Monthly Mentor

Elisa Patterson (November)
Elisa Patterson has been a museum educator for over twenty years. She is committed to making art accessible to all students and teachers by developing, implementing, and evaluating high quality and relevant programs. In her work with high school students at the National Gallery of Art, she has the opportunity to use galleries filled with original works of art as her classroom. She is most pleased when she sees students make personal connections with art history and art-making. Her background includes a B.A. in Art History and an M. Ed in Education. As a member of the Maryland Art Education Association, she has served as the Museum Division Director and more recently as editor of the online newsletter, the Gazette. In 2014 she was awarded the Maryland Art Educator of the Year.



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Wednesday 11.19.14

Get Them Talking: What I’ve Learned from Working With High School Students

Museums are in the process of change as they evolve from a model of ultimate authority and transmission of knowledge to one that fosters the collaborative discovery of meaning.  ~Carole Henry

Getting high school students to engage in discussion while viewing art in the museum can sometimes be challenging. Students may feel uncertain or reluctant to participate in this potentially unfamiliar environment. Although museums are different settings from classrooms, we are, nevertheless, still interested in the same things for our students.We want them to slow down and look carefully, to think deeply and critically, and to feel comfortable enough to participate in rich discussions. My experience has shown me that providing structured looking activities, especially those that encourage peer-to-peer interactions, can “get them talking.” 

To help students find personal meaning in works of art, we might start with a simple looking exercise called Think/Question/Explore (adapted from a Harvard Project Zero Thinking Routine). Students are asked to respond to the open-ended prompts, either verbally or in writing. Then, we discuss their responses as a group. As the quote by Carole Henry suggests, allowing students to do this collaboratively can be very empowering (The Museum Experience, the Discovery of Meaning, 2010). High school-aged students are generally interested in the opinions of other students and conversations in peer groups can spark their curiosity, leading to divergent ideas and questions. My role as an educator is to listen and strategically weave in content about the topic that builds on students’ interests, pushes thinking forward, and provokes new questions or ideas.

Another activity, textual analysis, asks students to connect visual evidence to ideas the artist has written or to quotes by a contemporary critic. This can help students be critical about written sources. It is always fun when the students either disagree with the source or with each other. When this happens, they are asked to make claims to support their arguments based on evidence in the art or text.

Sketching is another tool to facilitate close observation. I introduce it as a looking exercise rather than a drawing one. For example, students may do short gesture sketches while looking at a sculpture, and they are encouraged to move around the piece, looking and sketching from different points of view. Their sketches provide a visual jumping off point to discuss what they see. AttachmentAfter spending an hour or so doing these kinds of activities, high school-aged students generally come to the realization that they can discover a lot just by taking the time to look carefully and to discuss, ideally with a friend, what it is they are seeing and thinking about a work of art. By making the experience more social, we are able to “get them talking.

-Elisa Patterson

Wednesday 11.12.14

The Importance of Mindset

Let’s dispel the myth of the artist as creative genius propelled by innate abilities, and instead, let’s celebrate hardworking artists who spend untold hours and energy diligently pursuing their art. Throughout history there have been a number of artists who could have worn the “creative genius” label—Leonardo, Michelangelo, Vermeer, and Picasso. Yes, they excelled at their craft but they also thought outside of the box and advanced art (and sometimes, science) through creative breakthroughs. However, I think it is important for our students to understand that most successful artists have to work hard at their art.  

Recently I read Mindset, The New Psychology of Success (Balantine Books, 2008), by Stanford researcher, Carol S. Dweck. She researched how we view ourselves and how this can affect the way we live our lives. She identified groups with a growth mindset as those who see challenges as something to overcome in contrast with those who had a fixed mindset and see themselves as limited by intelligence and abilities. So what does this have to do with teaching?  Dweck cites several examples of students who were told they were good at something (the artistic genius), only to become unmotivated and, in some cases, failures. They were victims of the fixed mindset. In other examples, with the encouragement of a growth-minded teacher, students who practiced or studied would excel in their pursuits. These teachers didn’t dwell on what the student could or could not do, thus labeling them.  Growth-minded teachers put the value on efforts and the process of getting there. This will sound familiar to art educators as we already value the process as much as the finished artwork.  

