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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Tuesday 03.29.11

Educated in Seattle

I am back home from attending the 2011 NAEA National Convention in Seattle. It was such a wonderful experience. Seattle is such an artsy place. Everywhere I went I enjoyed beautiful art work and sculptures. Chuhuily glasswork and prints adorned places like the motels and convention center. It was exciting to visit the Seattle Art Museum.Breakfast


Museum I visited the Seattle Central Library. It is 11 stories high made out of glass and steel. It was voted # 108 on the American Institutes of Architect’s 150 favorite structures. It is a work of art itself.

If you are a teacher and have never been to a National Convention, YOU MUST GO! It is so exciting is surrounded by thousands of Creative people just like you. That factor alone is worth going for. There are guest speakers, speak out sessions, and hands on workshops. There are tours available and special discounts to museums. 

The Crayola event was held at the Experience Music Project museum. There was a Jimi Hendrix sculpture consisting of a variety of instruments. The outside of the museum was iridescent colors. The largest moon visible to the earth was visible that night. Craylola had an exhibit of the Dream maker Visual Voices Contest displayed on the upper floor. I was proud to accept a plaque for my student Brayden during the award ceremony. The contest is an annual online gallery event that showcases art and writing from select students from across America. A few artworks are selected, framed, and then displayed in US Department of Education Buildings. I would personally like to thank Crayola for their support of art educators and the art education programs. They are offering a grant now to a select few schools for participating schools to use an integrated art curriculum. You can get more information at the Crayola Website. The Crayola event provided teachers a place to try out products and offered a sweet treat bar. Thanks for being so sweet, Crayola!

Space needleMany different vendors set up and gave away numerous samples of art supplies and showcased new products. Some offered opportunities to make and take projects. Another big shout out thank you should go out to all of the hard work and support from the various vendors.

I attended many good sessions and I will try to sum up my thoughts on what I learned. I think that all educators are facing difficult times ahead. Seems like there is always some type of movements on the horizon. Everyone agrees that the children deserve to be taught in a way that will teach the whole child. We as art educators should be at the forefront being mentors of our schools curriculum changes. We need to be a part of the changes by giving our ideas and suggestions to policymakers. We are the creative thinkers and problem solvers; we need to unleash our voices.

However, the new curriculum guidelines are being set, and we need to go ahead and be prepared for the changes. I attended a wonderful session by Jeryl Hollingsworth and she shared the way she keeps e-portfolios. At the beginning of the year, she has all students draw a self-portrait of themselves and they draw another one at the end of the school year. She keeps these portfolios and they move up with the children each year. She keeps them in alphabetical order by grade. That way, each year you only have to add the new students and will always have their files. The files will move up with them on through high school. The art can be compared, and improvement can be measured, by observing the drawings. You can add more artwork throughout the year. Several teachers that already have these e-files of artworks can also use the images to upload to the Artsonia website. Artsonia allows another way of storing students artwork and family members will have access to the artwork and can buy items with their child’s art at anytime. The teacher gets a percentage of sales to buy more art supplies for the classroom. For more information, check out their website at You can go to the NAEA convention presenters link to find out more information on Jeryl’s presentation.

Another class I attended was concerned with every child and their right to express their self freely without always having a concrete desired outcome. In Spontaneous Painting, they referred to how every person is born with a creative instinct. Teachers need to find ways to guide children to tap into that powerful creativity from within. Even children have many stressful situations that they deal with on a daily basis. Creativity allows one to problem solve and find unique solutions to everyday life events. We cannot only teach children to answer the same way on a test. Students need to learn to take they knowledge they learn and how to put it to use. Student learning needs to be a collaborative event between all teachers no matter what subjects they teach. They need to see the relevance and commonality of the information given to them. One suggestion was to have a notebook or journal where students can come into class, listen to soothing music, (without talking) and to simply write how they are feeling that day. Whether they are happy, sad, or confused, they need to learn how to put it in writing for their (and teachers) eyes only. They may draw to express that feeling. This can be a warm up session before starting a lesson. The teacher can look at their work and words and they will know that they are not alone and someone else is aware of how they feel.

