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 02.28.12

Getting to Know: Ruth Asawa

In 1942 in the wake of Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States government ordered Japanese Americans living along the West Coast into war relocation camps. At the time, the Asawa family lived in Norwalk, California, and they were sent to the Rohwer Relocation Center in Arkansas. Despite this very challenging experience, one of the family’s daughters, Ruth, developed a passion for art, and she spent her time studying drawing and painting with professional artists who were also interned. After high school she wanted to attend college to become an art teacher, but she was told that she wouldn’t be able to find a teaching position because of lingering ill-will against the Japanese. It was then that she decided to attend Black Mountain College in North Carolina, where artist Joseph Albers (1888–1976) was one of her progressive art instructors.

In the early 1950s, Asawa changed longstanding ideas about sculpture by crocheting wire into beautiful, spherical shapes suspended in space. She created these daring sculptural forms at her home while caring for her six young children, and they earned her critical acclaim and a fellowship to the Tamarind Lithography Workshop in Los Angeles where she created a series of nature-based prints in 1965. These lithographs reveal some of the same concerns she explored in her sculpture, such as balancing a subject’s positive space with its negative space.

Asawa PrintRuth Asawa (b. 1926), Desert Plant, 1965, lithograph, Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas, 1965.181

Throughout her life, Asawa has continued to reflect positively on the challenges of her life, and she has been a tireless advocate for arts education since the 1960s. Reflecting on her experiences, she said, “I hold no hostilities for what happened; I blame no one. Sometimes good comes through adversity. I would not be who I am today had it not been for the Internment, and I like who I am.” Think of your students as you consider Asawa’s words. How might she inspire them?

Explore further:
Ruth Asawa

-Stacy Fuller

Friday 02.24.12

Museums and You: Online Resources

Just like with distance learning, you can take your students to ancient Egypt, nineteenth-century Texas, contemporary Africa, and more without leaving your classroom! Many museums provide online teaching resources with images, information on artworks and artists, interactive games, discussion questions, and classroom activities for all grade levels tied to state and national teaching standards. NAEA’s Museum Division is currently working on an updated list of online art museum resources to share with you on NAEA’s website. Below is a sneak peek of some of the featured resources sure to engage you and your students. 

Resources for Elementary Students
>The Art Institute of Chicago’s Curious Corner encourages young students to explore artworks from around the world through words and pictures, experiment with visual elements and principles, and use different styles of design to create something new.
>NGAkids from the National Gallery of Art encourages artistic exploration and creativity, while offering child friendly introductions to the museum’s extensive collections.

Resources for Middle School–Students
>The Dallas Museum of Art’s DIG! The Maya Project is an interactive game about the Maya culture of Mexico and Central America.
>Access Online from the Portland Museum of Art features “interactivities” that introduce students to nineteenth-century American art and architecture.

Resources for High School–Students
>Art Babble from the Indianapolis Museum of Art showcases video art content in high quality format from a variety of sources and perspectives.
>The Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History from the Metropolitan Museum of Art is an extensive resource of art historical information and images from the museum’s collection, along with contextual information that places the objects in the framework of key world events.
>The Museum of Modern Art’s Red Studio was developed by MoMA in collaboration with high school students and explores issues and questions raised by teens about modern art, today’s working artists, and what goes on behind the scenes at a museum.

Resources for Educators
>The Denver Art Museum’s Creativity Resource for Teachers features lesson plans that focus on creativity in visual arts and language arts education.
>Resources for the Classroom from the J. Paul Getty Museum seeks to have students construct meaning through encounters with art and create original works of art and reflect upon what they have made.
>ArtsConnectEd provides access to artworks and K–12 educational resources from the Minneapolis Institute of Arts and Walker Art Center.

-Stacy Fuller

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Wednesday 02.22.12

Art Speaks: Environmentalism

There have been many artists, both past and present, who have used their talents to spread environmental messages.

