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

« January 2011 | Main | March 2011 »

Monday 02.28.11

Teachable Moments

In Dr. David Burton’s book, “Exhibiting Student Art, The Essential Guide for Teachers”, he writes about the potential for learning when creating student art exhibitions.

In it he also quotes his survey (Burton, 2001) that found that 88% of the responding art teachers found that exhibiting student art was an effective strategy in motivating and inspiring students in art.

He also states, “Exhibiting art completes the artistic cycle”.

Dr. Burton further explains, “I think exhibition is a normal, natural, and necessary part of the artistic and aesthetic process. It completes the artistic cycle and lays the groundwork for the next cycle. Not every work of art or project needs to be exhibited but children/adolescents should understand that this is a likely option and look forward to the possibility.

 In my opinion, exhibiting art is a more appropriate closure to the artistic/aesthetic process than studio production alone.” (Personal correspondence, January, 2011)

As we move forward into the spring, Youth Art Month, we should use this time to exhibit art throughout our school. Showing student art is motivating, it has value, it is educational, and the benefits to our students and programs cannot be understated.

Student art exhibitions are full of teachable moments (I highly recommend you read Dr. Burton’s book). Plus, we teach our students the visual arts and the display of their works is part of that education.

 -Michael Gettings

Thursday 02.24.11


An effective student art display shows our student’s artistic achievements and our programs while at the same time adding beauty and value. This is, at its most base, a form advertising. For secondary art educators, this form of advertising is crucial. Since we are not considered a core subject, we are an elective. As an elective we are dependent on students signing up for our classes and administrative support.

There is no better way to advertise your program that to show it off.  Regularly rotating and well composed displays of student art will do just that. Be sure to show all levels of your programs; your entry level classes through your advanced arts. The caveat is this; these displays must be done throughout the school or at the very least, in the high traffic areas of the school. They must also be done with craftsmanship and care.

While there are many, many learning opportunities in a school gallery setting, there are many, many benefits to the entire program by showing student art throughout the school. Remember, student art displays add value and can engage a wide variety of students. Ongoing student art displays will help art class enrollment. As an added bonus, if you make a school look good – and you will – the administrators will notice. This will help develop an understanding of the vitality and importance of the visual arts programs in your school.

-Michael Gettings

Monday 02.21.11

Value and Opportunities

In Blink post below, people responded to the before and after pictures of the space without and with student art displayed.

In the posted comments to the picture of the student display words like inviting, warm, pride, and beautiful were used.

These words point out to this simple, yet often missed point; visual art created by our students is aesthetically appealing. This appeal adds value to our environment, whether it is in school, the central office or other venues in the community.

When art is displayed in a school, the school becomes more inviting, warm, and filled with pride and beauty. These are positive aspects that are full of opportunities. As educators we should be very mindful of these opportunities.

These opportunities are for student engagement and learning. When the student sees their works on display, they are proud. They have become more invested in the school environment. They are a little more engaged. I have seen some of my “tough guy” students bring their friends to the cafeteria to show them their artwork on display. This is a real display of pride. It also shows that they have learned the value of art, the aesthetic appeal and have brought these ideas forth to their friends.

Student art displays adds value and create opportunities.

-Michael Gettings

Monday 02.14.11

Where to Display Student Art?

Consider: In the January 2011 edition of American School Board Journal, a board member from New York observed, “… in some cases, the arts may be the one thing keeping that student in school”.
Also, to quote, Raising the Educational Achievement of Secondary School Students - Volume 1, Summary of Promising Practices, “Schools are more than just places where academic learning occurs. Depending on many factors, they are also complex social environments that can be inviting or alienating. Successful programs for at-risk students attempt to create an environment that helps students develop a sense of commitment to the school community”.

I would argue that student art should be a predominate part of the entire school culture. By that, I mean that student works should be shown in as many venues within the building as possible.
There are challenges to this concept. Some of these are architectural (Campus style schools), aesthetics of a new building, and the fear of the works being damaged.

These challenges can be beat though. Find the places in the school where every student will visit at some time. The cafeteria, library, and entrance/office areas are two that come to mind. Display art there. Use panels (the hinged doors work well) and literally move your display into the active spots.

It is clear that most people believe that based on the basic aesthetics of beautification, the school becomes a more vibrant student centered environment.

Tells us – Where are the active spots in your school? Where are some challenge areas in your school? How do you overcome these challenges?

-Michael Gettings


  • American School Board Journal, "Your Turn, The arts are necessary", January 2011

Friday 02.11.11


There is a thought process called “thin slicing”. Described in Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Blink, simplified, it involves making quick or snap judgments about something. In this case, using thin slicing, you are going to take a look at the following two pictures:

GettingsPic1 Pic 1 – Henrico County Public Schools Central Office lobby without any student art on display

Pic 2 – With student art

What is your initial reaction to picture 1? Picture 2?
Post your reactions.

-Michael Gettings

Monday 02. 7.11

What’s in a Wordle?

In response to "Why do we show student art", we received many well thought out answers and perspectives. I decided to create a Wordle base on the input. This neat web app takes the words that were used the most and makes them larger.

Which words immediately jump out at you? Why?
Now go back and look at the posted comments. What terms do you think are missing from the Wordle?

-Michael Gettings

Tuesday 02. 1.11

Why Show Student Art?

Walk into any elementary school in the nation and you are likely to find a visually rich landscape. On the walls you will see children’s drawings, projects writings and other works of art. In the library there will be projects on the shelves.
These works are often accompanied with name tags, written explanations and even a list of standards.
You can find the same visual landscape in most middle schools.
Walk into a high school and you are likely to find a different landscape.  There are probably fewer examples of student work and student artwork gracing the walls. You can find the student artwork but it will probably be closer to the art room or in limited locations or exhibit areas.
Before we tackle the “why” of this I would like to start with the most basic question of all:
Why do we show art work?
Notice I did not say student art. I want us to consider why we show art in the first place. Consider the aesthetics. Consider the effect on the environment. Consider how showing art affects the artist and viewer.
I want you, the reader to contribute your thoughts to this basic question.
As we progress through the month we will take a communal look at the same question as it relates to student art. We will explore the benefits for our students and programs. How do logistics or attitudes create impediments to showing student art and how we can make a positive change. We will also explore the teachable moments that occur when student artwork is displayed prominently throughout a building.

-Michael Gettings