The world of teaching is ever changing and we need to roll with the tide. Attending the convention reinforces the fact that you are not alone. There is this grand network of educators that are willing to share their experiences with you. It is a great springboard for bouncing off ideas from each other and a way to renew your enthusiasm for teaching. We, as art educators, know how important our job is. We just need to tell the world how important it is. Let your Creative Voice be heard. Please “Step Up and Speak Out for Art Education” with me.  

Your Voice is needed! Please submit ideas on how you or your state will expect you to show student growth for the new evaluation standards process.

-Jackie Spaulding-Wright

Monday 03.21.11

Step Up and Speak Out for Art Education: How I Stepped Up

Wright I was awarded the 2009 Tennessee Elementary Art Educator of the Year at the 2008 TAEA conference. My thoughts were swarming of ideas of what I would say if I had to give a speech. It had been such a long hard road for me to become an art educator. The "Back to Basic” movement cut art from curriculum throughout the schools at the same time I graduated college. I had a very challenging obstacle coarse to go through before becoming an art educator. Some people would have given up. I thought about it and wondered why I was having such a difficult time. Now I realize I had to go through every trial to be able to share this story with you: My "stepping stones.”

I took a wire sculpting class at the conference and made a wire and plaster shoe sculpture. Another class that I took there was using sculpty clay. When I returned home, I decided to use my leftover clay to decorate my shoe. With all of the excitement of the conference fresh in my mind, I thought that the shoe could represent my journey in becoming an art educator. I could “Stand Up and Speak Out for Art Education.”

Taking advantage of every opportunity of being in the media, I used my shoe and my idea whenever possible. I thought it was just a passing thought...who knew what would become of the idea. My principal, Julie Thompson, called a local newspaper to take my picture for winning the Art Teacher of the Year award.  I used that opportunity to get my story of the importance of art out and it all started to unfold before my eyes.

When Mayor Ragsdale of Knoxville saw the article in the paper, he congratulated me in his monthly newsletter and stated that I had “spearheaded” an art campaign. I thought, I better get busy! Two of the art teachers that I went to the conference with just happened to be the current Youth Art Month Co-Chairs for Tennessee. The next year they used my idea and we decided to change the name to “Step Up and Speak Out for Art Education.” It was the theme for the YAM Tennessee Flag Design Contest the next year. 

A couple weeks later, I was chosen by Skirt Magazine in Knoxville to write a resolution for the December issue. It was not because of the award, but I used my shoe as an opportunity to plug art education. A college friend that I had lost contact with over the years, Jane Ross Strevel, saw my picture in Skirt Magazine and we have become close again. She is a graphic designer and used a picture of my shoe to design the Step Up logo for me. 

I started making shoes with my entire school. I made model magic clay shoes with K-1st grade. 2nd-5th grades used Paper Mache to create whimsical three-dimensional shoes. After I had over 550 shoes at my school, I started calling around town to see where I could display them. Knoxville has an annual Dogwood Arts Festival each spring, and I called to see if they could be displayed somewhere during the festival. Did I luck out! Skirt Magazine and Knoxville News Sentinel were sponsoring a Diva Luncheon at the Knoxville Art Museum and their theme was shoes! They used over 100 of my shoes as centerpieces for the luncheon. There were over 250 influential women there. I was brought on stage to tell about my art campaign and allowed to put flyers in all of their goody bags. I won them over with my quote on art and shoes: "Art and shoes have a lot in common. They both come in a variety of styles, get more comfortable with use, and both leave an imprint of the sole (soul)."Shoes

Shoes2Paper Mache I painted using pictures of various master artworks.
Jackie Spaulding-Wright








Clay shoes from Bearden Middle School in Knoxville, TN on display 2010 at Di Vinci’s Pizza for Youth Art Month

My shoes were displayed in art shows, libraries, and at the Central Education office. The following year art teachers across the county and state joined me in displaying some type of art shoes in honor of the campaign. I even had students make small shoes to use as Christmas ornaments for our Christmas tree. The tree was donated to “The Fantasy of Tress”, an annual fundraiser held at the Knoxville Convention Center benefiting Children’s Hospital. 

Paper Mache Shoes from Carter Elementary: Stepping Up for Art!


