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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Tuesday 03.31.09


In the state of New Jersey we celebrate YAM from Cape May to High Point in the month of March. In fact, there are so many celebrations they spill over into February and April. Why not celebrate our students’ art in more than one month? 

We begin our preparation for YAM in December with a poster contest. This year’s theme was Celebrate Art. There were over 500 entries and from them we select a design for a flag, a button, an invitation to a high school YAM state reception, an invitation to a middle/elementary YAM state reception, and a billboard design. One of those winners is randomly chosen to receive an all expense paid trip to NY City for him/herself, one parent, and the teacher. This prize was generously supplied from Sargent Art!

B1c.Billboard Design_160x120  B1d.Button Design_160x120  B1b.YAM Shirt_160x120 

Photos: Top Row (left to right): Billboard design, button design; Bottom row: YAM shirt design

Each of our 21 counties sponsors a YAM exhibit that showcases Art Educators of NJ member’s student work. Various celebrations and venues make NJ YAM amazing. County libraries, IKEA lobbies, the great train station on Ellis Island where immigrants took their first steps to freedom, are among some of the sites that house the work of New Jersey’s finest young artist. The art exhibits are enhanced by adding events such as student puppet performances and Mr. YAM (Potato) head making,

From each of these 21 counties, 6 pieces of work are selected to go on to a NJ State YAM show. This show was hung on March 13th at the NJ State House. The show remained there at the State House for one week. This provides an opportunity for all of New Jersey’s legislators to see the wonderful artwork created by NJ’s students. The week is culminated by two celebrations at the State House. 

B1e.YAM Show_314x235

Photo: YAM Show

On Friday the 20th of March, we invited all of the high school students and their teachers to a reception at noon. This year our guest speaker was Carol Sayer. Carol is an inspiring Philadelphia blind/deaf artist. Her story of a sighted artist faced with the future of no sight, and little hearing was captivating to the students. After the guest speaker each student artist and teacher are asked to come forward. The child is then recognized with the presentation of a certificate.
That evening we invite the Middle and Elementary level winners and their parents to a second reception.  The standing room only evening event is a buzz with proud parents and grandparents. County group pictures are taken and certificates handed out.

Carrie Davey, our YAM chair, works hard to make this event special. She solicits YAM support from every possible source. This year she collected over  $1600. That money goes to the students. Each artist receives a t-shirt with a logo that says NJ Youth Month Artist. They also receive a goodie bag filled with donations from some of our favorite vendors.

B1a.Carrie and Linda at YAM show_314x235

Photo: Carrie Davey (left) and Linda Devlin (right)

The enthusiasm for art is alive during MARCH in NEW JERSEY! How do you celebrate YAM in your state?

Tuesday 03. 3.09

Art on a Cart!

Susan BivonaI have six years experience teaching “Art on a Cart”, now I am quite sure that most of you reading this understand the term but just in-case, “Art on a Cart” is when an art teacher does not have a dedicated art room and must move the materials from classroom to classroom on a cart.  My story is similar to many other art teachers who have been asked to move out…..the population at my school was growing and they needed more classroom space.  I should say that every special area teacher at my school was affected, the ONLY teachers who did have a dedicated room where the classroom teachers.  Everyone from Spanish to Music to the Resource Room teachers were on carts and it was not just at my school it was across the district in all four elementary schools. 

So, two years ago a referendum was approved and 12 classrooms were added to my school, the long wait was over ~ I finally got my room back for the 2007 – 2008 school year!

So, two years ago a referendum was approved and 12 classrooms were added to my school, the long wait was over ~ I finally got my room back for the 2007 – 2008 school year!

With all of that experience I believe I have some insight that could help other who are in this situation!  To begin, you must know how important it is to have your administrators support! They need to know that just because you do not have an art room that does not mean that you do not need any space at all. You do! You need a desk, space to store and prep materials and you need space to prepare artwork for exhibits! They can also assist you by scheduling 5 minutes travel time between classes and arranging the same grades back to back.

Of course you need a quality cart, big enough to hold all your supplies. If you are in a school with many floors and no elevator you will need more than one cart. On your cart you should have your own supply of office supplies (stapler, staples, paper clips, tape, etc.). On my cart I also had a map of the school for each day of the week, I numbered the classrooms that I went to, each day, in order (great for a sub). You will also need a drying rack on wheels!  The drying rack is a lifesaver, it allows you to keep control of the artwork while it is drying and the teachers do not have to keep it in their rooms.  I organized all my materials in cardboard boxes, I had them in every shape and size, and I could always find just the right one!  I have to admit, even now ~ I have not been able to throw my box collection away!

Ideally the space you are provided will have the ability to be locked so that other teachers and/or PTO cannot get into your STUFF! Label your storage, so if you do have to have students go to get something they have a chance of finding it! Below you see a photo of the office that I called home for 6 years, it was 1/4 of the original art room that was being used as a 5th grade classroom.  The 5th grade class went on with its business of the day as I would come and go and work in my shared space in their room.  It was a good set-up because I had access to the art storage closet (you can see the open door in the photo).


The Art Office at Mount Prospect School

When you get to the classrooms, it’s a whole a new adventure! How are the desks arranged -- groups (the best) rows (the worst)???  Does the classroom have a sink? If yes, you are in good shape. If no, you will need buckets & water bottles if you are going to paint (or a favorite of mine, a cleaned out detergent bottles). Decide before hand where you will store student work, do you have space in your "office" or will you keep it in the classrooms and where will you store it there?  It seems to work best if there one system for the entire school.  I was fortunate I had storage space in my office but for other situations that may not be the case.  Keeping the artwork in the classrooms might be your only option.  Make sure the classroom teachers know that you will be in-charge of sending the work home.  It didn’t happen too often, but a few times the classroom teachers would send the work home before it was complete!  Oh no! 

I do not condone putting art on a cart, but it is the reality of life -- hopefully it is just a temporary situation. With this is mind; it was my intention to make the BEST out of the situation!!! So, I tried to establish the support of my classroom teachers as well. Always leave the classroom as you found it, clean up as much as you can!  I would make sure to leave the children quite and ready for the teacher. I would even say. "OK boys and girls please give Mrs. Smith your attention and show her that you are ready to go on to the next activity". The teachers really appreciated that!

Actually, I would say one of the BEST things about being on the cart is that you really get to know the classroom teachers and see what they are doing in the other subject with their students.  It also allows the classroom teacher see you in action – some of them cannot believe how much work goes into teaching art, they might even have a new appreciation for ALL you do! 

Have your ART RULES, written somewhere and attached to the cart or even better - print them on an apron and wear them!

If you are teaching “Art on a Cart”, I wish you all the best – it is NOT easy, but it can be done.  I hope that like me, someday you get to move back into an art room!

Do you have some suggestions to make teaching “Art on a Cart” easier?  Add them below in the comment section!