Here at the NGA, we had the opportunity to host the second day of the NAEA Creative Industries Studio conference. This two-and-one-half day conference for NAHS students from across the country featured talks by creative professionals, workshops with artists, and visits to museums. I was particularly moved by the keynote speaker, Maria Fabrizio, illustrator, designer, and blogger of Wordless News. She described her work process: gets up at 4:45 every weekday to review major news sources, processes the information, formulates ideas into sketches, and completes a wordless illustration of the news story, posting it on her blog by 10:00 am. Then she begins her day job as a graphic designer! Maria Fabrizio’s work ethic and almost total immersion into her work exemplify what I believe is the life of today's serious artist.  

Photo.MariaFabrizioMaria Fabrizio from the NAHS Creative Industries Studio

Teachers are not miracle workers and there are “no short cuts” to achievement.   
It is our responsibility as art educators to place the same value of practice and hard work as a means to success as is expected in other disciplines.  

-Elisa Patterson

Monday 11. 3.14

Museums—Another Place to Teach Art

I am reminded from time to time that those of us in the art education world can forget that art doesn’t just take place in the classroom. Seeing original works of art in the museum can also have a transformative effect on students. I know this from first-hand experience because it happened for me during a 6th grade field trip to the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo, New York. We understand that on a field trip to an art museum there are other lessons beyond just learning about art. A recent study on the educational value of field trips conducted by the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art concluded that students not only recalled factual information about the art, but they also achieved high scores on critical thinking, empathy, tolerance, and interest in museums. To this day I can recall some of the artists I saw during my elementary school field trip—George Segal, Lucas Samaras, Jackson Pollock. I credit that visit to the art museum, along with the rich art instruction in the public schools I attended, as significantly impacting my career path and journey in this great field.

I have had the privilege of working in the Education Division at the National Gallery of Art for over 25 years, and for the past 10 years my focus has been on high school-aged students. I try never to forget my first museum experience when developing programs, understanding that it might be a first-time visit for some impressionable student. Art education is an evolving field. Today, we are less likely to lecture as we guide students through the galleries, and more likely to use an interactive approach. The new visual arts standards, released this past fall provide a set of guidelines for art instruction.  I think museum educators quickly realized that these new standards were building on the strengths of how we already approach our teaching. Learning about art is important, but so is creating, presenting, responding, and making personal connections to art. These have long been goals of museum education programs. And every time we reach that 6th grade girl or boy and see that look in his or her face, we know we have perhaps transformed the life of one more child.

-Elisa Patterson

Friday 10.24.14

Teaching Children with Disabilities

I hope you had a chance to check out the resources I posted in my last blog for teaching art to special needs children. Since 1973 with the passing of the Rehabilitation Act, we have been the ones in the forefront of including students with disabilities into our art room. I vividly remember when a class of children who were Severely and Profoundly Impaired (Life Skills) were introduced into our elementary school. I had never seen children with such serious disabilities, let alone interacted with them. As I began to teach them through art, I got to know their personalities, their strengths and limitations. It was  a remarkable experience that blossomed into the Masters in Art Education with an Emphasis in Special Populations.

These days more and more children are being diagnosed with a Learning Disability, Autism and Attention Deficient Hyperactivity Disorder and they are being included in the art room. We are the ones who are teaching them as well as a classroom of “typical” children. We are beginning to stockpile relevant information, share art lessons, and get practical information through articles, conferences, and graduate courses. Here is a fantastic site for art lessons posted by Lauren Stichter. These are lessons from college students in a college course she teaches.

The Special Needs Issues Group (SNAE) of the NAEA was founded in 2001, when like-minded art educators teaching children with disabilities came together at a NAEA Conference and established SNAE.  And it has been only a few years that Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) has had an Arts in Special Education Topic for convention proposals.  Now we, under the leadership of Beverly Levett Gerber, are petitioning the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) to establish a Division of Visual and Performing Arts Education (DARTS). Just think, all of the arts under one roof where we can collaborate, and publish both research materials and best teaching practices, for children with disabilities.

We are beginning to find ways to come out of our classrooms and share ideas through the NAEA Issue Group of SNAE. Hopefully, we can bring all the arts together in CEC under the Division of Visual and Performing Arts to ensure the best arts education for all our students with disabilities.

