Monthly Mentor

Tracy Fortune (May)
My name is Tracy Fortune and I have been teaching art to students of all ages for over 25 years. My career started in Canada, where I taught at both private and public schools in Alberta and British Columbia. My early teaching also included a year as an art teacher in Liberia, West Africa. I moved to the Washington State in 2003 and taught at Hudtloff Middle School in Lakewood, Washington for ten years. I had the privilege of being a key member of design team for a new Hudtloff Middle School building which won the 2013 International Interior Design Association “Design IN Public” Award. This past fall I transferred to Lakes High School where I teach Exploring Art and Ceramics.



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Monday 05.18.15

Share Your Ideas with Fellow Art Teachers

From: Tracy Fortune

Part of being a great art teacher is contributing to the art education field. I know I love finding great unit ideas, new techniques, technical and organizational tips, and helpful teaching resources. I appreciate that other teachers share their ideas, so realized sharing my best lessons and resources could help others.  Need ideas on how to share your work? Here are a few ideas.

1. National Magazines: One exciting way to share your unit plans with fellow art teachers is to submit articles to great art education magazines such as Arts and Activities and School Arts magazine. I remember how excited I was when my first article “Oaxacan Folk Animal” article came out. How do you go about getting an article published. The first step is find out the magazines specification for the article and accompanying photographs.
2. State Publications: My state has a new quarterly publication called Splatter magazine that is also looking for interesting articles. The Splatter editor wanted some regular features and I now coordinate one call “Organized Splatter” with tips for the artroom. If you don’t live in Washington, consider checking to see if your state has a publication.
3. Other Publishing Companies: The NAEA convention is a great way to network. I talked to Amy Woodworth at Crystal Publications at the San Diego conference and this year in New Orleans, I had a teaching resource “Speaking About Art” for sale at the exhibit hall and is also available online.
4. Artsonia: I recommend sharing student work and lesson plans on Artsonia. I love looking at the inspiring artwork on this site, as well as submitting student work.
5. NAEA Lesson Plans: I haven’t done it yet, but one of my next steps is to submit a unit plan to NAEA.

If you haven’t done it yet, or it has been a long time, consider taking the first step to Share Your Ideas with Fellow Art Teachers.


Monday 05.11.15

Go on an Inspiration Adventure

From: Tracy Fortune

While going to state and national conferences are fabulous forms of professional development, there are other ways to get ideas to improve your teaching practice, get inspiration for innovative projects, and learn new techniques. My most recent discovery was a week ago.  I ventured on a 2.5 hour drive with a retired art teacher friend to the Oregon Potter’s Association’s annual Ceramic Showcase 2015 in Portland.  We didn’t know what to expect, but the description of the event featuring nearly 200 ceramic artists sounded promising.

Wow, we were amazed.  The Ceramic Showcase included a gallery exhibit and rows of booths with work by a huge number of artisans. The sculptural and functional pieces on display varied immensely in technique, function, size, theme and style. Each booth was wonderfully presented and we enjoyed spending several hours looking at the ceramic work and talking to the artists. Everyone was really friendly, willing to share ideas and all I asked allowed me to take photographs. In an adjacent part of the venue, there was an impressive high school ceramics exhibit, creative work by international ceramics artists from Japan, a demonstration area and a place to learn wheel pottery taught by professional potters. There was even live music.

As we headed home my mind was buzzing with ideas and I couldn’t wait to get back to my classroom. My friend who is a practicing artist also loved seeing the work and found it very inspiring. I usually say attending an event or taking a class is worthwhile if it gives you one great idea. I came home with numerous ideas, so attending the Ceramic Showcase was definitely worth it. Perhaps this will inspire you to …Go on an Inspiration Adventure.

Friday 05. 1.15

Leadership: Take That First Step…Who Knows Where It Will Lead

From: Tracy Fortune

I was excited to be asked to be a NAEA Monthly Mentor for the month of May, after being selected as the Washington State Art Educator of the Year this past fall. Reflecting on my journey to this point, one influential choice I made was taking on the challenge of earning my National Board Certification. While working on Entry 4: Professional Contributions I realized I was not doing much to be a leader in the art education community. Attending my state’s fall art conference seemed like a natural starting place. The conference was held in the Tri–Cities area four hours away from my home in Tacoma, Washington. I didn’t really know what to expect, but ventured there alone. I don’t remember the details, but somehow I arranged to share a room with another art teacher who I had never met. The WAEA conference was inspiring and I enjoyed getting to know my roommate a fun, fellow art teacher Mari Atkinson.

