Monthly Mentor

James Rees (May)
A widely-known champion of the arts, James Rees is a passionate advocate for art education that balances theory, research, and practice. With more than 24 years of teaching experience, James currently teaches full-time at Provo High School, but he has also taught undergraduate and graduate courses in art and art education at Brigham Young University, Utah Valley University, and Westminster College. James was recently elected by his peers to become Vice President-elect for the Pacific Region of the National Art Education Association after serving as the Pacific Region Secondary Representative. He is a Fulbright Memorial Scholar, a Teachers Institute of Contemporary Art Fellow, and an Art21 Fellow. James has served as reviewer for the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities as well as the National Endowment for the Arts. He currently serves on the board of directors for the Utah Arts Festival, providing guidance on community outreach and educational initiatives.



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Wednesday 05. 4.16

Student Exhibition: Case Study

From: James Rees

One exhibit that my students created for display in The Attic at Academy Square (connected to our city’s public library) came about because of the relationship I have built with this organization. Over the years my students have regularly display artwork in this rather nice gallery within this building where we have held opening receptions, invited board members and parents to come see the students’ work. These have been well-attended events and have generated good support and served as a great advocacy tool for my school’s art program. 

Because of our ongoing relationship and fairly consistent quality of student work their gallery coordinator contacted me at the beginning of school and wondered if we’d be interested in tackling a show about the environment. I spoke with one of my classes and they loved the idea and proposed that we involved the school’s student body by having them collect all the materials we would use in the creation of the works. We placed collection binds around the school and received a variety of materials that people were going to discard. 


We found quite a lot of waste around the school- Everything from a tapestry made from discarded, worn out t-shirts, to a large amount of cardboard, which later became the frames for some of the other collages made from discarded magazines and newspapers. The students discussed, researched, and then addressed this in their work.


In every creation of an art display there are constraints of size of space, amount of money, and time to create. Collaboration becomes something of a challenge where students needed to learn to bend creative approaches with other people and learn to negotiate and compromise. 

IMG_7948 copy

This was a unique challenge for my students, and the student’s satisfaction with the results varied, but in the end the message about the environment, waste, and our role in those issues was something the students valued.  


I’d love to hear about interesting relationships you’ve created with local venues and collaborative shows that you and your students have created!


Monday 05. 2.16

Exploring Student Exhibitions

From: James Rees

I’m pleased to have been asked to be a Monthly Mentor for the month of May.  I love May, it’s a beautiful time of year and school is almost finished. But it’s also a very busy time of year with preparing students portfolios and working with my students in preparing artwork for exhibits. For the past few years I have had my students show their art pieces in various venues and since it’s on my mind, for the month of May, I’ll share the experience of exploring student exhibitions and helping students “Select, analyze, and interpret artistic work for presentation.” (#VA:Pr.4.1)

I have been teaching for twenty four years in a public high school of 2,000 students in Provo, Utah. I’ve reached out to form partnerships with businesses and venues where exhibiting art is mutually beneficial. It’s been a great vehicle to highlight the good work my students do and to explore new ideas in these settings. 

IMG_4189View from my school

I also exhibit my work in galleries, museums and other settings. In fact, I’m putting the finishing touches on a work for a pop up gallery next week. I find value in having my students refine their work in preparation for exhibitions but also being aware of the process involved in selecting, curating, and presenting artwork for a specific exhibit or venue.

My brother and I both at a faculty show at the Woodbury Museum 2015

Sharing my knowledge about exhibition or presentation selections is one way I have my studio experience inform my classroom teaching. I have noticed that the quality of my students work is more consistent in quality and more thoughtful when it is for a show in which they will be exhibiting.

Student%20showAisha and Haley in front of a display of their work at the Utah Art Festival gallery Space in SLC.


Thursday 04.28.16

Preference vs. Responsibility

From: MaryJane Long

During my past weeks on a cart, I have been spending a lot of time in the reading room.  On the wall I saw the following quote, “It may not be my personal preference, but it is my professional responsibility.” It made me laugh a little because it is so true! I asked the reading teacher where she found it and we talked about a training she went to and how she uses it a lot on her daily paperwork. 