-Lynne Horoschak | Distinguished Professor
Program Manager of MA in Art Education
Moore College of Art & Design in Philadelphia

Friday 10.17.14

Art Educator Resources for Special Populations

One of our readers asked if I would post resources for the art teachers in her state, which I am happy to do. I sometimes forget that not all art teachers have had the opportunity to find resources to help them effectively teach their children with disabilities. I know that I learned by trial and error – mostly error – only to find that new found strategy is a failure the following week. So one tries again. As I pointed out in the first blog, coming together to share stories, challenges and celebrate successes, no matter how small, is very important for us as art educators in order to sustain our energy and optimism.

I encourage you to seek out conferences and workshops in your area that brings together teachers to talk to one another. And if you can’t find any – start one. All you need is a room (coffee shop) and one other person – this is a beginning. When news gets out that you are finding success through collaboration you will have to take over the entire coffee shop. We have an Art & Special Education Symposium each year in November and each year it is met with rave reviews. And the secret is simply that we bring together people interested in the education of children with special needs, we listen to those with experience and expertise and then we talked to each other. We each bring our own bit of wisdom to the table. Oh – and whining is not allowed – finding possible solutions is. This success led to a Mini-posium in March where we listen to art teachers who share successful art lessons and then we make exemplars so we could hit our art rooms with exciting lessons on Monday.

The Special Needs Art Education (SNAE) Issues Group website is full of resources. Check it out. Look under links and resources. And while you are there, think about joining our Issues Group.

Reaching and Teaching Students with Special Needs through Art edited by Gerber and Guay, and Understanding Students with Autism through Art edited by Gerber and Kellman, both published by NAEA, are loaded with great ideas.

In addition, professional papers written by experts in the field can be located here. The second and third titles listed are full of very readable articles from Adapting Art through The Importance of Collaboration in Art Classrooms.


-Lynne Horoschak | Distinguished Professor
Program Manager of MA in Art Education
Moore College of Art & Design in Philadelphia

Tuesday 10.14.14

The Generous Spirit of Art Teachers

Last week I spent three days at an art education conference that was in a state other than my own. I knew a few educators but not many so the conversations began the way one would at a party with people you are just meeting. Questions like “What level do you teach? Where do you teach? How long have you been teaching?” But what was constant in every conversation was the dedication and concern all art teachers had for their students. Everyone had the most talented. Everyone wanted their students to pursue a career in the arts. Everyone was willing to go above and beyond what is written in their job descriptions to make sure all available avenues were open to their students.

That reminded me of an alumnus from my graduate program who began teaching in a Public School this year. There were no art supplies and no money from the school to purchase them. She sent out a plea on social media. She would take anything and would come to you to pick it up. Spending additional time and energy to track down supplies that should be a given in a job turns out to be part of the job. And she is not alone in this.

A few weeks ago she noticed a student being bullied because there was a hole in his sneakers and his foot was peeking through. Discreetly, she got him a new pair of sneakers. She said, "Nothing prepares you for the poverty you see."

I am reminded once again of the generous spirit of art teachers. We are empathetic. We give our talent, money and resources to teach art. To insure that our students know their worth by successfully making art. And we are there to listen and give emotional support where too often there is none. I am very proud to be an art teacher. I am in such excellent company!

-Lynne Horoschak | Distinguished Professor
Program Manager of MA in Art Education
Moore College of Art & Design in Philadelphia

Monday 10. 6.14

The Importance of Professional Development

Speaking of supporting your own with a little one-on-one conversation – yes, we were speaking about that - attending the state and national art education conferences with others of like mind, proves to be time well spent for you as an art teacher, an artist, and a member of the global society. Not only do you have the opportunity to share art lessons and strategies you know have succeeded in your classroom - yes, please do submit proposals - there are hundreds of opportunities for you to hear what your colleagues are doing.  

My biggest problem is that I can't be in two or three places at the same time (although I have tried to master this feat) choosing a demonstration or a presentation that will help you engage your students, improve your teaching skills, shed a light on classroom management, and/or take the mystery out of teaching 33 students, eight who require special attention due to their disability is a daunting task but one well worth the scrutiny of the conference catalogue. Hint: Start before you step into the conference lobby. The choices seem endless and the time is short, so do get a head start.

