to develop an essential understanding, and plenty of processing and practice time. They also had to select appropriate contextual/historical information.

8. Finally, they made a teacher example (or two) that investigated the big idea chosen, utilized the selected design terms, and integrated a few key aspects of the artistic thinking/working processes employed by the featured artist(s). This step was essential in many ways; most significantly it forced the lab teachers to think about scaffolding and sequencing of the key concepts over time, given their class’s age level capacities. But other aspects also had to be considered. We did not want “cookie-cutter” teacher examples any more than we wanted “cookie-cutter” student artwork. By emphasizing the artistic process of work, the lab teachers had to move away from making simpler copies of the featured artwork. This was also a difficult step for many beginning lab teachers; it was not unusual for them to work through multiple teacher examples in order to get one that honored the process, embodied the chosen concepts, and explored the same big idea(s); yet had a unique quality that signaled their own personal mental processing. Thinking about the choices made along the way would help them open up choices for their own students.

- An intuitively produced artwork (ex: Kngwarreye) needed a supporting lesson that provided a large working space requiring whole body use (no desks! Use the floor!) quick exercises followed increasing periods of time to work, a background of repetitive rhythmic music, and other strategies that would help students turn off their need to control outcomes and inhibit teacher-example copying; such as working in teams or moving around the large “canvas” every so often to work from different angles.

- A very controlled artwork (ex: Mondrian) would need a supporting lesson that emphasized planning, careful measuring, multiple steps, brush control, and an increasing sense of visual balance through exercises in looking and making small scale works with just a few shapes.

Next Post

The Process in Action: A lesson based on the intuitive, nature-inspired work of Emily Kame Kngwarreye

Kngwarreye painting  Delmore gallery
Emily Kngwarreye painting 'Yam Awelye', at Belmore, August 24, 1995 (Delmore Gallery)


Wednesday 04. 5.17

Aspects of Artistic Processes

From: Jen Childress

The National Core Visual Arts Standards place emphasis on the mental habits artists either intuitively or purposely employ in order to generate artistic work ideas and move them through a process of change to a point of completion. I am delighted to finally see these all important ways of thinking – artistic problem-finding and problem-solving – become the core of art curricula. Though some artistic thinking processes are utilized across domains, some are unique to the arts. Between art forms many processes overlap, but some are even unique to each type of artistic manifestation. My April posts will focus on the thinking processes used by visual artists and how to integrate them into lessons and curricula in selective, meaningful ways.

My quest to figure out how artists think differently began in graduate school in the 1980s while at Cranbrook Academy in Michigan (MFA, Sculpture). Although certainly my artist colleagues were quirky or subject to neuroses, most were stable, usually cheerful people who could talk intently about post-modern theory one minute and in the next breath, the tensile strength of say, steel. In fact, the artists I knew mirrored the general population when it came to personality types, but they did differ in some ways. We were always in search of new sources, new ideas and new visual expressions, and used each work as a stepping stone to another. Artistic work was a way to appreciate, investigate, and understand the world we lived in, even when work was political or dark. Inspiration and sources were wide-ranging and eclectic, resulting in an ever-curious mindset. Because of this open-minded attitude towards pursuing ideas across disciplines, I read what became a seminal book and inspiration for my graduate thesis, Looking Glass Universe: The Emerging Science of Wholeness (Briggs, J.C. & Peat, F.D., Simon & Schuster, 1986).


The first chapter applied Thomas Kuhn’s concept of paradigm shifts to what was currently happening in the sciences, such as chaos theory and related ideas. I became convinced that artists and scientists shared many similarities in their investigative mindset, and that there were parallels in art history and science when it came to paradigms and paradigm shifts. I sensed a larger whole that both art and science provided different, but overlapping pathways to understanding.

