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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Friday 03.23.12

March Reflections

March started with NAEA and then somehow got even faster. This year’s convention continues to resonate when I review its offerings, especially with colleagues who weren’t able to attend. More than reviewing notes, assimilating the sessions, conversations, and exhibitions of NAEA is an ongoing reorganization of experience. Burning to-dos get soused with emails, new ideas get accommodated by familiar structures, and some pieces amplify each time they’re reviewed.

On that note, here’s my Top 10 of amplifiers from this year’s Museum Division’s Pre-Conference, held on February 29 at the Guggenheim:

10. Fifth graders at P.S. 144 agree: Museum educators are boring. The solution? Re-enactment. [Not sure docents in period costume would entirely alleviate the situation, but the kids were pretty certain about this.]Problem_Museum educators are boring

9. Provocative question: how can museums support non-authoritative models of education, a.k.a. the free university movement (exemplified by Public School, Peer to Peer University, and University of the People). Trebor Scholz, Associate Professor of Social Media at The New School, also refers to this as supporting “do-it-together learning.”

8. Language that Development Departments probably don’t know what to do with: Educators as “learning sommaliers” (Trebor Scholz).

7. Guiding question: How do we turn online spaces into nodes, not endpoints? (Sebastian Chan, Director of Digital & Emerging Media, Cooper-Hewitt). This question is a good reminder of the importance of (as with good teaching) getting out of the way of your students.  Which leads to a best practice model: all the images in the Cooper-Hewitt’s collection are now public domain. Chan describes seeing collections now as “cultural source code” with which to make other things.

6. Exciting and ominous prediction: “Napster is coming to objects…What happened to media is going to happen to STUFF" (Sebastian Chan). 3-D printers may render “original objects” obsolete. Perhaps if you ask questions early enough, they’re exciting challenges…

5. Incredible community engagement project (unfortunately, I’m unable to find more specific information on the artists involved): recent Sao Paolo Biennale artists were asked “Which problems are you trying to solve with your artwork?” Their answers were shared with Brazilian high school students who were then asked to develop their own solutions to those problems. The students then visited the Biennale and participating artists to discuss the range of their collective responses.

4. Connect with your visitors via a design activity shared by Peter Samis, Associate Curator of Interpretive Media at SFMoMA: ask people to lay out images of your museum’s artworks along the axes of interesting > uninteresting and familiar > unfamiliar (see below).

SFMoMA visitor card placement activity
3. Warning, courtesy of Peter Samis: beware of seeing technology as the engine of transformation if your museum has larger visitor advocacy, architectural, or mission-related problems.

2. Go to Stanford and become a good design thinker: “don’t just refine the solution. Refine the problem.”

1. See Pina 3-D if you haven’t already!

-Jeanne Hoel
Senior Education Program Manager, School and Teacher Programs

Thursday 03. 1.12

New York or bust!

Wow-NAEA is in New York this year. Since first attending in 2003, I have always looked forward to this time of year. The first year I was ecstatic to learn so, so much from colleagues I didn't realize I had. Over the years, I have collected and reflected on my experiences in various ways: the first year I transcribed my notes all the way home on the plane. I've also created immediate action to-do lists; research to-do lists; and narrative reports and presentations for colleagues. In addition to practical and theoretical information, I catch glimpses at long-range vision that, collected over time, can add up to a life's work.

NAEA conferences are such a rich opportunity to be charged and nurtured by old friendships and new acquaintances alike. I get inspired to do more, better, and smarter. It's an important time to reframe horizons in the company and consultations of valued colleagues.

And that's just the conference! Attending NAEA in New York also means getting inspired by great exhibitions and the city itself.

This year I'll do several things to sustain the inspiration of sessions, exhibitions, NY mojo, and more: during the conference, I'll be absorbing and recording as much as I can (and tweeting as I go as part of the Museum Division's "Tech Mob"); afterward I'll sort, organize, and share my key findings and inspirations with colleagues via presentations at MOCA and via this blog throughout March.

I know that asking "what do you think?" is one of the first, worst sins of blogging. That said, I hope you'll join me here in a shared effort to reflect on key insights, stretching the impact of this year's conference as far as possible.

-Jeanne Hoel