And don’t forget to engage your fellow art educators. Talk to the person riding the escalator with you. Talk to the person at lunch. Ask what they have learned, experienced, discovered. Sifting through your notes each evening - you are taking notes, aren’t you? –is an important way to keep the information fresh and ready to access. I confess that too many times I left the conferences with visions of sugar plums dancing in my head and they continue to dance right out with nothing concrete getting accomplished.

The State Conferences and NAEA National Conventions are filled with people who are great resources just waiting for you to take advantage of them.

-Lynne Horoschak | Distinguished Professor
Program Manager of MA in Art Education
Moore College of Art & Design in Philadelphia

Wednesday 10. 1.14

Art Teachers Network

It is not secret that most of us work in isolation. We are the lone art teacher in the school and we are painfully aware that no one knows the challenges we face. No one else is teaching 500 or 1,000 kids a week; each having their own individual quirks and strengths and parents and concerns. That’s a lot of quirks. And along with the quirks, we have supplies to manage – when we have supplies! – to pass out and clean up every 45 minutes -  and back to back classes and children with disabilities who are included in an already  over filled class – and we love it!

When I was teaching my six classes a day, five days a week, there weren’t the resources that are available today via the internet and chat rooms and blogs. So when we had a chance together to listen and learn from one another, it was magic. So in spite of the technology today, nothing quite replaces getting together face-to-face to talk through a concern or a lesson that didn’t go as planned ….

Back in January, art teachers from the Philadelphia School District were invited to Moore College of Art & Design to chat. To share stories of their challenges and successes.  Five art teachers came.  In May, ten came. And it was unanimously agreed that we would continue the conversation. Last week, Leslie sent out a letter to the all the art teachers inviting them to come and continue the conversation. The date was set. We are ready with food.

Thirty eight years ago, six newly hired art teachers got together every month to talk about their struggles and successes. They continued it through their entire career and they were among the best art teachers in the city. Nothing beats supporting your own with a little one-on-one conversation.

-Lynne Horoschak | Distinguished Professor
Program Manager of MA in Art Education
Moore College of Art & Design in Philadelphia

Monday 09.29.14


If you are a current or aspiring art teacher who went into teaching to make a difference by working with students to identify and develop their creative gifts ... YOU should consider expanding your own voice so that you are able to guide others in the development of their own. 'While you may be very busy...even satisfied...locked away within the four walls of your classroom it is my opinion that you will find yourself re-thinking or revising your decision to be an art teacher if you remain isolated. You and your students will lose. As long as you remain isolated, your potential as a teacher and that of your students’ may result in a loss of viability, visibility, and value. It is in community with others that we inform and showcase our practice, share successes and failures, build self confidence, develop strengths, grow professionally and personally. As an art teacher you will encounter attitudes that may make you feel that your art curriculum is not an important one. Art teachers are often driven out of the profession because of the attitudes that art is an unnecessary subject. This is often reinforced by reducing the teacher's practice to a rolling cart, struggle for funding, and teacher-pupil overload. It has been my experience that the teachers that maintained a positive outlook as art teachers and as art advocates benefitted not only from the respect they gained from their administration and colleagues, but from their student's success. Your ART curriculum has to be important to you every day or it will not be important to others any day.
One of the most important decisions I made as an art education student was to not only join the student chapter of my state art education association, but to become actively involved. Paying my dues is one of the most important investments I make annually. This involvement has led to professional growth which led to leadership opportunities. You grow and your whole world and those in it grow too.  Once you find yourself outside of the four walls of your classroom you will find multiple opportunities for professional and personal growth. At the top of my list for getting the most bang for a buck is to attend a local, state, and/or national conference. Each conference venue usually offers multiple platforms for learning about the latest findings in art education research, current trends in theory and practice, and provides a venue for teachers to share their lessons, their own art, and that of their students'. One of the most meaningful outcomes of going beyond your classroom is in people connecting...the friendships and partnerships, the collaborations and possibilities stretch from coast to coast. Plus, you get the chance to meet your own art hero up close and personal! It was through such venues that I was able to not only meet my own art heroes but was fortunate enough to partner with them through grants to bring them into my school and/or district. Art heroes such as Faith Ringgold (Tar Beach), Ron DeLong (Crayola DreamMakers), Fred Babb (Go to Your Studio and Make Stuff), Pam Stephens and Jim McNeil (Dropping in On series), Ralph Eggleston (Toy Story I), CC Lockwood (Marsh Mission), EB Lewis (Coming on Home Soon, Caldecott winner) are a few that have not only enriched my life, but also those of my colleagues and my students. It is difficult at best to be invisible when you make these kinds of "high voltage" connections.  
BobbiAnother important decision I made as an art educator was to acquire the credentials and training needed to open up my classroom as a "lab" to the art education department of the local college and to be a cooperating teacher for pre-service teachers. If you want to gain an in-depth understanding of your subject, learn as much as you teach, stay current in your field, and expose your students to multiple perspectives leading to additional successes, you should explore this connection. I even got lucky enough to mentor twins that have gone on to make a difference!
Take advantage of every chance you get to help your students succeed...Take It, Make it, Do it. You are their connection to a whole new world and it is your responsibility to do just that. Every lesson you teach should be connected to Art Standards that guide your teaching and valid assessment. Additionally lessons should provide opportunities for creative discovery, spark imagination, develop skills and techniques, and be grounded in Elements of Art and Principles of Design from seeing to doing to evaluating. The more visible your program the more viable. Remember the words of Harry Emerson Fosdick: "A person totally wrapped up in him-self makes a small package."