I like the quote, but the more and more I thought about it, I was perplexed. I am a public school teacher who lives and works in the same district. My general personal preferences should be the same as my general professional responsibilities. However, in recent years, my preferences are in stark contrast to my professional responsibility. I support the Arts. I believe in a parent’s right to opt their child out of state testing. I know beyond a doubt that students learn through play. However, I am currently “Art on a Cart.” I must listen, help, and promote the importance of state testing. I need to make sure all students are engaged in the creative process of art, limiting creative play in art class. As a teacher, my view of education should be close to what is required of me. Why is it so different? 

Well, the answer to this question is simple and complex. The easy answer; I am not the person making the decisions. However, administrators were once educators, but they are not making the decisions either.  Who makes these decisions? In Delaware, our General Assembly comprised of elected officials from many backgrounds including business, transportation, law enforcement and education. These men and women are doing that they think is best based on their personal experience and the experience of their constituents. But, do they talk to their constituents or do their constituents talk to them? Maybe or maybe not…

Please share your personal preferences with your local school board members, local city council representatives, state representatives, and your national representation. Only when we all share our thoughts, vision, values and beliefs can our personal preferences become a part of our professional responsibilities as educators of children.


Friday 04.22.16

The Golden Circle

From: MaryJane Long

I was searching for something the other day and came across a few books that I read over this past summer. Start With Why by Simon Sinek was one of these books. Simon Sinek coined the term, “The Golden Circle.”


This circle is an excellent visual that illustrates the mindset and perception of people who will change the world.



WHAT YOU DO: This is a very easy question to answer. What do you do? I am an elementary art teacher, I teach grade kindergarten to 4th grade. My students have a various of abilities and disabilities. This is a question that everyone can answer very quickly. What do you do?

HOW YOU DO IT: This questions is a little more challenging, but still pretty answerable. How do you do what you do? I teach through personal experience, modeling artistic behaviors, discussing famous artworks. I use many vocabulary and writing to learn strategies to improve student comprehension of artistic information. Art teachers know how we do our job.

WHY DO YOU DO WHAT YOU DO: This is the kicker. Why do I teach art? Now, I used to say because I love it. Others may even say to make money. These are reasons that are actually results, not purpose. WHY is about your personal belief, cause, or purpose. Why do you get out of bed in the morning? This question took me awhile to figure out. And then one day it came to me; I want to be the best version of myself. Everyday I want to be a little better then I was the day before; not perfect, but better. I get out of bed each day to help others be the best version of themselves each day. That is my purpose, that is what makes me tingle all over when I think about it. This is my WHY.

I know that focusing on WHAT I do will not drive me to do my best, especially in the high-stakes testing, art on a cart environment I am in right now. WHAT I do will not carry ME through the next 20 years of my career. If you only think about WHAT, you will burn out and wish you never became a teacher. However, if you can find your WHY, and keep it at the forefront of your daily thoughts, you can teach for a lifetime.

My Golden Circle: WHY: I can be better, you can be better, our society can be better. Let me help you find the best version of yourself today. HOW: We will explore, think, reflect, respond, and create. WHAT: I am an art teacher. Come and create a better world with me!

What is your Golden Circle?


Friday 04.15.16

Have computers gone too far?

From: MaryJane Long

I was reading the Drudge Report, the only news I really look at during the week, and saw an article about a computer painting a Rembrandt. A 3-d printer loaded with smart algorithms painted a painting so close to a real Rembrandt that is was very hard to tell the difference.   

Have we come so far as a technological society that we can now use technology to create classic artwork from long ago? Technology can do, be, and make anything. We can spend time communicating to others without even opening our mouth or laying eyes on a human being. We can change ourselves into that thin supermodel on YouTube with a few clicks of a button. We can recreate any photo, any artwork, anything, including a plastic gun that functions. Have computers gone too far?

I remember a time, not that long ago, when value was placed in quality, patience, and specific skill. Today everything is more about quantity, speed, and reproducibility. I wonder what is going to happen. Will our society settle for copied forgeries? Will we settle for knock off items because they give us a cheap high in the short term and leaving us yearning for more in the long? 