A few years after graduate school, I became certified to teach art K-12. Soon however, I ran into that pernicious, enduring public attitude that artists are crazy, that art is unnecessary, and that making art requires only emotion, not thinking. Of course, today we know that this idea about the separation of the brain’s capacities into discreet areas of left and right, rationality and emotion, is at best misleading; and that the brain’s networks are much more complex and integrated. Unfortunately, even artists and art teachers embraced that old left brain/right brain saw to explain the differences between artists and others. I thought, why does generation after generation perpetuate this myth of the insane artist - the other- the outlier…artists do think differently in some key ways, but they are still using their BRAINS not some other body part. They need alone time to work and think – but so do writers and scientists. They tend to be independent and investigate odd things and unusual connections, but so do explorers and scholars and detectives and psychologists, just in different media, so to speak. And truth be told, I didn't see non-artists displaying any superiority when it came to “rational thinking.” While the answer to why? has centuries old-roots in Western civilization, I knew I could not change such deeply seated beliefs. But I could find out and make public- through my art curricula, research, and writing what kinds of thinking artists engaged in, for what purposes, and when. Hosted by the New York State Art Teachers Association, the New York State Education Department, and the Harvard Graduate School of Education (featuring researchers from Nelson Goodman’s Project Zero), summer seminars in portfolio assessment, and work with NAEP pilots in visual arts assessment helped me focus on the generative, iterative, refining, and reflecting aspects of artistic processing during my career as a middle and high school teacher of art.

After I began teaching at the college level in 1998, I heard Charles Dorn present at an NAEA conference, and my mind was set on fire after reading his book, Mind in Art: Cognitive Foundations in Art Education (Routledge, 1999).


Several chapters investigated different approaches important artists had to developing a body of work. I particularly remember Dorn’s descriptions of how Jacob Lawrence spent hours in the library and thoroughly grounded his work in meticulous historical research. From Dorn, I moved on to writings on cognition and art by Howard Gardner, Elliott Eisner, Geoffrey and Renate Caine, Arthur Efland, Olivia Gude, Sydney Walker, and many others. I also collected published studies on neuroscience investigations into how learning happens in the brain, and when available, neural studies connected to creativity and visual art.

Artandcognition  Artsandcreation  Teaching_meaning 

The first piece I produced for my students to help them plan thinking like an artist into their lessons (and shared with fellow teachers in conference presentations), was titled “Aspects of Artistic Process.” The first version grew over time from about 15 traits in 2002 to more than 30 in the 2011 version. I’m happy to share it in this blog for fellow teachers to download, consider, provide feedback, copy, and/or share. Between 2006-2009, my summer graduate classes eventually expanded the list, and put it into a chart that indicated whether each trait could be categorized as primarily creative, critical, social, and/or emotional. Then we looked at curriculum and individual lesson plans, and using our chart, analyzed all the different kinds of thinking that were needed for each step or activity. My students and I were amazed at the complexity of thought, and the agility needed to frequently switch modes in a typical art lesson. We also used it look at dull lessons and analyze what would engage more student learning, and different kinds of student processing. I’ll provide that chart and an associated poster in a future post. 


The field of neuroscience is now producing study after study on how the brain processes creativity and even visual art-making, though music is still the subject of much more investigation than the other art forms. I’ll share some of those findings throughout the month, in the context of actual art lessons that include carefully selected aspects of artistic thinking, produced by my former pre-service art education students.  

Coming up in my next post: A 6th grade lesson based on self-taught Aboriginal artist, Emily Kame Kngwarreye. For an overview of her works, see a student researcher’s YouTube presentation (DatGuyMatt, 2016, February). It ends with Big Yam Dreaming (1995) which will be featured in the lesson.


Friday 03.31.17

Highlights from Georgia's YAM Events

From: Debi West, Ed.S, NBCT 


Installing the county Tapestry exhibit and the reception...


And the Nevelson Recycled Mural pics...



Wednesday 03.22.17

Art With Purpose

From: Debi West, Ed.S, NBCT 

My intro STEAM-based freshman students just completed their collaborative Louise Nevelson inspired Recycled Mural. From the very beginning, our kids were having fun considering what daily recyclable products they could use in their box to create a strong composition. This lesson is great in that each student has the ability to consider shape, line, balance, and variety and how their piece will ultimately work within the whole mural where 48 boxes will become one large composition! Students chose to paint the piece gold and the final work(s) are truly incredible! Their responses were wonderful too in that they not only created a piece of art for our YAM celebrations, they also thought about the importance of recycling and their abundant use of plastic that is killing our earth. Overall, this is a YAM event that I highly recommend as it brings art to the forefront of social learning – the epitome of our #artwithpurpose learning!