-Bobbi Yancey
Art Specialist, NBCT/Art Consultant
Lake Charles Boston Academy of Learning, Lake Charles, LA

Wednesday 09.24.14

Strategies and Partnerships - Creating opportunities for your students to shine!

The art department of our school system has been privileged to partner with community organizations, business, industry, and even the mayor’s office over the years to create opportunities to showcase art programs in schools that feature both teacher and student. I was reminded of how special these relationships are recently. One such event, the Mayor’s 10, was a highlight of my week. Ten student works depicting personal expressions of the culture of Louisiana were on display at a local art and cultural center. Images of egrets, shrimp boats, alligators, magnolias and more were displayed on easels encircling a stage while the artists, their parents and teachers were celebrated. This process has been repeated for 6 years now providing a public showcase for 60 students with a commitment from the mayor for many more to follow.  

This past week I was involved in another event sponsored by a local nonprofit arts organization. Members of the community were asked to glaze a ceramic bisque bowl for a small fee to benefit a nonprofit organization raising funds to train dogs for veterans and autistic children suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Students from elementary to high-school, local leaders, and sports celebrities from the community and neighboring cities participated in this day long art event. Thousands of dollars were raised, in addition to awareness of a great need. 

In the coming weeks I will be participating in several more events and award ceremonies that will feature local artists, students and their teachers. The opportunities for schools and programs in the arts to be spotlighted in my district are commonplace. But, it has not always been that way. Twenty years ago there were less than 20 art teachers…today there are 60. Why? Because of the strategies and partnerships that were developed that led to one opportunity after another to spotlight Art Education programs in our schools. I would like to share a few ways you might “spotlight” art in your school that may create opportunities for you.

1. Help with city wide beautification—Paint murals or other public art in your school or community.
2. Exhibit, Exhibit, Exhibit—Showcase your student’s art work everywhere you can make an impact …you can even display from the ceiling tiles down the hallways of your school.
3. Create partnerships with local business, gallery, or museum to sponsor school–wide or district art exhibit. Ask your principal to sponsor a rotating art exhibit in the office, library, or front lobby of your school.
4. Document, Document, Document—Send and share with local newspapers, TV stations, the information specialist in your school system, your school board, and send newsletters home.
5. Create a web page.
6. Write and submit articles about your student art work. Enter competitions.
7. Join and participate in arts and community organizations that build positive relationships.

These are just a few ideas that have worked well for schools in my school district. Please share any that have been successful for you.

-Bobbi Yancey- Art Specialist/Consultant, Ed.S, NBCT
Lake Charles Boston Academy, Lake Charles, LA