Monthly Mentor

Shelly Breaux (December)
Each month, a different member and NAEA awardee is the guest writer for the NAEA Monthly Mentor Blog. Shelly Breaux established the Art Program at David Thibodaux STEM Magnet Academy in Lafayette, LA. In her classroom, Breaux focuses on inquiry-based learning, problem solving, collaboration, conceptual thinking, and constructive criticism. She believes in using art as an educational tool, and that art provides her students with a voice and an outlet. Click "GO" to read her full bio.



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September 22, 2010

Unique Classrooms: An Eclectic Trio of Effective Mentoring

Mentoring can take place in both traditional and non- traditional settings by people from a variety of backgrounds that are both in and outside of the teaching profession.  I will share three inspiring stories of mentoring.
The Quilters of Gee’s Bend
In October, our local public library will exhibit twenty quilts made by some of the women of Gee’s Bend, Alabama.  A week later, some of the quilters will travel to Columbia to share their quilting stories. William Arnett has been documenting the African-American South over twenty years and was instrumental in recognizing the achievements of the women of Gee’s Bend. For much of its history, Gee's Bend has been an isolated community, virtually cut off from the outside world. According to Arnett, Gee's Bend was named after Joseph Gee, who was the first white landowner in the area.  Eventually, Gee sold the plantation to Mark Pettway in 1845.  Most of the African-American families living at Gee’s Bend today are descendants of slaves from the original plantation and still carry the Pettway name.

Alvia Wardlaw, curator of Modern and Contempoary Art at the Museum of Fine Arts, stated “the compositions of these quilts contrast dramatically with the ordered regularity associated with many styles of Euro-American quilt-making.  There’s a brilliant, improvisational range of approaches to composition that is more often associated with the inventiveness and power of the leading 20th-century abstract painters than it is with textile-making.”  The quilting tradition at Gee’s Bend has been passed down through generations of women through a highly effective mentoring process. The quilts were made out of necessity, but are now receiving high acclaim in the art world.  Most of the women learned how to quilt from their mothers, female relatives, friends, or other community members.  Although the younger generation is not as interested in learning the quilt tradition, the quilters are hopeful that some of the younger people will become interested as times goes on.  There are a number of references (books, websites, DVD’s) that tell the story of the quilt makers.

Each One, Teach One
An annual exhibition of artwork by local African-American artists is showcased at the Ritz Museum in Jacksonville, Florida.  The origination of this exhibit entitled “Through Their Eyes” can be credited to Mrs. Lydia Stewart, who came up with the idea while working as a public affairs producer at a public broadcasting station in north Florida.  The program originated out of a need to feature African-American art during Black History Month.  This exhibition was well -received and successfully morphed into a larger annual event.  Stewart stated that, “I was looking for them to show the world as raw and real as they see it.” 

Last year, the theme became Each One; Teach One, named after an African proverb and emphasis was placed on successful partnering of mature and emerging artists.  With the goal of passing on artistic traditions, this program reached out to pair veteran artists with a younger generation of artists. My friend Rhonda Bristol, artist and retired art educator participated in the program.  Rhonda is a stellar mixed media and clay artist and recently transitioned from a long career in art education to being a full time practicing artist.  She agreed to mentor Jeanece Lyles, a young mixed media artist who expressed a desire to learn clay techniques.   Bristol met with Lyles over a period of three weekends and shared her knowledge and expertise of clay methods and techniques. 

In addition, monthly workshops were conducted at the museum for the young mentees and other community persons.  As a result of the mentorships, each artist created work that were featured in the Each One, Teach One exhibition.  Over twenty -four works in various media was produced for the exhibition. Some of the artists who participated in the program intend to continue their master/protégé relationship and are excited about exploring other opportunities.

Reference: Jerome, P.  (Summer 2010). Show evolves as premier platform. Flavour,  Vol.10,  No. 3, 18.

DIVA, Incorporated
Monicka Carey-Green studied special education in college but her real calling came about ten years ago when she decided to invite a group of women into her home to discuss the abuse they experienced in their personal relationships.  I was introduced to her story in a full -length article recently featured in our local newspaper.   I was so impressed by her story that I called to set up a meeting with her.  When we met, she told me her story of abuse and how she decided to move to a new state in order to reinvent herself.  Through her transformation, she soon discovered the need to reach out to younger generations of girls in order to lead them towards more thoughtful and appropriate decision-making.   Carey–Green founded and is the executive director of Diva, a non-profit organization for low-income and at–risk girls. Currently, there are over one hundred girls participating in the program.
The program name derived from a popular song by Beyonce Knowles.  She uses the acronym (P.I.E), which means prevention, intervention, and education.  Her goal is empowerment, to decrease teen pregnancy, delinquency, domestic abuse, child abuse, and sexual assault.   Through the program, the girls participate in a number of structured workshops including activities such as writing and dancing.

There is a graduation ceremony at the end of the program.  When I met with “Mrs. Monicka”  (as the girls call her), she spoke of the ways in which she engages them girls in frank discussions about their bodies, their fears, and consequences of actions.   She also holds monthly meetings with teen moms.  She remains in close contact with all of the girls and many of them reach out to her for advice. Since Carey–Green seeks to establish a supportive relationship with the parents of the girls, she has been very has been successful in her efforts.  I am excited about collaborating with her in the near future.

What inspirational mentoring stories do you have to share?

-Minuette Floyd


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