Monthly Mentor

Natalie C. Jones (February)
Each month, a different member is the guest writer for the NAEA Monthly Mentor Blog. Natalie C. Jones is an artist, small business owner, and the director of education at the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture. She has 10 years of experience working as an art teacher and teaching artist throughout the east coast and the Midwest. Click "GO" to read her full bio.



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Friday 12.19.08

"The Arts. Ask for More" (Guenter)

The Americans for the Arts have initiated the newest phase of their public service announcement (PSA) campaign by developing television ads equating the arts with a healthy diet. These PSAs feature spoofs of "healthy arts food products" like Van Goghgurt with Vincent Van Gogh and Raisin Brahms with Johannes Brahms encouraging parents "to make sure their children are getting their daily serving of the arts." The intent of these is to provide rationales for why the arts are important, inform the public, and "help kids develop creativity and self-expression while emphasizing teamwork, friendship, and exploration."
I think these ads are fabulous and intend to share them with my student teaching classes this week. In my classes we have established the rationales for the arts in K-12 curriculum and the future teachers have worked on developing appropriate lessons to use in their school placements. Seeing and hearing these ads will reinforce what we have been studying and they will share with them with the teachers at their school sites, their families, and friends. The ads give us a common point of reference for discussion, debate, and advocacy.
Certainly we can use these ads as both education and advocacy pieces as we do our day-to-day work and outreach for our colleagues, districts, campuses, and local organizations. We know that the arts are healthy. We know that art education makes us happy. Because these ads are available online, we have a very current and quick way to educate others. Stay healthy!
Television Ads
Radio Ads
Print Ads
Americans for the Arts

Thursday 12.11.08

Remember This When You are Teaching! (Guenter)

As it nears the end of the semester, I will soon have final lessons, papers, wikis, blogs, and assorted other projects to grade. Using rubrics with my authentic assignments has provided common focus and expectations for my students and me. I remember being a student myself and working on art projects, writing a paper, or constructing a project to fulfill a course requirement. It was serious time and energy on my part. I also remember very much appreciating the teachers who took the time to provide feedback that was more than a simple mark or simple phrase like, "good job." I wanted to know why so I could learn from my efforts.
When I began my own teaching career I carried those beliefs close to my heart and still do. I make the time to offer comments to my students. On artwork, I often use tracing paper to add my comments to honor my students' efforts by not changing the artwork itself and to offer a reference for continued learning from the feedback. Sometimes post-its work, but the tracing paper still allows the student to see the situation with the comments. With written work, I really try to offer positive comments that are concrete and reinforce specific skills or suggestions with an example that will hopefully help to improve a situation. Certainly speaking with a student at an appropriate time offers boost to the student.
Since I teach future teachers I believe that what I do is "fair game" for analysis by them. I need to model best practices. Does it take time? Yes. It is my job. Do I always do it well? I try. However, there are times when I am tired and I begin to write things like "Whoo Hoo!" or "Yippee!" Then I know it is time to stop and take a break.  
What I have realized over the years is that the acknowledgment of the effort, the reinforcement of something done well, and the supporting suggestions for something still unfolding are keys to strong instruction. The fact that time was taken to address any of these indicates they are valuable. A little of this goes a long way. One of my favorite things to write to a student when a particularly perceptive teaching point has been made or there is evidence of clearly understanding a particular concept is, "Remember this when you are teaching!"
What are the important things from your own learning experiences that you remember when you are teaching?

Saturday 12. 6.08

The Art Newspaper (Guenter)

The Art Newspaper has been in existence since 1990. It is published from New York and London. For those of you who are familiar with it, you know that is it a newspaper for the art world. The stories range from investigative to advocacy. You can now find it online, including archives. They report on old art, new art, decorative art, the commercial and the non-commercial world. The Art Newspaper is now online, too. You can still subscribe to the paper, but you can also setup an RSS (really simple syndication) feed on your computer so the news comes to you. At the online site there are also video clips of current happenings, under The Art Newspaper TV. You can subscribe to the complete digital version for 15 pounds (British) or $23.00 (US) or you can read key stories on the web site for free to get a feel for what is happening with art around the world.
The lead story in today's paper is about how advertising agencies are taking advantage of recent changes with the laws in Venice to sell ad space and display big advertisements on the old, architecturally-rich, famous buildings and in the well-known public squares, such as St. Mark's. Talk about historical cultural contexts! This situation alone offers multiple opportunities for discussion, research and debate for you and your students.
I encourage you to visit the web site below to see what you think for yourself.
The Art Newspaper

Monday 12. 1.08

Catching Light (Guenter)

The Impressionists based their approach to painting on being able to catch the light they saw. The ancient art of shadow puppetry is dependent on the use of light and shadow. The optical color mixing needed for a theatre stage is based on knowing how to mix different colors of light to set the mood, focus, and ambience for performances. Earlier this evening I was not thinking about any of these things, but I am now.
Earlier this evening as I was getting ready to head to campus to teach a night class, I was outside whistling for my cats and I glanced up at the sky. Being your basic naked-eye star gazer, I saw something that made me stand still and ponder a bit. There in the sky shining brightly was a triple conjunction and it was dazzling. (A conjunction is when two planets come very close to each other.)  Venus sat just two degrees (or the width two pinky fingers at arm's length) below and slightly left of Jupiter. Then to make this even more spectacular, the crescent moon was hanging there in the night sky just above and a little left of Venus. The crescent moon made it a triple conjunction. It was a jewel of a triangle twinkling very brightly for the world to see. The night was clear and crisp. It was a spectacular event to see and experience. I have since learned that this particular conjunction was rare because of the time of day, the closeness of the planets, and the moon's appearance.
The use of light is so fundamental for us in our daily lives, in our art education instruction and it is often simply assumed. Events like this always get me thinking about the big art in our world—the sky, the earth, the atmosphere and how we are so influenced by all of it whether realize it or not. Events like this can be connected to what we teach as art educators through skill and techniques, problem solving, historical and cultural contexts, and aesthetic valuing. Natural events like this offer us a lifetime of discovery.