That following spring the NAEA conference was in Baltimore. WOW…A five day event with thousands of other art educators, hundreds and hundreds of inspiring presentations, and an exhibition hall full of exciting vendors. I was hooked. Becoming a presenter at our state conference and at Arts Time, a regional art conference, was the logical next step. I considered my best units and presented a couple of them with great reviews. When Seattle hosted the NAEA National Convention I jumped at the opportunity to be a part of a round robin style hands-on presentation with some teachers from my state. That led to presenting at more national and state conferences. As I got to know those in leadership Washington, they encouraged me to come to monthly board meetings. As the lone art teacher in my building, I was thrilled to meet and get to know other art teachers. I am now on the board serving as secretary. I am part of an amazing team that includes that roommate Mari who is one of the co-presidents.

If you are not involved or have not done much to connect with other art teachers, I highly recommend you take that first step. Attend a conference. Invite a fellow art teacher to a conference. Look into attending a board meeting. Submit a proposal to present at a conference. If you get involved you will probably make some great new friends and undoubtedly be a more inspired art teacher. I know that is what happened to me.

Feel free to check out the spring issue of WAEA’s Splatter publication on the theme of leadership.

Wednesday 04.22.15


From: Shanna Dunlap

This Thursday is our school’s art show called Art Quest.

This is such an exciting time for my school because everyone gets involved and students have the opportunity to show their hard work. Nearly 1,000 people attend the event. Many prizes and awards are given including "Best in Show" and "People’s Choice Award". Each senior gets to design and set up their own displays and use as many works as they would like. It’s a great opportunity to meet with potential clients and show others what you are capable of.

Art Quest is a great idea for all schools because it gives students the opportunity to show everyone what they’ve been working on all year and gets them involved in the arts.

The big prize of the evening is the "Best in Show" award, which any and every student only dreams of receiving. Prizes include $150, your name painted in the hallway, and sometimes you even get news interviews or press coverage. It gives students an incentive to work hard all year and to produce the best work they are capable of. We raise the money through fundraising events hosted all year and sell t-shirts to wear on the day of Art Quest. It’s kind of like the homecoming game for artists. It really is an amazing feeling to be pulled on the stage in front of hundreds of people to be rewarded for your work and efforts.

Wednesday 04. 8.15

The National Convention Experience from the Rising Star

From: Shanna Dunlap

Last weekend I attended the NAEA National Convention in New Orleans, LA. I arrived in New Orleans on Wednesday, March 25 and stayed through Saturday, March 28.

Although the Convention was mostly teacher-based (I was one of the only students there), it was very beneficial. There were tons of workshops you could attend that offered "how to" lessons. I learned a lot and got to experience many different teaching styles and new inspirations.

I am so lucky to have received the opportunity to attend this event. All the master classes I attended were very well crafted and I learned a lot from them even being a student not a teacher. It’s great to have the opportunity to share ideas upon other educators. Another awesome opportunity was the product booths. There was an entire room filled with new products to try out in your classroom. I was able to experience hands-on activities with companies such as Blick Art Materials.

My main reason for attending the Convention was the award ceremony, although attending workshops was very beneficial. It was so amazing to be recognized as this year’s NAEA Rising Star and I was rewarded with a certificate and a beautifully crafted necklace. I also met many people that were interested in my art and it was a great opportunity to get my work "out there”. It was an experience I will never forget.

Thursday 04. 2.15

From a Students' Perspective

From: Shanna Dunlap

While contemplating on what to make my first blog about I figured why not talk about my Rising Star award, my process and how hard work pays off.

I started photographing when I was in 6th grade. I had always loved taking pictures of people, mostly my friends. Then when I got to high school I took my first photo class. We have a huge art department at my school, art is a big influence. Every year we have a huge community art show called Art Quest. I had always dreamt of becoming the Best of Show at Art Quest and follow in the footsteps of past Rising Star award winners from Southern. So I made it my goal to push myself and always work hard. I never settle for second-best. If I don’t feel as though one of my pictures meets my standard I’ll go reshoot until I get what I need. I think that’s what sets apart someone who produces great work.

1I am blessed to be able to share what I create with the world. My subject matter within the past year has differed slightly from what I used to produce. I focus mostly in black and white and use kids as my subjects. I enjoy putting kids in situations you wouldn’t normally put kids in. I also like to leave the interpretation of the story up to the viewer. I think you connect more with an image when you make up your own story and engage in its re-enactment.