As discussed in an earlier post, in the mid-nineteenth century, Thomas Cole visually depicted his conflict between progress and environmental destruction in The Hunter’s Return. In his Essay on American Scenery, Cole states, “I cannot but express my sorrow that the beauty of such landscapes is quickly passing away—the ravages of the axe are daily increasing…This is a regret rather than a complaint; such is the road society has to travel.”

Bierstadt-ImageAlbert Bierstadt (1830–1902), Sunrise, Yosemite Valley, ca. 1870, oil on canvas, Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas, 1966

Albert Bierstadt captured the beauty of Yosemite in works like Sunrise, Yosemite Valley. President Abraham Lincoln had signed a bill just a few years earlier to protect the area, marking the first instance of park land being set aside specifically for preservation and public use by action of the U.S. federal government. Bierstadt’s beautiful images, along with others’ depictions, helped convince government officials and the public that these places were important to be preserved during a time of vast expansion. Yosemite set a precedent for the 1872 creation of Yellowstone as the first U.S. national park. Yellowstone’s protection, in turn, was aided by artworks by Thomas Moran, and he recorded his thoughts about his Yellowstone excursions in his diary.

Porter Image (2)Eliot Porter (1901–1990), Sunrise on River, Navajo Creek, Glen Canyon, Utah, August 27, 1961, dye imbibition print, © Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas, bequest of the artist, P1990.51.4998

In the twentieth century, photographer Eliot Porter, in collaboration with the Sierra Club, combined his photographs of Utah’s Glen Canyon with environmental quotations and sent the publication to President Lyndon B. Johnson, Secretary of Interior Stewart Udall, and every member of Congress with a plea not to complete and implement the Glen Canyon Dam. Although the book did not stop the project, it built important public and government support for limiting further dam construction on western rivers.

Have artworks inspired you or your students to take action to preserve our planet? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

-Stacy Fuller

Tuesday 02.21.12

Getting to Know: American Photographer William Henry Jackson

Art has long been used by companies to make their products and services more attractive to potential consumers. By the 1880s, railroad companies had completed many of their main lines across the American West and had started extending branches to more remote regions. Realizing that views of the newly opened terrain would stimulate travel, the companies hired photographers to create picturesque photographs along the new routes. Born in Keesville, New York, William Henry Jackson made train scenes his specialty during these years of expansion, and he quickly became the leading photographer of the genre. Generally working out of his own private railcars, Jackson enjoyed complete freedom of movement, traveling whenever and wherever he liked. In return, the railroad companies gained beautifully composed eighteen-by-twenty-two-inch prints of remote canyons and mountains to display on the walls of their rail stations and ticket offices. They also received numerous smaller views for sale to tourists. 

Jackson PhotographWilliam Henry Jackson (1843–1942), Canon of the Rio Las Animas, 1882, albumen silver print, printed 1883, Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas, P1971.94.18

This photograph features a view along the Animas River in southwestern Colorado and is one of Jackson’s most spectacular works. Made in the late summer of 1882, you can see the photographer’s train perched on the steep cliff. Located far in the distance, the telegraph line and bridge reassure viewers that this is just one stop along a vast, new national rail network. This image suggests a comfortable trip into the grand, slightly dangerous wilderness—exactly the kind of scene to capture the imagination of wealthy Easterners looking for vacation excitement.

However, to me, the most impressive element of this photograph is not the view it records, but the process used to create it. Albumen silver prints were made from glass-plate negatives using the wet-plate process. The plates had to be coated with a layer of collodion immediately before use and developed before the collodion dried. Just imagine Jackson working in the field with his glass plates and hazardous chemicals to produce this image!

Jackson was no stranger to important photographic projects like the railroad surveys. In 1870, he was hired by leaders of the U.S. Geological and Geographical Survey of the Territories to travel with the Hayden Survey and make pictures of the American West and Southwest. He also worked for the Bureau of Ethnology in Washington, D.C., taking portraits of American Indian delegates to the Capitol.