And while that was going on, my Art II students were working hard on their Memory Project works. This year we “art-dopted” 40 children from Bolivia and honored their identity through portraiture. Students enjoyed drawing or painting these beautiful children and later this week I will be packing these images up to send back to the children! This is always one of my students favorite projects because it’s when they really begin to understand that when art becomes more than just a head and hands project, i.e., their heARTs begin to play a big part, their work goes to the next level! All 40 portraits are beautiful, creatively, technically correct, and full of love! I am always proud of my students, but this YAM event take us all to another level of teaching and learning!

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For more info on the Memory Project, check out their website:

View a video for the Memory Project that my kids and I just made: The Memory Project - NGHS

Up next...the FUN Club concert, our county's Tapestry Art Exhibit images, and our 10th annual Relay for Life ART Auction!


Wednesday 03.15.17

Youth Art Month in Georgia!

From: Debi West, Ed.S, NBCT 

YAM – It’s beyond fun at this moment and my students are participating in some seriously amazing events including our county Tapestry exhibit which houses the art work of our top art students K-12! Gwinnett County (the largest county in the state) has close to 180,000 students so you can imagine how massive this 3 week exhibit is. There are 3 different series with 6-7 school clusters invited to each series throughout the month. Due to the convention, this is our week and our school has over 300 works exhibited – WOWza!


Once again, I was reminiscing of days gone by and began thinking of another great year we had in 1999 when Tricia Spencer and I were state YAM co-chairs and our state theme was “Tool Time in Georgia”. At our fall conference we held a fun hands-on YAM JAM workshop where we started building a collaborative mascot that would travel the state and metamorphasize as students of all ages added their marks! This sculpture, aptly named “Arturo the Traveling YAM mascot” left us in February at the state Capitol Art Exhibit where he was unveiled and moved to 16 schools across Georgia! He traveled with a camera, a journal, and a blanket and when he returned to us he barely fit in a convertible car and had a 10 foot wing span! Talk about a powerful YAM event! The journal documented all of the schools he visited and the thousands of students who had the ability to work on him. And that is what I believe Youth Art Month should be about…students working together in the name of art and using the process and the product as an advocacy tool to share with the community, the state, the region and the nation the necessity of a visual art education for ALL LEARNERS! (and by the way, Arturo was then bought by a local folk art gallery where he still resides!)

And now back to my 185 secondary art students and their YAM creations here at North Gwinnett…up next, GREAT YAM activities that my students are currently working on! 

View our YAM 2017 works.


Wednesday 03. 8.17

Youth Art Month - Art at its’ BEST!

From: Debi West

Our Youth Art Month activities are underway here at North Gwinnett High School!  We’ve been busy creating art, and my National Art Honor Society students have been extra busy planning our YAM community exhibit where we are working with the F.U.N Club (a non-profit that works with special needs adults to give them community opportunities) and promoting a concert complete with an art auction! 


As I’m working with my students this year, I can’t help but reminisce over past YAM activities I’ve done and how I got so involved with this wonderful event. After my first year of figuring out what this event was all about, I realized it could be as big or small as the teacher wants it to be. For example, my first year I created a large YAM box that my students could walk through to experience the different textures of art!  The following year I held a large exhibit showcasing every student’s art (over 1000!) and invited the community to come and enjoy the show. By my 4th year I was so excited about YAM and how it was such a powerful advocacy tool that I was asked by my state association to come on board as the state YAM chair, a job that eventually propelled me into leadership opportunities I could never have imagined. In addition to planning my school YAM activities, I was now charged with planning a state theme, state activities and a YAM booth at our state conference…and I was ready for the challenge!

