Monthly Mentor

Leslie Gates (May)
Each month, a different member and NAEA awardee is the guest writer for the NAEA Monthly Mentor Blog. Leslie Gates, Ph.D. is Associate Professor of Art Education at Millersville University of Pennsylvania, where she coordinates the undergraduate and graduate art education programs. She has taught visual art at the high school and elementary levels in both urban and rural contexts. Leslie's research interests are art educator's professional learning, assessment in the arts, and feminist and choice-based pedagogies. Her research, using participatory and feminist approaches, often means she is working alongside art educators to identify problems and work towards possible solutions. Click "GO" to read her full bio.



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January 17, 2017

Art Shows

From: Reta Rickmers

I believe in having students think like an artist, produce work that is original and personal to them, and be willing to exhibit it. We have shown work in many ways over the years, from small displays at the public library and in our downtown art supply store window for Youth Art Month to partnering with our local Chico Art Center for Creative Fusion, our annual junior high and high school art show. We also participate in our local County Office of Education Annual Juried High School Art Show and our local county fair. Of course, parents are invited to attend or to view all of these exhibits.


I want to share with you in more detail how we also exhibit at my high school and how this encourages students to ‘up their game’ and to increase both quantity and the quality of their work. Students in my intermediate and advanced Art Studio classes are told from the beginning of school that there will be an exhibit of their work in November. We hold this show called Fall Prelude in our library. Our librarian is my most steadfast collaborator at my school. She helps us ‘take over’ the library twice a year as well as helping with countless other things. The work is not shown anywhere before the show (not even in the classroom) to promote the “great reveal” of the art. Through grants we are able to pay to have the lunchtime reception catered by our high school culinary class. They serve the food on platters as they circulate amongst the guests. Parents and staff are invited via an email newsletter and with a small paper invitation. Students are given tickets to give out to their friends. Our school Jazz Band provides live music. The staff is, of course, encouraged to attend!

I keep all student work until the exhibits. Work is matted or framed (I keep a big supply of frames for students to use). However, students also bring in work I haven’t seen before on the day we set up the show.  They have been working at home so they will have a great exhibit! They are so motivated because they know people are coming just to see their work. Many parents and family members attend, including grandparents. Points are given for wearing their Art Studio T-shirt and for having their photo taken with their art display. The work is left up for a week or two for all to enjoy. 

Photo #1

Students learn how to present their work, how to arrange a display, create titles and an artistic name tag to go with the display.

Photo #2

Hundreds of people attend the reception including our superintendent, our principal, our Art Advisory Board consisting of local artists and art professionals from the university and community college, parents, and the local newspaper.

This fall show helps prepare students for the big show in May called the Spring Finale. We do much the same as for Fall Prelude but we take over the entire library for the day. Students create artists statements with their name and photo. See example below.


There is also a slideshow of all the statements on a big screen during the reception. 

Photo #3

Students stay with their work after the reception as teachers bring in their classes to interview the students about their work, the decisions they made and the idea or message behind the work.

Both shows generate excitement and help the students realize that often part of making art is to exhibit it and to be able to articulate their ideas. The students are often amazed that other people, including adults, are interested in their art (and even sometimes offer to buy it). The entire school enjoys these events and it is a way to showcase our art program. 

Do you have ways you exhibit student work that you would like to share? Please comment below!



Tanis Skislak

Do you use social media? I think if the school has a webpage it would be a great way to showcase work. Use Facebook, Twitter etc.

Kandis Horton

I love how invested your students are-- not to mention all of your hard work. Kudos!

Linda Elliott

Thanks for the kind words, Reta! We love the events (except for the crumbs that one year!). It is fascinating to get to know students in this way as well.

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