I see it all the time in my classroom, students wanting that quick fix, unwilling to spend the time and effort to secure a quality piece of artwork. My students lack the patience to master specific skills to be creative leaders. Technology is and always will be a tool; a means to an end, NOT the end. Computers have gone a long way, when will the human race catch up?

Read more about the New Rembrandt


Wednesday 04. 6.16

Testing Season…

From: MaryJane Long

April 8th is a date that I have been dreading for a while. I am dreading this date because this is the date that I will start teaching art on a cart at one of my buildings due to testing. The school year is almost over and I have to rethink my planning, rethink my teaching, rethink by behavior system, and even rethink where I eat lunch. Why does my whole day have to change because of a test that has nothing to do with my class? I do not blame the teachers, the reading specialists, or even my administrator. I blame the system; the educational systems that I unknowingly helped create for my community, systems that focus every last resource on testing, including my teaching space.  

I am very fortunate to work where I do. The Capital School District is located in central Delaware, the capital of the first state. In November 2013, The Capital School Board approved Resolution 14-048 declaring, “That no professional employee in the Capital School District shall be placed on an improvement plan due to Component 5,” the student achievement part of our teacher evaluation system linking student scores to teacher performance. Resolution 14-048, with Resolution 16-109, supporting Parent Op-Out, reflects a change in community priorities. My school district has started on a journey of self-reflection. Hopefully, this journey will give my school district a realistic view of our educational system; currently one that is unequal and over focused on high-stakes testing.  The Capital School District is on the right track to finding needed balance in public education. Find more information at .  

I am an optimistic art teacher and I know there is hope for our educational system. Hope comes from within, hope comes from me; a linchpin, an indispensable individual in my community. Yes, I look at April 8th dreadfully, but also as an opportunity for me to create change. I have a dream that one day I will not lose my space to testing. So, I will proceed through April 8th and all the days after, observing, listening, documenting, and reflecting on ways to make “the system” better.

Please share any ideas or solutions you have found in your situation. 


Friday 04. 1.16

Am I Indispensable?

From: MaryJane Long

I am currently reading the book, Linchpin: Are You Indispensable, written by Seth Godin. This book was part of the recommended reading list for the NAEA School of Art Leaders. This book asks the same question over and over, “Are you indispensable?”, "Am I indispensable?" I don’t know. I am a mom, a teacher, an artist, active in my community, a morning walker, an American; an average American woman.

I don’t know if I am indispensable. Honestly, my life is far from unique. I have a family, a job, bills to pay, parents to care for, diapers to change, laundry to wash, and list continues. Am I indispensable? I would like to be indispensable. To be valued for my talents and not a clog in the public educational system, but how can I become indispensable? 

I have found that I already am…I am indispensable and I became indispensable when I believed that I was.    

Yes, I am the average American career woman. I have a resume that doesn’t fit on two pages. I have achieved many things in my life and will continue to achieve because that is want I do, but I never considered myself indispensable until now. It is truly a state of mind. 

Today, we have to live outside the box and believe we are linchpins. I know that I can create order from chaos, find beauty in disaster, and find comfort in times of great pain. I am an artist and these day to day, minute to minute states of mind make me indispensable. 

Being indispensable is a choice. I can go to work and go through the motions, never really seeing my students or hearing my colleagues or I can go to work and make a difference. I can say good morning as students walk pass me in the hall, get a student to really think and learn, or make a friend laugh. 

Every second of the day we have a choice to make. Do we go with the flow, blend in, and create no waves? Or do we stand up, create a light, and become indispensable in our community? I have made my choice, what is yours? 


Thursday 03.31.16

The Role of Humor in Teaching and Mentoring

From: Gloria Wilson

What role does humor play in teaching and learning in art education?

humor /ˈ(h)yo͞omər/
noun. the quality of being amusing or comic, especially as expressed in literature or speech.

“Like a welcome summer rain, humor may suddenly cleanse
and cool the earth, the air and you."

-Langston Hughes

When laughter is shared, it binds people together and increases intimacy. It has been noted that laughter gives the immune system a boost, diminishes pain, and protects you from the damaging effects of stress. To these ends, I share with you my final post as an offering of encouragement in the wake of what may seem insurmountable challenges at all levels of contemporary education.