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Our theme for the 1996-1997 school year was “Art Makes the World Go Round” which was the Council for Art Education’s national theme. I hosted a YAM booth at our conference that year in Macon sharing with members how they could join in the state fun and make a “deliciously successful YAM sandwich” complete with a brown bag lunch bag full of supplies including proclamation and endorsement sheets for their legislators, administrators, mayors and community VIPS to fill out, an idea sheet for fun and easy activities, bumper stickers to proclaim loudly YAM in Georgia and water bottles with our student created logo printed proudly on the front. It was a HUGE success and in April, as I started to collect info from teachers from across the state, I was amazed at the activities that had transpired! From our state Capitol Art Exhibit (which is our annual YAM kick-off event in mid-February), to  finding our state YAM artist and educator, to local art shows, art exchanges, student/parent art nights, we even had the Governor sign our official state YAM proclamation! I hired a newspaper clipping company and the articles came pouring in. As the state YAM chair I had the task of compiling all of this wonderful information and putting it into our state scrapbook for judging and imagine my excitement when we found out that we were the National Winners! Our Georgia art teachers didn’t disappoint and their submissions took our scrapbook to the next level with pictures, articles, activities and data that proved that Youth Art Month works to advocate and propel the importance of a visual art education for every child! I was asked to attend the NAEA convention that next spring to present on “How to Get In-Kind Funding for your State YAM Programs” and my life was forever changed. That was the year that the NAEA became a huge part of my life! That was the year that I met some of the most amazing art educators that have become dear friends for life – that was the year that my teaching went to the next level! 


I had YAM in my soul and it fuels me to this day – Art at its’ BEST!


Saturday 03. 4.17

March is Youth Art Month

From: Debi West

YOUTH ART MONTH! Our National Celebration of Art Education…how cool is that!! I’m thinking it’s time to get our YAM JAM’s up and running and start planning some super fun and super important activities to generate excitement for this event! But first of all, let’s discuss what YAM is…exactly. I remember when I started teaching…way back when…a friend and colleague contacted me and asked me what I was planning on doing for YAM that year. I literally had NO idea what she was talking about so she filled me in a bit and the next thing I know I was using YAM to advocate for my program and began creating local events that brought the community and my student’s art together. 

According to the organization that created Youth Art Month, this is what (and why) YAM is:

* The Art & Creative Materials Institute (ACMI) created Children’s Art Month in 1961 as an event to emphasize the value to children from participating in visual art education.
* In 1969 the celebration expanded to include secondary school students, and the Children’s Art Month event officially became known as Youth Art Month.
* In 1984, ACMI created the non-profit organization The Council for Art Education (CFAE) to advocate for visual art education.  CFAE coordinates the Youth Art Month program at the national level.


While Youth Art Month typically occurs in March, local and state events celebrating visual art education take place on almost a year round basis!  Events and fundraisers take place in schools, libraries, art centers, museums, and even state capitol buildings.

Youth Art Month Benefits

Youth Art Month exists to:

1. Recognize art education as a viable factor in the total education curriculum that develops citizens of a global society.Recognize art is a necessity for the full development of better quality of life for all.
2. Direct attention to the value of art education for divergent and critical thinking.
3. Expand art programs in schools and stimulate new art programs.
4. Encourage commitment to the arts by students, community organizations, and individuals everywhere.
5. Provide additional opportunities for individuals of all ages to participate in creative art learning.
6. Increase community, business and governmental support for art education.
7. Increase community understanding and interest in art and art education through involvement in art exhibits, workshops, and other creative ventures.
8. Reflect and demonstrate the goals of the National Art Education Association that work toward the improvement of art education at all levels.

Visit the Council for Art Education's website for more information.

Now that you all know a little bit about the history of YAM, it’s time to consider some fun Youth Art Month activities to do with your students! I’d love to hear from you and see what your plans are! Stay tuned as I tell you about some of our current activities and some of our past state activities that were super successful!


Thursday 02.23.17

Connecting traditional art forms to contemporary practices

From: Dr. Patty Bode

My final blog posting as the February Monthly Mentor continues my effort to counter Islamophobia through art education by encouraging the study of contemporary artists who draw upon, extrapolate from, re-appropriate and juxtapose concepts and imagery from Islamic experiences and traditions. Furthermore, I briefly comment on the conflation of Arabic identities and experiences with Islamic experiences. Meaningful engagements with, and research about, contemporary artists and their work may prompt students to reimagine studio practices while expanding their view of these artists’ experiences, and move closer toward our NAEA mission to: advance visual arts education to fulfill human potential and promote global understanding. In what follows, I include work from several artists and collective exhibits, which may add to student perspectives about Islamic art and Muslim experiences in the overarching effort to counter Islamophobia.

