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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May 04, 2009

Advocacy through Professional Development

The greatest act of advocacy an Art Educator can perform is to deliver high quality Art instruction to their students. Creating professional development opportunities is critical for Art teachers to be able to expand their craft and develop curricula that allow their students to think and create like Artists. 

Five years ago, my regional group of the New York State Art Teachers Association formed a wonderful partnership with the Art Education Program at SUNY/New Paltz.  Our partnership has resulted in four small, but very successful Art Education Symposiums that have focused on pressing topics in Art Education.   On May 2nd, we hosted “What’s the Big Idea? Visions for Learning Through Art” at the New Paltz campus.  Our Keynote Speaker, Dr. Sydney Walker, addressed how to create dynamic curricula that reflect important content in art, Big Ideas, Key Concepts, and Essential Questions, what kinds of instructional strategies are most effective and how we can best assess our students’ achievement.  Internationally renowned street artist, Michael DeFeo, led a lively afternoon Keynote Session.  Over the past four years, we have been able to organize opportunities for teachers and Art Education majors to share, collaborate and have fun.  We have found that these events require a tremendous amount of work, but in the end are worth every ounce of energy. 

Most State & National organizations have large conferences once a year.  Art teachers need and want professional development throughout the entire school year - it keeps us fresh and focused.  Smaller symposiums and workshops are great ways to create connections and interact with other teachers. Here is what we do:

1. Put together a team of good Art Educators who are willing to work together.  We start planning a year in advance.
2. Form a partnership with a local University or Cultural Institution (this gives us a great location and even greater partners).
3. Create a theme for the day – pick a topic that is focused and fundamental.
4. Create a schedule for the day.
5. Create a budget for what you need and what you can charge conference attendees.
6. Ask Art Educators to give presentations & conduct workshops – be willing to ask anyone and think big (colleagues are very willing to say YES).
7. Invite and involve pre-service Art Education majors from local universities – they are the future of this profession (and let them attend for free –we all remember not having any money in college).
8. Publicize the event in our regions website, FACEBOOK, newsletters, and colleges & universities.
9. On the day of the event, we show up early and have as much work complete before the attendees arrive.
10. HAVE FUN – these are terrific events!



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Susan Bivona

AENJ (Art Educators of NJ) were doing the same thing as you on Saturday. We had a great group at the Arts Council in Princeton, NJ. The theme was, "The Art of Craft, the Craft of Art". I was a great day for all. Nate, you listed the steps perfectly of what you need to do to organize an event like this!
~ Susan


You have such great workshops! I loved the sessions I went to last December. Keep up this great work

Nate Morgan

Thanks Susan...I am sure that yours went just as well..

Thanks Deb - you were a wonderful presenter at our event. People are still talking about your workshop!!

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