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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Thursday 12.31.09

Art Education and the Season of Giving

It is December 31, and as we prepare to usher in the New Year, I am taking a moment to reflect on the Season of Giving. How can we inspire a generous spirit and a philanthropic attitude among our students in the art classroom?

Teachers across Georgia successfully inspire their students to work passionately with art projects that explore the possibility of a better world through collective responsibility and imagination. At Norcross Elementary School, art teacher Lauren Phillips and her students conduct an annual Empty Bowls ice cream social with ice cream donated from Target. Proceeds are donated to a local food bank and almost $5000 has been raised to date! Debbie Katcoff of Augusta invites the entire community when she hosts a huge Empty Bowls luncheon where artists donate bowls for a silent auction, students from over a dozen schools donate bowls and area restaurants participate by bringing in their best soups and desserts. All proceeds go to feed the hungry.  Renee Gaither, GAEA NAHS Sponsor of the Year, works with her NAHS chapter at Tucker High School to instill responsibility and self-confidence in her students through service learning. For example, members work with seniors at the local nursing home by decorating and delivering ornaments. These artists also decorate pumpkins for patients of brain injuries at Scottish Rite Children’s Hospital.  She has led her chapter to focus their energy on community members in need.  They participate in several other impressive projects such as Empty Bowls, Toys for Tots, and Youth Art Month.  With service learning, Renee emphasizes the impact students can make in the lives of others. At North Gwinnett High School, students have joined teacher Debi West in an ongoing effort to create “Art for a Cause”, raising thousands of dollars for Croy’s Cause: Urea Cycle Disorders (NUCDF) and Relay for Life through art auctions and art sales at public venues. 

I commend all of these teachers for their efforts to engage in philanthropy while teaching empathy and social responsibility. May we all be inspired to carry this spirit of generosity and hard work into the New Year!

Happy New Year to all! Thank you to Linda Scott for giving me the opportunity to blog for NAEA. It was a neat experience!

-Drew Brown
Art Educator
Past President, GAEA
The Georgia Art Education Association is committed to quality visual art education for all learners, provided by certified art educators. "ART FOR ALL!"

Friday 12.11.09

Art Education, Collective Responsibility and Activism

Vanessa Lopez states that the 2010 NAEA National Convention theme Art Education and Social Justice is appropriate to our time. She says, “Our nation is truly questioning itself in order to discover and redefine who we are as a nation, what we believe in, and what needs to change.”  At the upcoming convention in Baltimore, we can expect that presenters will approach and discuss topics such as passivity, ignorance, truths, and assumptions while embracing equity, equality, collective responsibility and activism. How do we encourage our students explore these global themes and take on a role of local activism?
At my school, Sweet Apple Elementary, students explored the theme “Go Green” and created a theme-based float for our town’s annual Youth Day Parade. Every student had the opportunity to contribute either individually or in a cooperative lesson, learning and sharing knowledge about how to work toward a cleaner and “greener” planet. In tandem, the Environmental Club initiated a recycling program at Sweet Apple Elementary thus increasing the students’ overall awareness and concern with the issues facing our planet and its populations. The Georgia Art Education Association has embraced the topic for our Youth Art Month theme with students across the state engaged in discussion about how to save the Earth—from greater awareness of global climate change to reducing our waste and becoming more energy efficient.

September 2008a  September 2008b 
September 2008c  September 2008d 
How do we as art educators encourage students to identify the issues that are important to them, take on a role of responsibility and make a difference through art? Share your ideas!

Check out our video at:
(Many thanks to Sweet Apple art teacher Ms. K for putting together this collection of great images!)


-Drew Brown
Art Educator
Past President, GAEA
The Georgia Art Education Association is committed to quality visual art education for all learners, provided by certified art educators. "ART FOR ALL!"

Friday 12. 4.09

Hang It Up!

For my first blog, I have found inspiration in past NAEA blogs, especially Nate Morgan’s dialogue on sharing our experiences of when and how art became important in our lives.

I have always loved to draw, and I did much more of it when I was a child. My parents always complimented and encouraged my artwork when I was growing up. One memorable experience from the elementary school years was when I drew and colored a picture of a small country cabin with farm animals. My father loved the drawing, and he placed it in a plastic frame from Kmart and hung it on the wall! In my mind, that frame elevated my work to new heights. It was hanging on the wall! My heart was full, and I felt pride! I don’t know where the picture is now, but I do remember that I did a pretty good job with foreground, middle ground and background, and I added lots of detail. As a child, I also loved to draw portraits. I remember having my grandfather pose for a pencil portrait. He remained still for me for a very long time! I wonder today what he was thinking…was he bored or amused? That portrait, too, made it into a frame and was hung on the wall. These memories are still so vivid for me.

Today many of us who teach elementary school have the opportunity to work with companies such as Artomé or Kids ArtFairs. These companies specialize in framing student artworks and producing art shows for schools. The exhibits feature art displayed in black frames with mats on professional display systems. Our art show for Sweet Apple Elementary will take place in March 2010 to celebrate Youth Art Month. I believe that the school-wide art show, whether it is professionally produced or produced by hanging every student’s art on the wall, is an important community-building event and a source of pride for each student. Not only do the students see their art displayed, families visit to view and discuss the art. This is advocacy in its best form! Our school has been conducting successful art shows for a number of years due to the initiative of my colleague, Ms. K, who arrived at Sweet Apple several years before me.  

P5070055    P5070054  
There is a strong rationale behind conducting a school-wide art show. We have the opportunity to showcase EVERY student’s artwork. When hundreds of students’ artworks are hanging at the same time, they feel like they are part of something big! When we take time to really look, we begin to perceive the learning that is conveyed from our student artists. Students and visitors engage with the artworks, thus increasing their awareness and appreciation for student art, art education, and the school art program. Every student has been inspired and encouraged to do his/her best work in creating their art. The prospect of the big exhibit is quite motivating for some students. Another benefit is that our art show functions as a fundraiser. Parents or relatives can purchase the mat and frame and a portion of the profits go back to the school.


I would like to pose the following questions--why is exhibiting art essential to the total process of learning in the visual arts? How does a school-wide art exhibit help build a quality art program or build community within a school? How does it differ for elementary, middle and high school programs? How do you instill pride in your students? What other values are gained through school-wide art events? Share your ideas, your rationale and your greatest successes and challenges…

Many thanks to Pam Morgan, Cherokee County art teacher and 2010 GAEA Elementary Art Educator of the Year, for allowing me to post the photos from your school-wide art show!)

-Drew Brown
Art Educator
Past President, GAEA
The Georgia Art Education Association is committed to quality visual art education for all learners, provided by certified art educators. "ART FOR ALL!"