The International Museum of Women (IMOW), now Global Fund for Women presents a global online exhibition Mulima: Muslim Women’s Art & Voices “from contemporary Muslim women who are defining their own identities and, in the process, shattering pervasive stereotypes.” This is a rich resource of artists working in a wide range of media, imagery, and contexts. The work of poets, multi-media installation artists, illustrators and more will add to your classroom resources.

Muslima Screen Shot

The American Islamic Congress (AIC) in Boston sponsored an exhibit and series of events titled, Muslim Women in the Arts Home & Away: Shared Narratives of Gendered Identity featuring four artists whose bios are linked here: Niloofar Ziae, Samina Quraeshi, Chaimae Mechtaly, Nada Farhat. The AIC stated that “The series aims in part to address a lack of exhibits by contemporary Muslim artists in Boston’s galleries and museums, a void that reinforces the perception that Muslim art is limited to calligraphy and rugs. In fact, Boston is home to a vibrant scene of stereotype-shattering artistic innovators from across the Muslim world.”

AIC-Boston-Screen Shot

My Whiteness matters. Through these February 2017 blog postings I have tried to demonstrate ways in which art educators can play an effective role in countering Islamophobia. Our identities matter when framing our teaching practices. As an art educator who benefits from the privilege of whiteness, middle class status, and English language dominance, and who realizes my childhood background that was situated in low-income, urban and Irish-Catholic culture in the United States shapes my perspectives, I have written these blog posts as a non-Muslim educator. These endeavors are framed with conscientious efforts to seek out, listen to, and stand in solidarity with expansive ranges of Muslim voices and perspectives, yet to also constantly realize my limitations.  Some of the contemporary artists I highlight here do not identify as Muslim, rather their art-making draws from Islamic art traditions, engages dialogue with individuals living in Islamic states, or speaks to the need to learn from Muslim communities.

Helen Zughaib states, "I am an Arab American, born in Beirut, Lebanon. I also lived in Kuwait and Iraq with my family, before coming to study art at Syracuse University in New York. Though I am an Arab American Christian, I feel that my background in the Arab world provides me with a platform to address issues that affect both Muslim and Christian women, especially after 9/11."

Commentary on Zughaib’s series titled “Fractured Spring” that responded to the sociopolitical experiences of the Arab Spring is provided in this 2014 article in Islamic Arts magazine.

See her website for list of upcoming exhibitions in 2017.

Helen Zughaib. “Generations Lost”. 2014. Gallery Al-Quds


Zughaib’s  work in gouache and ink on board and canvas “mixes familiar Western motifs with traditional Islamic abayas in an attempt to bridge East and West and confound predominant stereotypes” as explained by the Muslima online exhibition.  

Helen Zughaib. “Eye of the Beholder”. 2015.


Kehinde Wiley’s work has been widely acclaimed and exhibited nationally and internationally. His early attention to the African American experience and portrayal of the male black body in art historical contexts brought him to his international project “The World Stage.”  When asked how Kehinde Wiley selected cities and countries for the World Stage project, he explained: “The World Stage is comprised of what I believe are countries on the conversation block in the 21st century. Many of the reasons why I choose certain sites have to do with a level of curiosity, but it also has to do with their broader, global, political importance- strategically for America, and the world community at large.” See Wiley’s FAQ.

Pertinent to this specific blog posting is Wiley’s collection from that series, “The World Stage: Africa Lagos-Dakar. 

Since Islam is the predominant religion in Senegal with more than 90% of the population identifying as Muslim, the emergence of Islamic patterns in the motifs in Wiley’s portraits from this series holds salience.

Kehinde Wiley. Three Wise Men Greeting Entry Into Lagos, 2008. Oil on canvas 72" x 96".  From The World Stage: Lagos & Dakar.