During April 2009,as part of the Dogwoods Art Festival, the Knox County Special Events paired up with Carter Elementary and used over 100 shoes on display  or the annual Diva Luncheon Fundraiser  held at The Knoxville Museum of Art. The Diva Luncheon had a “Shoe Attitude!’


Shoe on display at Arrowmont in Gatlinburg, TN 2010 Sevier County Student Art Show

Since then, I have been on the radio, presented at two TAEA State conferences, at the Tennessee Arts Academy, and at the 2010 NAEA National Convention in Baltimore. I was awarded the 2011 State Art Educator of the Year. Now I am a Youth Art Month Co-Chair for Tennessee, so I can continue to have my voice heard. I have a Facebook cause with over 700 members. I have many states and different companies that have joined my Facebook cause. Please join me at: and invite all of your friends.

Art To Remember sponsored me at the NAEA National Convention making t-shirts, magnets, and flyers to hand out at the convention. They even helped me set up a website. I would like to add photographs of art shoe projects soon to the site: Send me photos and ideas that you incorporate with shoe projects.

My goal is to somehow turn Step Up for Art into a non-profit organization that will benefit art in the classrooms. I believe that every child deserves the right to be taught by a professional art educator. I am open to suggestions to make this happen. I was hoping to get on Oprah or the Ellen shows to gain support. Does anyone one out there have connections? LOL

Did you know there is a shoe museum? I contacted them and they loved the idea of the shoe campaign and sent me a page link to add to my power point presentation: The Bata Shoe Museum is in Toronto. Check out their great website on shoes.


I contacted Tom’s Shoes. They love the idea, as well. I tried to get them to pair up with me in the campaign. They will give art teachers a 10 percent discount to hold “sole parties” to paint shoes. It would be a great way to raise awareness for two causes at once. The shoes are not cheap though. Remember the give a pair to a child in Africa for every pair you buy. If it is too expensive for a fundraiser for your students alone, maybe try to get another organization to help fund the event. Maybe to pay for shoes for underprivileged children near you and they could paint the shoes. Have it put in the media and talk about Step Up and Speaking Out for Art Educations.

-Jackie Spaulding-Wright

Monday 03.14.11

Stepping Stones

Everyone has heard the words that “things happen for a reason.” Even though we think the world is “out to get us”, it is not until later that we can realize that the trials we encounter, in everything we do, is a stepping stone in our life’s journey. I am going to share my journey that I have had on becoming an art teacher.

I was that child that art teachers refer to when they defend the importance of art. I was not interested in other subjects. I lived for art classes. My High School art teacher encouraged me and because of that, I went to college to pursue some type of art career. I soon decided that I wanted to become an art teacher to order to help and guide students on an art path. The same year that I was graduating college, art and music programs were cut out from the curriculum for the “Back to the Basic movement.”  Majoring in art and minoring in painting did not leave options to teach any other subjects. (I would recommend that students always have another area to use as a back up plan). I took over a fifteen-year detour by working in retail because of the bleak job outlook in art education.  I started teaching after school art classes. At first, I went to schools to teach after school classes until I added a room onto my house. I was determined to teach one way or another. Knox County finally started adding art teachers into the elementary schools. I was fortunate enough to get a position with them and I still teach after- school classes. 

I did everything I could as soon as possible because of feeling liked I had missed so much already. Opportunities started presenting themselves and I jumped on as many as I could. Within six months, I had art displayed in Nashville in Representative Bill Dunn’s office, two winners in a county art show, and had two art shows because I was teaching at two different schools. I had students that painted murals on the walls of one school and the other school, students painted a window for a local business as part of the Dogwood Arts Festival. I have not stopped since then. 

I know that my teaching has touched the lives of many children. I am just now starting to see my students going on to college and some are majoring in art. I am very proud of their accomplishments and cannot wait to see many more succeed in art related fields. Even if they do not major in art, art classes have still touched them in some way. I have had students who tell me that “ coming to art class makes them feel better.” One student lost her mother when she was only in the second grade and numerous times over the years would give me notes and draw me pictures telling me just how much art made her feel better. Another boy came into my room in a very angered state last year and ask to sit by himself. After about ten minutes later into his art project he said, “Mrs. Wright, you know, art seems to clam you down.”