 A. Hauter, 2016. (MTSU Art Education Student)

A recent Gallup Poll sampling of 900,00 students in grades 5-12 concluded that student engagement in public school is dropping; a new report on the state of America’s K-12 infrastructure reveals an underinvestment in public school facilities. When applied to teacher preparation, these statistics pose a challenge for pre-service education, which continues to face its own unique set of challenges. Green’s (1995) understanding of educational currency is just as salient now as it was 20 years ago. She notes: “Standards, assessment, outcomes and achievement: these concepts are the currency of educational discussion today” (p. 9). Kozol (1991) too, seemed to forecast the on-going deterioration of opportunity for those whose cultural/social capital does not match that of the dominant culture in education.

Underneath (or “above it all”) exists a set of influencers, game-changers and transformers--mentors--who remind us that through it all, we might launch our social imagination, or, “the capacity to invent visions of what should be and what might be in our deficient society” (Greene, 1995, p. 5).

What role then, does humor play in this “educational” scene?

Evan-Palmer (2010) suggests that there is a potency in humor; that there is a correlation/relationship between perceived use of pedagogical humor and instructional efficacy. In other words, use of humor instructional strategies deeply impacts the classroom environment and learning outcomes; humor affords resiliency for stressful situations (think: students AND teachers). I agree, when distinctly applied, use of humor is a game-changer.

The Tribe, 2008 (MGM high school students, Mobile Alabama)

Use of pedagogical humor has helped to launch important and critical conversations with and among the high school students I taught years ago (above); it has further propelled me forward in provoking my pre-service teachers toward critical conversations about the economic and social issues that plague education, and thus humanity. Humor supports my pedagogical eagerness to appear and reappear--to show UP when I am (and my students are) down. It also finds itself appearing in the midst of courageous conversations with research colleagues and friends (below). 

Research Meeting, November 2015

Research suggests that our use of humor evolved as a coping mechanism, necessary for survival (Martin, 2007). I agree and suggest that social humor activates teaching and learning, such that it builds a bridge between teacher and student and peer to peer. A student once shared with me that she had never witnessed any of her professors exhibit vulnerability in being able to laugh at themselves. I couldn’t help thinking: what a shame. Students (humans) should be offered the opportunity to release the idea of perfection, to relax into discomfort and be shown that “failure” provides new openings. That said, humor might provide the breakthroughs necessary for any environment that inspires instruction and learning.

I have often been told that I hum unconsciously; that I am sometimes child-like and silly. I find it difficult to be angry, frustrated or sad when humming (try it!). After 20 years, I continue the task of teaching. Despite the daily reminders of assessment and standardization, budget cuts and worn-down crowded classrooms, I teach, poke, prod and press forward. I move back and forth between comprehending policy domains while also attuning to the the ease and unease of the realities of particular students, who live in particular environments.

 J. Shind, 2016 (MTSU Art Education student)

As I wind down my posts for this month, I leave you with this: the expanse of mentoring cannot be neatly defined, and as such, questions for how we might take up mentorship in a contemporary (art) educational landscape should persist. Using conceptions of compassion, identity, paradox, transformation, story, and humor are but a few of the possibilities for the creation of this inquiry. 

My final musing: What are the limits/possibilities of mentorship?

A BIG THANKS to NAEA for offering this platform for art educators to share their worlds and to Linda Scott for her welcoming mentorship and assistance this month. I truly hope that we are able to connect in New York in 2017!!


Evans-Palmer, T. (2010). The potency of humor and instructional self-efficacy on art teacher stress. Studies in Art Education. 52(1), 69-83.
Greene, M. (1995) Releasing the imagination. San francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Kozol, J. (1991). Savage inequalities. New York: Crown.
Martin, R. (2007). The psychology of humor: An integrative approach. Burlington, MA: Elsevier Academic Press.

