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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December 23, 2013

Educate to Innovate

In October, I was flown from Illinois to Washington, D.C., housed in a fancy boutique hotel, and escorted to the National Academy of Sciences building for a workshop with business and education leaders from the finest institutions of the country to discuss the road blocks and actions needed to educate our future innovators. I personally had to overcome my own road block of intimidation and confusion before I could adequately contribute. When you are accustomed to begging for the attention of 5-10 year olds all day, it’s shocking when adults in black suits take notes on your opinions.

I did some note-taking as well. I wanted to make sure I learned as much from this experience as I could. I believe I was the only elementary teacher present and the only art teacher. I was also the only one who did visual note-taking using the Brushes app on my iPad. I made a video from my visual notes when I returned since the app I used to sketch on also saves the drawing as a movie of brushstrokes. I did a voice-over narration so you can see and hear exactly what I was discovering about innovation in education from the sessions.

Educate to Innovate Reflection from Tricia Fuglestad on Vimeo.

Many of the struggles shared from higher-Ed were intriguing to me. Universities are usually segregate and isolate their student into their respective specialty fields. Students from different majors don’t take classes together and share their expertise collaboratively. However, they are expected to do this in the business world. It was funny to me to think about my world compared to this problem. I have 24 students of all different talents, ability levels, interests, and personalities mixed into each and every classroom I teach. I get them to work collaboratively, problem-solve together, share ideas, and peer critique. We function much like the real world innovators that these business representatives want to hire. I don’t think they know what it’s like in an art room. Art may have been an elective since middle school when they needed more math and science classes to beef up their transcript so they could apply to the finest schools.

Lobby of Hotel, DC -- Education and Business Leaders -- NAS Building, DC

I don’t think these higher-Ed and business leaders realized that the things that they want to see in their future employees were readily on display in our messy little underfunded energetic happy art rooms. I think that Art Educators are key to educating students to be innovators. We encourage risk taking, out of the box thinking, collaborative work, creative problem-solving, engagement, participation, presentation skills, visual literacy, and so much more.

If we can simply maintain the culture of creativity and innovation found in our elementary art classrooms throughout a child’s career in education, then we wouldn’t need to have this conversation.

And while I have your ear: Can you please fully fund your arts programs, provide meaningful professional development to your arts teachers, give them reasonable schedules which allow time for collaboration and planning, and provide children plenty of exposure to the arts each week with certified professionals?

I couldn’t help but think what the money they were spending on my airfare, hotel, transportation, and meals could provide my art students (perhaps two iPads). Oh well, hopefully my contribution provided something and kind donors can help us buy the iPads. If you are a kind donor, please click here.

-Tricia Fuglestad


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Marshall Lewis

Because I can draw faces people in my complez think I am an artist. One friend suggested that I put information on the bulletin board that every Thursday 7-9 I will give art instruction. My minor in college was art, but that does not mean I know how to teach. I was thinking to have people say who their favorite artist is, do a timeline of art history for them and have them pick a period to talk about, maybe a few black to while shadings..
but after your article I have decided to just let them have fun and create and not be too intellectual about it. Art is a form of therapy for a lot of people (not my personality type)and that is a very important outletfor people.
Thank you for your paper, Tricia
Marshall Lewis

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