1 2
The process is also very important. When taking pictures it’s hard to not make events look staged. That’s why I try not to stage anything. I ask my subjects questions and tell them to imagine they’re in certain situations. For my picture with the girl in the dress and shoes I took my little sister to an empty house my dad was building and told her just to “dance as if no one was watching” and that’s exactly what she did. It’s much easier to create photos a viewer can relate to when the subject matter in genuine.


Tuesday 03.17.15

Learning Outside the Classroom with my Junior Tribe (i.e. Art Club!)

From: Drew Brown

Binder with her "Munter" pot. Translated from Danish, munter means cheerful, a fitting word for the day

Recently, the Sweet Apple Art Club and I ventured to the Cowgirl Studio in downtown Roswell, Georgia tomeet clay artist Jette Binder. My philosophy is that art students need to experience the world around them by learning outside the classroom. Engaging in experiential learning together also provides us with common experiences sparking interesting conversations and opportunity for reflection. Jette Binder happens to be the mom one of my third graders, and she welcomed us with warm hospitality.

The students were absolutely engaged with Jette’s explanation of her hand-building and glazing methods. They listened and watched intently while she showed various tools and items she uses for molds and slumping. She explained how she rubs and layers her glazes to create “weathered” surface designs. The students had just finished clay pieces at school where they melted glass pebbles into heart shapes, so they were thrilled to see that Jette also uses the same technique. Not only were the students exposed to Jette’s workspace, they were able to peruse her retail space and meet a metalsmith who shares the studio.

Artist Jette Binder showing techniques

Jette invited each child to create a clay piece and take home a bit of clay to use later. (That was really special!) Jette provided skewers for students who wanted to create a piece to embellish a garden or potted pot. With an open-ended invitation and no formulaic directions, my fifth graders made a variety of personal creations. It was wonderful to see the kids meld prior experience with inspiration from Jette, while they played and created in new ways.

Hands on at the Studio

I love to introduce my students to real artists at work. Seeing an artist in their workspace helps us make connections about how artwork is created, where it is made, how artists manage their tools and materials, and where artists get their inspiration.

Immersed in conversation

At our upcoming art club meeting, I will ask the students to reflect and share their thoughts, memories and impressions of the day. Perhaps John Dewey said it best: “There is an intimate and necessary relation between the processes of actual experience and education.”   How do your students engage in experience-based learning? I’ve seen so many great ideas over the years….Feel free to share!

SAE Art Club 2015


Dewey, J. (1938/1997) Experience and education. New York: Macmillan Co., p. 7

Friday 03.13.15

The Raisin, the Almond and the Raspberry (and what they have to do with art)

From: Drew Brown

Going to yoga is a great stress reliever for me. I always feel rejuvenated after a yoga class. Even after a long day of teaching, I enjoy focusing on my yoga practice a few days per week. I have been trying out a new meditation class at my local yoga studio, and I recently gained a great new idea that connected with a recent lesson.

Our instructor, Gretchen, guided the participants through observing a raisin’s texture, form and color. We examined the highlights and asymmetry of the form. I inhaled the soft, sweet, earthy fragrance. I noticed the subtle flavors of the tiny food. We repeated the process with an almond and a raspberry, noticing similarities and differences in each aesthetic experience. In the closing segment, Gretchen asked us to pair with someone we didn’t know and talk about any thoughts or impressions that had risen to the surface during the exercise. My partner said that she had never tasted anything so good. A lesson in mindfulness--slowing down to focus, observe, discover and learn through sight, touch, smell, hearing, and taste.

The raisin, the almond and the raspberry

The education world is abuzz with words like differentiation and rigor. Teachers have long known about the advantages of teaching to different learning styles such as visual, auditory, kinesthetic and tactile. Through sensorial education, we can help restore “play” into the classroom and turn an ordinary lesson into an extraordinary experience.

In the guided meditation, I was reminded of the rewards of close observation and mindfulness. Recently, my students sketched and sculpted foods of their choice in clay with emphasis on form, color and texture while studying food as subject matter in the works of Oldenburg, Warhol, Thiebaud and more. The lesson was challenging, and my students struggled to figure out the subtle colors of foods and create implied texture on their 3D forms. How could I inspire each and every student to observe more closely, internalize more deeply, and consider more thoughtfully the task-at-hand?

