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.



Join the largest creative community established exclusively for visual arts educators, college professors, researchers, administrators, and museum educators.

Join NAEA Renew Membership

« April 2010 | Main | June 2010 »

Tuesday 05.25.10

An Acrostic for ART

For months I’ve thought what I would say to encourage another art educator.  I’ve decided on three ideas in an acrostic for ART to help recall.

“A” stands for; advocate your program. Enter your students’ work in competitions and exhibits. Contact the local newspaper.  Invite the Board of Education and your school’s administration to the exhibits. (It doesn’t really matter if they come – the invitation lets them know you are out there and doing something!)  My superintendent has laughed for 12 years about me sending him an NAEA publication and highlighting national standards and points I wanted him to understand about art education.  Tell the local newspaper. Have an artist visit your class for a special unit. Take pictures and call the local newspaper.  When a student gets recognition, take their picture; put it in the school hallway. Call your newspaper.  When you work with your National Art Honor Society on a service or volunteer project, make pictures. And, tell your local newspaper. You get the idea! If the local paper doesn’t send a representative, take photos of everything and send them in the paper’s preferred format.


“R” stands for; retain your sense of humor. Once gone, it is difficult to get back.  If students know you are frustrated or angry, they may try to send you over the edge.  Break the tension by bursting in song, beginning to whisper, or stand on top of your desk and ask for their attention. Think opposite and head in that direction when plans or discipline fall apart; it will throw your students off their game just long enough for you to regain control. When it’s all over, laugh with your students!


“T” stands for; think outside the box. Write a grant. Collaborate with other departments or individual teachers for a school-wide festival. If it’s been done before, do it better or bigger. Raise your level of expectancy toward your students. They will come through when given responsibility. I have had opportunity to travel the state of AL this year and have met amazing students. However, I have worked in Title I schools where the atmosphere can be depressive and teachers are overwhelmed. Such situations can lead to lowering of standards and our levels of expectancy. Trust your students to “think outside the box” with you!


-Rebecca (Becky) Guinn

Wednesday 05.19.10

Summer Break Assignment

With the end of the 2009-2010 school year approaching, I wondered if you had plans for a creative vacation during your summer break? Let me encourage you to develop a unit design as you would a list of sights to see on any vacation. A unit design turns what you see in the world around you into art. Your unit shape will be the focal point of your creative journey. First, you will simplify, and then you will organize what is around your simplified unit shape into a composition that draws attention.

 Thumbnail of unit shape
Unit shape of leaves

As you would use words to make a list of tourist sites, you will use the elements of design to write your images into your composition. Does this sound too much like school? Am I asking you to “control” your creativity?  Rollo May, author of The Courage to Create, said,”Creativity is best when it has limits, which force the ‘dream’ into usable form.” Planning before you create frees you from stopping to make design changes.  With no plan it is difficult to know when one is finished.


Completed work by art educator, Diane Maxey

Your goal, should you accept it, is to create one unified design product during your summer break! Use the following Elements and Principles of Design:

Line      Movement

Shape         Emphasis 

Form      Balance 

Value       Contrast

Color      Harmony

Texture     Rhythm

Space         Variety

Combine letters, numbers, shapes and other symbols into a unified composition.

Search for interesting patterns in nature:  weave of a bird’s nest, shadows on a stone patio, pulp of a fruit slice, anything that brings a smile!

Work to music and draw from the rhythm & melody to break some rules!

Change your point of view-above, below, inside out . . . think “outside the box!’

I was demonstrating painting techniques for a 2nd grade class a couple of weeks ago and one of the children exclaimed, “It even smells like grass!” Work with all your senses!

Use your camera viewfinder to compose and try a macro setting to zoom in like Georgia O’Keeffe.

Once your unified shape is set into your composition and into your mind, lose the plan.  Put it away and do what the painting, collage or project needs.  As Tim Gunn on “Project Runway” would say, “Make it work!” Have fun & lose yourself in creativity!

-Rebecca (Becky) Guinn

Sunday 05. 9.10

Art Educators and Students with Special Needs

I was thrilled to be the award recipient of the NAEA, CEC, VSA Special Needs Art Educator for 2010. As all of you know art educators teach students with special needs. I have always had a special place in my heart for these students and strived to help them find success and accomplishment in my classroom. Then, six years ago, I lost my hands and feet. My home had to be modified with wider doors so that I might pass through easily. My school system had to make modifications for me to be able to return to my classroom. Modifications were made to my van so that I might drive independently. Naturally, my way of seeing many things changed. As art educators we must look at student modifications as a positive move for the individual student to be successful in our class and in life.

Blog2a_Sp Needs student 1st at Mini Works

Special Needs student 1st at Mini Works

My personal journey created a more positive atmosphere for inclusion. I found that I had even more empathy for students with special needs than I had previously. I once heard the word, empathy, defined as, “Climbing into the other person’s mind, seeing as they see and feeling as they feel.”  Empathy goes beyond sympathy. As art educators we do not always understand the physiological details of special needs’ students. Sometimes they are included in our classes before we receive paperwork that spells out needed modifications.  When behavior modifications become necessary, we have the opportunity to work with Special Education faculty to maximize a student’s potential.

Blog2b_Kenji begins the show

Kenji begins the show!

We could all use a little more empathy in our lives. A teacher who empathizes with any student, special needs or not, gets one step closer to understanding that student.  Once we connect or bond with a student, we have part of the formula that we need to encourage, stretch, and grow that young person. As we are able to communicate because of our empathy for a student’s challenges, we show an understanding on a different level and teach that student to communicate through their art making.  This can be a rich learning experience for teacher, student and peers

-Rebecca (Becky) Guinn

Blog2c_AL teachers who attended the Special Needs Awards Dinner in Baltimore

AL teachers who attended the Special Needs Awards Dinner in Baltimore

Saturday 05. 1.10

Support Your Local Art Association

Welcome to the Monthly Mentor Blog for May!  I am delighted to be your writer the month following such an informative NAEA Convention in Baltimore.  The atmosphere was “fresh,” over and above spring, flowers, and Baltimore’s Inner Harbor! Participants were given a chance to have input into NAEA’s Strategic Planning for our future as an Association.  Presenters were prepared and positive from general sessions to hands-on workshops.  Smiles, information, and creativity were mixed with “eye candy” at every turn.  The exchanges and renewed friendships exhibited the professional value and fraternity that comes to members of this association.


Because we are “known by the company we keep,” it follows that art educators would want to be a part of professional organizations and associations that help to keep them sharp, informed, and connected to their profession.  After finding the information at my first national convention invaluable, I knew I wanted to return even though I knew not a soul.  I did return, but I also sought out my state convention.  I was a new art educator and was writing my own curriculum.  As the only art educator within my system, I needed help and found it through a regional group of art educators I met at our state conference.


I share this to encourage any of you who are not associated with a local, regional, or state group of art educators to find yours and become active. Click here for links to state associations.  I cannot measure the value these fellow art educators have been to my teaching career.  Yes, they are to a person overloaded; but art educators have a generous spirit. None of us have “spare” time.  So, we must make time for this type of enriching connection and professional development.  Through NAEA and AAEA, I have become a better educator, a better artist, and a better person.  Support your local arts association!

-Rebecca (Becky) Guinn