The next time you see an advertisement, think about images’ ability to persuade you, and then tip your hat to artists like William Henry Jackson who so creatively compose their motivating works.

Explore further:
William Henry Jackson at the J. Paul Getty Museum
William Henry Jackson on Artcyclopedia

-Stacy Fuller

Friday 02.17.12

Museums and You: Digital Images

Books with beautiful, full-color art reproductions can greatly increase your students’ exposure to masterpieces from around the word, but they can also put a serious dent in your budget. Continue to introduce your students to inspiring artworks both near and far by utilizing digital images from your favorite museums!

Museums share digital images of works from their collections because they want to provide greater access to them, regardless of an individual’s distance from the museum. As teachers, you are free to use these images in a variety of ways for educational purposes without contacting the images’ copyright holders, if any; you just can’t commercially profit off of any reproduced work without first clearing its rights and reproductions.

Museums often make digital images of their artworks available through collections they’ve categorized by media, place of origin, theme, artist, or other methods. Most museums will even let you use your own search terms to find artworks in their collections. Once you’ve found an image that you’d like to share with your students, you can use your mouse to right-click on the image and select either “copy image” for immediately pasting into another computer program or “save image” for placing in your electronic files for use for years to come.

There is an almost endless variety of ways that you can incorporate digital images into your curriculum. They can be projected digitally, curated into PowerPoint presentations by you or your students, printed onto overhead transparencies or paper, or even saved into online collections. You can find and research works ahead of time, or let your students use technology to explore online museum collections on their own. Museums have been working frantically to digitize their collections, so that you and your students can connect to them 24/7. Share your most successful ideas for incorporating digital images into your classroom activities by posting to the comments below.

 -Stacy Fuller

Wednesday 02.15.12

Art Speaks: Civil Rights

As long as artists have been creating, they have produced works that respond to the world around them. As we look at these works and consider their historical contexts, they speak volumes not only about the artists’ passions, but also about our society. Consider the powerful lessons the following two works teach us about civil rights.

The FreedmanJohn Quincy Adams Ward (1830–1910),  The Freedman, 1863, bronze,
Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas, 2000.15

With The Freedman, John Quincy Adams Ward addressed slavery head on. Unlike conventional depictions of the time, this black slave is a heroic figure who does not beg for his freedom but has broken his chains through sheer will. The manner in which Ward has sculpted his body and dressed him in a loin cloth connects him to ancient Greek and Roman sculpture that aimed to depict the idealized human form. The Freedman was made in 1863—the same year that President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation. The manacles of this piece can be opened and closed, a powerful statement of the still unresolved issue of slavery at that time. What messages about freedom do you think Ward communicates with this sculpture?

As celebrated in his own medium of protest as Martin Luther King Jr. was in his, Ben Shahn made this wash drawing of King in March 1965 during one of the most emotionally fraught periods of the civil rights movement. This portrait appeared on the cover of Time magazine on March 19, 1965, immediately following a violent voting-rights march in Selma, Alabama. Working swiftly to produce the drawing of King by the publication deadline, Shahn referred to photographs that emphasized the minister’s powerful manner of speaking. King’s charisma and influence resulted in the passage of the Voting Rights Act the following summer, guaranteeing the right to vote regardless of race.

These works were created by two unique artists over one hundred years apart, but they still can resonate strongly with us today. What do they say to you and your students?

-Stacy Fuller

Monday 02.13.12

Getting to Know: Louise Nevelson

One of my favorite artists is innovative printmaker and sculptor Louise Nevelson (1899–1988). Whenever I see one of her imaginative sculptures, it always seems to command attention, no matter its size or the other works in the same gallery.