5th grade clay sculpture 1
5th grade clay sculpture 2


5th grade clay sculpture 3
5th grade clay sculpture 4

Next year, I plan try the lesson again and kick off with an exercise in careful and attentive observation using the five senses. Asking my students to observe, touch, taste, and smell simple foods will be a great hook for my lesson. When my students have time to observe more closely and more fully, I hope they will create the mental space in which to consider the world around them, to push the boundaries of their creativity and to exhibit their learning more fully.

Art by Jackson Dunlap, 5th grade Art Club student


Roswell Yoga Life owner Gretchen Griffin, the blogger, and yoga instructor, Jackie Kaminer

Monday 03. 2.15

Happy Youth Art Month Everybody!

From: Drew Brown

As I sit here on a Snow Day in Roswell, Georgia, I can see HUGE snowflakes outside through my dining room window. These big fat snowflakes remind me of the white circles that children often draw in their art when they fill the backgrounds of a snowy scene. This snowfall isn’t exactly composed of big dots falling from the sky, but the white stuff falling now is certainly some of the biggest, fluffiest snow I’ve ever seen! What a great day to stay inside and write for NAEA.

In honor of March-Youth Art Month 2015, let’s talk about art advocacy and how we celebrate children’s art and art education across our nation. I recently attended our Capitol Art Exhibit reception in Atlanta with my two student artists and their families. We met with our state legislators, Representative Jan Jones and Senator John Albers. As the kick-off event for Youth Art Month in Georgia, the Capitol Art Exhibit reception is one of my favorite events all year because I love the way the state legislators honor our students and their art. They take time to talk to each student about his/her artwork, and they make the children feel special. Years ago, I was the chairperson of this exhibit, and I know how much work goes into pulling off Georgia’s largest student art exhibit and reception. Big thanks go to our state chairs, Sondra Palmer and Florence Barnett. Year and year, the Georgia Art Education Association receives positive feedback from the state employees and various attendees who view the art. One viewer summed it up: “Your exhibit spotlights the necessity of maintaining arts education in the school curriculum."

Balde family with Re. Jan Jones
Balde Family with Rep. Jan Jones
Kyla and Rep. Jan Jones
Valerie and Rep. Jones
Valerie and Rep. Jan Jones

I am currently thinking about new ways to celebrate YAM in my local school community. Social media, the good old-fashioned newspaper, and school media are great vehicles for advertising our programs and highlighting student learning in visual arts.  In so many ways, I believe that getting children’s art up on the walls is a huge part of advocacy. As the old saying goes….a picture is worth a thousand words! How do you celebrate YAM?

Saturday 02.28.15

Curriculum Slam! New Orleans 2015
Friday, March 27, 11 am to 12:50 pm

From: Olivia Gude

I’ve enjoyed being the February Monthly Mentor for NAEA. Please feel free to post follow up comments. I value interacting with teachers as we together re-invent the practices of contemporary art education.

I hope that you will join me at the NOLA Curriculum Slam! for more great curriculum ideas.

Assembling Comprehensive Contemporary
Art, Media & Design Curriculum
organized by the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago and Olivia Gude
Teachers from across the continent will again share exciting visual art and design curriculum in the fast, functional and fun format of the Curriculum Slam!, a 21st century curriculum-sharing format that re-invents the old-style curriculum fair.

Here’s a first peek at the great line up of presenters.

Principles of Possibility: Comprehensive Curriculum for Contemporary Art Education
Olivia Gude

Hip to Be Square: Creating 8-Bit Art Games with Scratch
Steve Ciampaglia

Beyond the Wall: Bringing Artworks to Life Through Augmented Reality
Nick Hostert

ACTING OUT: Expanding Design Literacy, Connecting Students to Translation & Practice      
Catherine Muller, with Raja Schaar and Ann Gerondis

Getting Good At Being Bad
Jake Myers

The Lunch Party: Collaborative Performance in Elementary Art
Madeleine Stern

From Abramovic to the Classroom: Teaching with Performance Art
Kate Thomas

Big Data Visualizations In Education: Social Commentary And Making Sense Of Numbers
Ron Wigglesworth

UN-Rules: Breaking Rules in Art to Make Better Art
Rachel Valsing

Olivia Gude at Curriculum Slam!
Olivia Gude at the Museum of Contemporary Art Curriculum Slam! Chicago 2014


Image 2 Curriculum Slam! presenters San Diego 2014
Curriculum Slam! presenters NAEA San Diego 2014