Wednesday 03.30.16

Mentorship through Arts-Based Strategies: Affirming Embodied Cartographies

From: Gloria Wilson

How might mentorship through arts-based strategies affirm stories of the lived experience?

car·tog·ra·phy / kärˈtäɡrəfē/
noun. the science or practice of drawing maps.

story / ˈstôrē/
noun. an account of past events in someone's life or in the evolution of something

#tumblingbodies #academiccartographies (2016). WJB Gallery, Florida State University

"The arts are a viable means of challenging what representation means and how we, as researchers, might live in/with, make sense of, and show a mutual respect for our individual/relational stories" -The MYOA Project, 2016

For the better part of two years, I have shared a personal/professional journey alongside three women academics; significant moments along the way have required one (or more) of us to support/mentor each another through the victories and challenges associated with “tenure-track” pathways of higher education. This post focuses on the details of the first phase and evolution of our arts-based (Barone and Eisner, 2012;Cahnmann-Taylor and Siegesmund, 2013) autoethnographic research project.

Prior to transitioning into tenure-track positions at different universities, the common thread among the four of us was that we graduated from the same doctoral program in art education. Our physical movements tracked us toward four cities in the southeastern United States, and the aesthetic and "felt" embodiment of such movements emerged in our experiences.

G.Wilson (2016). #Blackademic

In the midst of inhabiting our varied academic spaces, we, as a collective of researchers/visual artists/educators began to consider the notion of “embodied cartography” as a conceptual way-finding process of shared (and individual) conceptual mapping and sense-making. The past two years found each of us provoked by our lived experiences, and through ongoing dialogues, we attuned to our varied, yet interconnected epistemological, ontological, and methodological movements while engaging with each other and with our new spaces.

Animations rendered by M. Wooten in ArcGIS (v10.1) using the
2013 TIGER/Line Shapefiles [machine-readable data files]/prepared by the U.S. Census Bureau, 2013 and GMTED2010 data available from the U.S. Geological Survey.

Our project draws upon two distinct, yet complementary qualitative methodological approaches: collaborative (collective) autoethnography and arts-based research. We imagined the potential for representation within shared scholarship through an ongoing arts-based autoethnography. Our inquiry engages this question:

How do we, a diverse collective of female, tenure-track assistant professors, map our movements individually, collectively and aesthetically through academic spaces?  


By inviting cartographic inquiry to include the visual arts, the "aesthetic" becomes a living discourse and relational event that brings together maker and observer. Embodied cartography as a theoretical perspective encourages moving through, engaging in, and therefore, entangling aesthetically with our human and nonhuman world. The diversity of factors shaping our lives as women, (spatial/bodily locations across time, for instance) has resulted in different expressions of these common themes. This framework acknowledges representations of corporeality in general (Harrison, Wakeman and Ogden, 2013), and specifically, racialized and gendered bodily inscriptions. As such, an understanding of “the body” necessitates that it holds meaning and does not and cannot exist independent of the world. The body is always in the world, of the world, with the world, part of the world (Mzerleau-Ponty, 1964).  

B. Hofsess (2016). #milk #heat #time

Our shared experiences as tenure-track faculty unites us in our research explorations, yet we also acknowledge how our own epistemological and ontological influences generate varied experiences within our collective.  With this awareness of the difference among us, we felt it important to specify the in, of, with and parts of the world our bodies occupy.  

S.S. Shields (2016). #fiveyearsandcounting

This arts informed and polyvocal methodological approach to collaborative research brings together multiple researchers through co-constructed yet ambiguous, uncertain, and sometimes contradictory perspectives of cultural experiences. Embracing a critical postmodern sensibility (Wilson, Shields, Guyotte, & Hofsess, in press), our approach preserves the individual voice while also exploring how these voices comprise a collective and dialogic process of meaning-making through the research process.

K. Guyotte (2016). #embodyingathens

Our work is informed by what becomes manifest in and through female bodies as they move through academic spaces. For our most recent representation of this work (see photos throughout this post), we turned to arts-based modes of representation to help fully realize the creative potential of our narratives.  


On the tails of the representative debate, the arts have emerged as a viable means of challenging what representation means and how we, as researchers, might live in/with, make sense of, and show a mutual respect for our individual/relational stories. With the fundamental understanding of experience as an embodied encounter and embracing the visual arts ability to seek out qualitative nuances, we aim to advance empathy, give new insight and share our capacity to engage with life. Thus, our arts-based research collaboration, has awakened us to openings of transformation of self/other as we move together, aesthetically mapping our journeys in higher education—an embodiment ever finding its way.