Teaching in Knox County has been a great experience. The art teachers meet as a group and we have a great art supervisor that stands up for us and makes sure that we are all leaders in our field. I noticed right away which teachers were successful and they where my inspiration, I wanted to be like them. One of the best things that I did was to join The Tennessee Art Education and NAEA. I would recommend it to all art teachers and young students going into the field of teaching. It is the best way to keep informed of changes; you get wonderful professional development opportunities and valuable collaboration between peers. I hope to meet many of my fellow teachers at the NAEA National Convention in Seattle!

Even though for years I wondered why I was not an art teacher, and why it was so hard into get where I am now, I now realize that it was my stepping-stones. Next time I will share how my “Step Up for Art” campaign started.

-Jackie Spaulding-Wright

*Please send in quotes from students on how they feel about art or how art classes have affected their life. Do you have a story about a student using art to make a difference?

Helpful Hints:
Check your state’s education association and NAEA to become a member. There are special rates for students.

Did you know that there are grants to attend the conferences? Check with your state’s art’s commission. Some have teacher professional development grants.

Quotes on stepping stones and overcoming obstacles:

A desire can overcome all objections and obstacles.” - Gunderson

Sometimes people come into your life and you know right away that they were meant to be there... to serve some sort of purpose, teach you a lesson or help figure out who you are or who you want to become. You never know who these people may be but when you look eyes with them, you know that every moment that you are with them, they will affect your life in some profound way. And sometimes things happen to you at the time that may seem horrible, painful and unfair, but in reflection you realize that without overcoming those obstacles you would have never realized your potential, strength, will power or heart. “ (Author Unknown)

Develop success from failures. Discouragement and failure are two of the surest stepping stones to success.”
-Dale Carnegie

My life is a blank canvas and I am the artist!
-Jackie Spaulding-Wright





Check out Maggie Bags:
This was a former student of mine in that was in my after school art classes all through Elementary School. She just graduated last year and has this amazing recycled bag company made out of recycled seatbelt material.
Inspirational Story - This student from Knoxville turned her experience of having a brain tumor and creative outlet of making  “ Brain Bows” into a way to raise money for the cause. You can go to “Brainbows” to become a member of the Facebook page

Fifth grader's hair bow business helps raise thousands for charitable foundation:

Tuesday 03. 8.11

Becoming an Art Advocate

Racing to the top while leaving no child behind is exhausting and demanding. As a matter of fact, the name has already changed to “First to the Top”. Technology has enabled the world to become a multi-tasking environment. Students listen to music, text, social network, and tweet while doing homework. It is already hard enough to keep students attention without competing with cell phones and racing minds. High school and college professors have a more difficult time with the phone situation. Although, even younger students are used to being stimulated by video games and such at an early age. We, as teachers, have an enormous job of keeping up with the way students learn now. It is a different world that demands a different approach to teaching. Art education is an area that can and should be used to capture the attention of student’s minds in order to achieve a successful retention of learning. An easy subject to incorporate with art is social studies. Find out what some of the standards are and simply plug into your art lesson. Collaborate with the core teachers and select a few areas to link into your art lesson plans. 
We have to justify the importance of art and collaborate across the curriculum to support other core standards. When students can absorb information in a new and different way, it will enable connections to be made in other subjects. It will open their eyes and can be used in a way that will produce a higher thinking order. It is one thing to be able to mark a correct answer on a test. Most standardized tests are made to have all students bubble in the same answers. What about the thinking outside the bubble? That is where our job comes in.  It is a higher level of thinking that is required to apply or analyze that information to put that knowledge to use. If we use art to coordinate learning, the level of comprehension will increase. Whenever possible, verbalize how art lessons can be used in everyday life.