She was born in Kiev in 1899 and immigrated to Rockland, Maine, in 1905. She eventually made her way to New York City, where she not only filled her days with creating artworks, but also became a student of modern dance, combining the two in some of her works that represent dancers engaged in dynamic movement. “Modern dance certainly makes you aware of movement,” Nevelson recalled, “and that moving from the center of the being is where we generate and create our own energy . . . I became aware of every fiber, and it freed me.”

Nevelson is best known for her wall reliefs of all sizes created from found objects like the Amon Carter’s Lunar Landscape (1959–60).

Lunar Landscape
Louise Nevelson (1899–1988), Lunar Landscape, 1959–60, painted wood, Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas, purchase with funds from the Ruth Carter Stevenson Acquisitions Endowment, 1999.3.A-J

She would roam the streets around her New York studio, searching for the perfect items to combine in monochromatic sculptures, upcycling long before the term became fashionable! Their signature colors are black, white, and gold—colors that transform her found object assemblages from a mixture of items like bedposts and chair seats to masterful displays of pure aesthetic form. Lunar Landscape, the Hirshhorn’s Silent Music IX, the Smithsonian’s Sky Cathedral, the Art Institute of Chicago’s America Dawn—Nevelson’s titles also reflect her idea that viewers should consider each work’s beauty of form and line instead of trying to determine the identities of the included objects.

To me, Nevelson’s works hold appeal because of her creativity and ability to transform a myriad of scavenged objects into a beautiful unified whole. Introduce your students to this great American artist and see how her works inspire them!

-Stacy Fuller

Friday 02.10.12

Museums and You: Student Tours

Many educators know that bringing their students on a field trip to an art museum can help develop students’ ability to think critically about the world around them, open their minds to new ideas and perspectives, and even make connections between works of art and topics in other curricular areas like language arts, math, and science. But did you know that studies have shown that individuals’ positive experiences at art museums while they are children is the greatest predictor of whether they will attend museums as an adult, regardless of their ethnicity, economic condition, geographic proximity to art museums, or parents’ museum visitation habits? With this knowledge, it becomes more important than ever for museums to examine their tour programs, ensuring they are engaging and relevant to the students and teachers who participate, so that all have a positive experience.

But it’s important to remember that students’ experiences with museum tours not only encompass everything that happens within the museum’s walls, but also surrounding the entire field trip—from the first mention in the classroom to the bus ride to the museum to the culminating conversations after the tour is over. Here are just a few ideas on how to partner with museum educators in your area to achieve positive museum experiences for everyone on your next field trip.

Don’t be afraid to ask. When scheduling a guided student tour, talk to the museum educator about your needs and those of your students. Do you know that your students will connect with a certain artwork? Ask for it to be included on the tour. Do you have a student who is in a wheelchair or who is new to hearing the English language? Museum educators will be happy to make sure that all students are able to actively participate. Do you plan to eat lunch after your tour? Ask about available options. The more information museum educators know about you and your students prior to the visit, the better the tour will be!

Prepare students for their museum visit. Many museums have Teaching Resource Centers (TRCs) that make classroom resources like books, audio-visual materials, and reproductions of artworks available for teachers to borrow at no cost. These resources familiarize students with a museum’s collection and make them feel comfortable viewing and discussing artworks before they enter the museum. And, if you don’t have a TRC in your area, you can still prepare students by talking about the importance of museum manners and defining key museum vocabulary like gallery, collection, and gallery teacher.

Continue engaging students with the collection after their tour. Ask museums about classroom activities they may have to reinforce what students learned during their visit back in the classroom, or come up with your own! Students often remember field trips when they are not simply one-shot experiences but, instead, are integrated into their school curriculum. Make sure that students know about upcoming museum activities for families and that they are welcome to visit the museum anytime.

Thanks to each of you who bring your students on guided tours each year…you truly are molding the museum patrons of the future!

-Stacy Fuller

Wednesday 02. 8.12

Art Speaks: Immigration

One of the greatest tools to make artworks relevant to students is to connect them to societal issues the students encounter in their everyday lives. As the cultural makeup of our schools and communities continues to diversify, we can help students understand that artists are also people from diverse backgrounds, experiences, and home countries. 