Musings for art education:

How might mentorship provoke art educators to consider and engage with the personal stories of their students?
How might students be mentored to think critically about stories that have been submerged? To make forgotten stories visible?


Barone, T., & Eisner, E. W. (2012). Arts based research. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.
Cahnmann-Taylor, M., & Siegesmund, R. (2013). Arts-based research in education: Foundations for practice. New York, NY: Routledge.
Merleau-Ponty, M. (1964). The visible and the invisible. Evanston Illinois: Northwestern University Press.
Harrison, K., Wakeman, S. & Ogden, C. A. (2013). Corporeality: The body and society. Chester, England : University of Chester Press.

Wilson, G. J., Shields, S. S., Guyotte, K., & Hofsess, B. (in press). Desirable difficulties: Toward a critical postmodern arts-based practice. The Journal of Social Theory in Art Education.

Wednesday 03.23.16

Paralleling and Juxtaposing: Pairing Paradox with Courageous Conversations

From: Gloria Wilson
par·a·dox /ˈperəˌdäks/
noun. a statement or proposition that, despite sound (or apparently sound) reasoning from acceptable premises, lead to conclusions that seem senseless, logically unacceptable, or self-contradictory.
Screen Shot 2016-03-23 at 3.35.40 AM.jpg
L. Leader, 2016 (MTSU Art Education student) 
“Human plights, though they may always express themselves locally in time, place, and circumstance, are nonetheless an expression of some more universal history. To ignore that more universal history is to deny the legitimacy of the broader culture…” --Bruner, 1996
As in years past, the 2016 NAEA conference (Chicago, IL) proved to be an inspiring event, including joyful reunions among acquaintances, exciting sessions and workshops, and wonderful museum visits--yet any observer lacking “wide awakeness” (Greene, 1996), might have noticed less, the black ribbons adorned by some conference goers. There were no grand overtures or gestures to acknowledge the presence of these ribbons, yet they were received and adorned by those who dared to take up a broader conversation; an expansion of a circle of concern of sorts. I was additionally impressed to notice a C2E2 conference-goer proudly wear (and speak to) the necessity of the “message” of the ribbon and the present and persistent injustices existing in our world.
Embracing the 2016 conference theme: Lead: Share Your Vision for Art Education, leaders in our organization have exhibited a noticing of a broader movement that has resonated in the minds of those who dare to take up the courageous conversations (Singleton & Linton, 2014)  through arteducation (Lee, 2012) and policy. My students have taken up the big idea of “paradox” and the role it plays in art education. In her journal, Lindsey (photo above) asks: How do we [in-service and pre-service art teachers] discuss delicate topics? I must say, she asks an important question. Scholars in education (Singleton & Linton, 2014) have aimed at offering ways into courageous conversations, and in doing so, simultaneously relinquish the comforts of silence and passivity. I applaud Lindsey and other students for their courage, to ask the difficult questions, to uncover and unpack the paradoxes, to reveal the “odorless, noxious clouds” (Greene, 1996). 
Returning to the definition of paradox, it may appear unreasonable to offer up a message of Black Lives Matter, as some perceive it too narrow a focus. Yet, considering the above Jerome Bruner (1996) quote, in ignoring a broader historical context, we deny what our present culture has become. In attempting to push toward a recognition of a concrete unity/equality of human beings, this movement has suffered misundertandings. In speaking with numerous parents over the years, I have yet to encounter one say: “I do not want my child to have the same rights and protections as other children.” 
I am hopeful that this 2016 conference gesture--taking a LEAD in the creation and offering of the black ribbons--will continue to do the work of not only provoking courageous conversations but also inspiring action
My question/s for this post are: 
How have you and/or others, as a contemporary art educator/s, addressed what could be perceived as “contradicting truths/ambiguities” in our culture? 
Bruner, J. (1996). The culture of education. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Greene, M. (1996). Releasing the imagination. San Francisco, CA: Josey-Bass Publishers.
Lee, N. (2012). Culturally responsive teaching for 21st century art education: Examining race
in a studio art experience. Art Education, 65(5), 48-53.
Singleton, G. E. & Linton, C. W. (2014). Courageous conversations about race: A field guide for achieving equity in schools. Thousand Oaks,: CA: Corwin Press.