It appalls me that most of society still thinks of the arts as an extracurricular activity. Art is not an area that needs to have budget cuts. It is our duty as art teachers and concerned citizens to make a difference in how art is perceived to the public and legislators. Art class may be one of the only areas where many students can excel. It is a place where they can feel free to explore and express their ideas. Art allows them to apply what they have learned in other subjects to be seen and developed into a creative way to be used in real life. We need to teach students how to unleash their creative thoughts and ideas in a way that benefits our society. Fortune 500 companies seek out creative employees. These are the reasons why art is such a valuable subject that must be included in all schools. Every child deserves the right to be taught by a professional art educator. Instead of cutting the arts, money should be raised to increase the number of art educators and supplies for every school.

But, I am only one person. What difference could I possibly make? In the next few blogs, I am going to share with you a series of things that I have done to make a difference. I have started my own personal art campaign that has spread across Tennessee, and hopefully nationally before long. Please “Step Up and Speak Out for Art Education” with me.

How I have used art lessons to relate to life experiences:

One of the best examples I can give on how I have used art to relate to real life events is a lesson presented when the Olympics were held in Beijing. It provided a great opportunity for me to teach about how art related to the Olympics. I kept researching and found out that art and music were originally a part of the Olympics. Painting and sculpture were given medals. I displayed Jacob Lawrence’s The Olympic Racers.

Olympics Jacob Lawrence Poster: Munich Olympic Games

We did a lesson on drawing figures. I asked students who had ever played a variety of sports and they would raise their hand. I then asked how did they know what they were good at before they played. The same goes for art. Some people are better at painting, others at pottery, or photography. You will not know until you try. Then asked, “did the people get to the Olympics by just practicing a few times?”...Of course not! Art is the same; the more you practice the better you become.

At the time of this lesson students were able to watch the Olympics at home. We saw pictures in newspapers and magazines. Another valuable lesson, explaining what jobs artist had at the games. The architect who designed the Birds Eye Nest is an artist.

Terracota_soldiers I checked out an “Art To Go” case on China from the Knoxville Museum of Art. It had so many things to display and teach about. These resources are free and most museums have them. Students started bringing in money from China, postcards, ECT. One student brought in a newspaper from China and I encouraged her to do a special collage project with it. We studied various things about China for six weeks. We painted with bamboo brushes, and had real bamboo to look at. One student brought in their reading book and it had a story about the Terracotta army in it, another connection. To me, that is the kind of teaching that gets their attention and helps them retain the information.

-Jackie Spaulding-Wright


Art and the Olympics

Jacob Lawrence Poster: Munich Olympic Games

Tuesday 03. 1.11

Art Speaks: Let your Creative Voice Be Heard!

I am a Youth Art Month Co-Chair for Tennessee this year and our theme is Art Speaks: Let your Creative Voice Be Heard! Setup_speakoutThat is exactly what we all need to do. We need to raise our voices on the importance of art education. If we stand united, we will have a big voice! Let it be heard by writing letters to legislators telling of them of how important art is and that we need their support to stand with us to keep art and school and budgets from being cut. Support Youth Art Month by displaying art in the community and invite officials to your school art shows. Take pictures; collect paper clippings with your student’s pictures and articles in the paper. If a student gets in the paper, use it to our advantage and mention YAM and speak your voice in the article. Find out who your state’s YAM Co-chairs are and send them pictures and list what you have done in support of YAM. This is a time of year when you are having art shows anyway. All you need to do is to make it visible that you are in support of Youth Art Month. Make a poster by copying the YAM logo large and post it with your artwork. The Yam Co-Chairs need information and documentation from you to make a scrapbook to send into the YAM committee by June. We cannot submit anything without your help. You can use our YAM Wiki. Download documents here for your use. Just edit the information to fit your state or school. View "Ten Ways for Parents to Encourage Young Artists". Amy Broady, TN Youth Art Month Co-Chair, has graciously composed this information. Will you Step Up and Speak Out for Art Education with me? You can make a difference!

-Jackie Spaulding-Wright

IMG_4532The student of this winning flag design (Noelle G.) and her art teacher (Floweree Galetovic) from Bearden High School will win a trip to New York compliments of Sargent Art. Sargent Art has teamed up with several participating states offering a trip to New York for the winning flag design winner for each state. Additional winners from K-2, 3-5th, 6-8th, and 9-12th age groups will win art supplies for the winning student and art teacher. Kudo's to Sargent Art for Speaking Out for Art!