Over the centuries, many artists have immigrated to the United States, bringing with them new ideas. In fact, almost all of the founding fathers and mothers of American art were immigrants from Europe. Consider the nineteenth-century artist William Sharp who immigrated from England to Boston in 1839, bringing with him the knowledge of how to introduce the first mechanical color printmaking process (chromolithography) to America. We wouldn’t have a complete picture of the American Civil War without the compelling photographs of Timothy O’Sullivan (who immigrated from Ireland to Washington, D.C. in 1842) or Alexander or James Gardner (who immigrated from Scotland in 1856). And the story of American folk art couldn’t fully be told without the work of Elie Nadelman who immigrated from Poland in 1914. 

Another perspective on immigration comes from the early twentieth-century photographer Lewis Hine. Not only did he teach photography at the university level, but he also began photographing the immigrant families arriving at New York’s Ellis Island in 1904. At this time, five thousand immigrants arrived there daily, packing the Registry Room that led to processing through U.S. immigration. Immigrants fed the growth of cities and displaced resident workers in factory jobs, causing resentment and giving rise to racial stereotypes. Hine’s photographic venture in social reform stressed the inherent dignity of all people and aimed to evoke sympathy for the plight of these new citizens.  

Russian_family_ellis_islandLewis Wickes Hine (1874–1940), A Russian Family Group at Ellis Island, 1905, gelatin silver print, Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas, P1981.78

Look closely at this photograph of a Russian family group at Ellis Island in 1905. Select an individual in the image and think about his or her point of view, reflecting on his or her possible thoughts, feelings, and experiences as this photograph was made. 

You only have to think about what American art would be missing without these artists and others to realize the integral role of immigrants on art’s history. What will your students discover about themselves and the world around them when they contemplate their work?

Explore further:
Ellis Island
George Eastman House – Lewis Hine’s Ellis Island Series

-Stacy Fuller

Monday 02. 6.12

Getting to Know: American Painter Thomas Cole

Did you know that the artist known as the father of American landscape painting was born in England? Born in the industrial center of Bolton-le-Moors in 1801, Thomas Cole immigrated to America in 1818.
His work The Hunter’s Return (1845) visually demonstrates the principles of landscape painting he put forth in his artist manifesto “Essay on American Scenery” penned just nine years earlier.

The Hunter's Return
Thomas Cole (1801–1848), The Hunter’s Return, 1845, oil on canvas, Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas, 1983.156

Cole challenged his fellow artists to look around their own backyard and capture the unique beauty of the United States, rather than the European scenes and styles he felt many American artists were then using. He believed that American landscapes should include five crucial elements: wildness, mountains, water, forests, and sky. Can you find them all in The Hunter’s Return?

Besides championing a uniquely American style, Cole also was forward thinking in terms of the environment. After describing the beauty of the American landscape, toward the end of his Essay he remarked

Yet I cannot but express my sorrow that the beauty of such landscapes are quickly passing away—the ravages of the axe are daily increasing—the most noble scenes are made desolate, and oftentimes with a wantonness and barbarism scarcely credible in a civilized nation. The wayside is becoming shadeless, and another generation will behold spots, now rife with beauty, desecrated by what is called improvement; which, as yet, generally destroys Nature’s beauty without substituting that of Art. This is a regret rather than a complaint; such is the road society has to travel; it may lead to refinement in the end, but the traveller who sees the place of rest close at hand, dislikes the road that has so many unnecessary windings.

Look again at The Hunter’s Return. What visual evidence do you think Cole has included to express his concern about westward movement?

Over 150 years later, artists continue to be drawn to Thomas Cole’s works. Introduce him to your students, and see how they become inspired by this American painting pioneer!

Explore further:
Thomas Cole National Historic Site
Thomas Cole on Artcyclopedia

-Stacy Fuller