Much has been written about the importance of Wiley’s work and its role in art education as a means to enter dialogue and studio practices that cross radicalized boundaries and indict art historical statements. There is certainly more to say than one blog posting may permit. I encourage art educators to investigate Kehinde Wiley’s work retrospectively as well as his current projects title “A New Republic” at his website

Cultivate broader and deeper perspectives simultaneously. Critical consciousness is required to avoid interpretations that would paint the wide spectrum of Islamic perspectives with a broad brush, and to make certain our students do not get misinformed messages that would lump all Muslim experiences into a monolith. In United States society, and by default in many of our classrooms lack of understanding about religious affiliation, political borders, national origin, and institutionalized racism can skew perspectives about Muslim experiences. A single blog postings is not enough to unpack all of this. I am constantly reminded of my limited knowledge, and constrained sociopolitical perspectives in pursuit of curriculum development that is socially just and politically relevant. As art educators, we need to turn to our museum and cultural institutions, as well as local artists’ collectives to continue to expand the dialogue.

This New York Times article by Jason Farago about The Museum of Modern Art/MOMA’s installation of works by artists from Muslim countries provides fodder for such dialogue.

Charles Hossein Zenderoudi
“K+L+32+H+4. Mon père et moi (My Father and I)” right, by Charles Hossein Zenderoudi, on display at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.


Also see LACMA/ Los Angeles County Museum of Art regarding the 2015 exhibitions titled Islamic Art Now: Contemporary Art of the Middle East.

These are just two examples of the role of museums and the leadership they can take in countering Islamophobia. These online resources provide fodder for art educators in every location of the globe to develop informed curriculum and dynamic dialogue.

PBode-Painting with student
I am painting with student at Amherst Regional Middle School during a discussion about art and identity.


Furthermore, I have written elsewhere about the necessity to:

Keep in mind the research of Gary C. David and Kenneth K. Ayouby, (2005) which articulates the following three areas of concern in the portrayal of Arab Americans in classroom materials: conflating, essentializing, and normalizing. Conflating occurs when ethnic-racial and religious categories that should be distinct are used interchangeably, such as conflating the Middle East with the Arab world. The Middle East includes non-Arab countries such as Iran, Israel, and Turkey. The League of Arab States includes 22 countries. Essentializing occurs when some cultural, social, or religious trait mistakenly defines all Arabs. Normalizing is a twofold process that presumes to “rehabilitate” Arab Americans (1) to become just like everyone else and (2) to embody positive traits. The problem here is that it is rooted in a premise of negative assumptions that fail to recognize the marginalization of Arab Americans by mainstream culture. David and Ayouby recommend selecting materials that limit their scope to address one topic at a time: Arabs, Arab Americans, or Islam, not all three at once. Materials that try to cover all topics tend to conflate or essentialize the groups. (Excerpted from Nieto & Bode, 2012, pp. 306-307, summary of David & Ayouby, 2005)

Tala Madani’s work is featured in this episode of art21 from September 2016 in which she explains her figurative use of men/male bodies in her paintings and animations. Her work will invite students to consider many possibilities such as gendered and intersectional identities, and choices of media and studio production.

Tala Madani. Grey shadows. 2014. Oil on linen. 40.64 x 56 cm. Pilar Corrias Gallery.


The work of  media artist, Walid Raad (Arabic: وليد رعد) will engage students in both sociocultural content and selection of media and technique. His experimental use of digital media speaks to a range of sociopolitical experiences, especially the civil war in Lebanon from 1975-1990, and its continual contemporary aftermath. See these exhibits and installations:

Walid Raad’s 2016 show at MOMA

Walid Raad’s 2016 show at the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) Boston 

Walid Raad. Screenshot from Hostage: The Bachar tapes (English version). 2001. Video (color, sound), 16:17 min. The Museum of Modern Art, New York.


This posting offers a brief glimpse of artists, museums and cultural collectives that may support efforts to counter Islamophobia through art education.  Keeping our own limitations in mind and explicitly stated will help us guide our students and colleagues to continue to ask questions about what we may learn. Through the study of contemporary artists who draw upon concepts and imagery from Islamic experiences and traditions, it is possible to broaden perspectives and work toward fulfilling human potential and promoting global understanding.


David, G. & Ayouby, K.  (2005). Studying the exotic in the classroom: The portrayal of Arab Americans in educational source materials. Multicultural Perspectives 7 (4): 13–20.

Nieto, S. & Bode, P. (2012). Affirming Diversity: The Sociopolitical context of multicultural education, 6th ed. Allyn & Bacon/Pearson: New York.