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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Monday 09.29.14


If you are a current or aspiring art teacher who went into teaching to make a difference by working with students to identify and develop their creative gifts ... YOU should consider expanding your own voice so that you are able to guide others in the development of their own. 'While you may be very busy...even satisfied...locked away within the four walls of your classroom it is my opinion that you will find yourself re-thinking or revising your decision to be an art teacher if you remain isolated. You and your students will lose. As long as you remain isolated, your potential as a teacher and that of your students’ may result in a loss of viability, visibility, and value. It is in community with others that we inform and showcase our practice, share successes and failures, build self confidence, develop strengths, grow professionally and personally. As an art teacher you will encounter attitudes that may make you feel that your art curriculum is not an important one. Art teachers are often driven out of the profession because of the attitudes that art is an unnecessary subject. This is often reinforced by reducing the teacher's practice to a rolling cart, struggle for funding, and teacher-pupil overload. It has been my experience that the teachers that maintained a positive outlook as art teachers and as art advocates benefitted not only from the respect they gained from their administration and colleagues, but from their student's success. Your ART curriculum has to be important to you every day or it will not be important to others any day.
One of the most important decisions I made as an art education student was to not only join the student chapter of my state art education association, but to become actively involved. Paying my dues is one of the most important investments I make annually. This involvement has led to professional growth which led to leadership opportunities. You grow and your whole world and those in it grow too.  Once you find yourself outside of the four walls of your classroom you will find multiple opportunities for professional and personal growth. At the top of my list for getting the most bang for a buck is to attend a local, state, and/or national conference. Each conference venue usually offers multiple platforms for learning about the latest findings in art education research, current trends in theory and practice, and provides a venue for teachers to share their lessons, their own art, and that of their students'. One of the most meaningful outcomes of going beyond your classroom is in people connecting...the friendships and partnerships, the collaborations and possibilities stretch from coast to coast. Plus, you get the chance to meet your own art hero up close and personal! It was through such venues that I was able to not only meet my own art heroes but was fortunate enough to partner with them through grants to bring them into my school and/or district. Art heroes such as Faith Ringgold (Tar Beach), Ron DeLong (Crayola DreamMakers), Fred Babb (Go to Your Studio and Make Stuff), Pam Stephens and Jim McNeil (Dropping in On series), Ralph Eggleston (Toy Story I), CC Lockwood (Marsh Mission), EB Lewis (Coming on Home Soon, Caldecott winner) are a few that have not only enriched my life, but also those of my colleagues and my students. It is difficult at best to be invisible when you make these kinds of "high voltage" connections.  
BobbiAnother important decision I made as an art educator was to acquire the credentials and training needed to open up my classroom as a "lab" to the art education department of the local college and to be a cooperating teacher for pre-service teachers. If you want to gain an in-depth understanding of your subject, learn as much as you teach, stay current in your field, and expose your students to multiple perspectives leading to additional successes, you should explore this connection. I even got lucky enough to mentor twins that have gone on to make a difference!
Take advantage of every chance you get to help your students succeed...Take It, Make it, Do it. You are their connection to a whole new world and it is your responsibility to do just that. Every lesson you teach should be connected to Art Standards that guide your teaching and valid assessment. Additionally lessons should provide opportunities for creative discovery, spark imagination, develop skills and techniques, and be grounded in Elements of Art and Principles of Design from seeing to doing to evaluating. The more visible your program the more viable. Remember the words of Harry Emerson Fosdick: "A person totally wrapped up in him-self makes a small package."

-Bobbi Yancey
Art Specialist, NBCT/Art Consultant
Lake Charles Boston Academy of Learning, Lake Charles, LA

Wednesday 09.24.14

Strategies and Partnerships - Creating opportunities for your students to shine!

The art department of our school system has been privileged to partner with community organizations, business, industry, and even the mayor’s office over the years to create opportunities to showcase art programs in schools that feature both teacher and student. I was reminded of how special these relationships are recently. One such event, the Mayor’s 10, was a highlight of my week. Ten student works depicting personal expressions of the culture of Louisiana were on display at a local art and cultural center. Images of egrets, shrimp boats, alligators, magnolias and more were displayed on easels encircling a stage while the artists, their parents and teachers were celebrated. This process has been repeated for 6 years now providing a public showcase for 60 students with a commitment from the mayor for many more to follow.  

This past week I was involved in another event sponsored by a local nonprofit arts organization. Members of the community were asked to glaze a ceramic bisque bowl for a small fee to benefit a nonprofit organization raising funds to train dogs for veterans and autistic children suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Students from elementary to high-school, local leaders, and sports celebrities from the community and neighboring cities participated in this day long art event. Thousands of dollars were raised, in addition to awareness of a great need. 

In the coming weeks I will be participating in several more events and award ceremonies that will feature local artists, students and their teachers. The opportunities for schools and programs in the arts to be spotlighted in my district are commonplace. But, it has not always been that way. Twenty years ago there were less than 20 art teachers…today there are 60. Why? Because of the strategies and partnerships that were developed that led to one opportunity after another to spotlight Art Education programs in our schools. I would like to share a few ways you might “spotlight” art in your school that may create opportunities for you.

1. Help with city wide beautification—Paint murals or other public art in your school or community.
2. Exhibit, Exhibit, Exhibit—Showcase your student’s art work everywhere you can make an impact …you can even display from the ceiling tiles down the hallways of your school.
3. Create partnerships with local business, gallery, or museum to sponsor school–wide or district art exhibit. Ask your principal to sponsor a rotating art exhibit in the office, library, or front lobby of your school.
4. Document, Document, Document—Send and share with local newspapers, TV stations, the information specialist in your school system, your school board, and send newsletters home.
5. Create a web page.
6. Write and submit articles about your student art work. Enter competitions.
7. Join and participate in arts and community organizations that build positive relationships.

These are just a few ideas that have worked well for schools in my school district. Please share any that have been successful for you.

-Bobbi Yancey- Art Specialist/Consultant, Ed.S, NBCT
Lake Charles Boston Academy, Lake Charles, LA

Thursday 09.11.14

Puzzled by Punk?

Need a little something extra to spice up your art curriculum? Why not try the popular artistic movement known as steampunk? If you have not heard of this unique visual feast that features imagery of nineteenth century Victorian England colliding with the industrial mechanisms, clocks, assorted machine parts, and technology of the modern world this blog is my opportunity to introduce the endless creative possibilities that are available to you. Steampunk is a science fiction, pop-culture phenomenon that engages and spans fine art, music, performance, fashion, graphic design, and the humanities. The Steam in steampunk refers to the era of steam technology that took over the 19th century. The punk invokes the idea of rebellion against the change in the landscape resulting from the Industrial Revolution. Every corner of 19th century life was affected from transportation to medicines to weaponry---more than enough to draw artistic inspiration from. The visual canvas called steampunk is filled with imagery of women in fashionable Victorian dress with parasols, lace, hand fans, birds, etc. portrayed opposite  images of industry including metal gears, time pieces, machinery and the  fantastic technology born years ago from science fiction giants such as Jules Verne and  H.G Wells. Metalwork and taxidermy merge in this movement.

As a half time consultant with our school system art department I was charged with the task of developing resources and activities for our 60 art specialists as preparation for an upcoming teacher art exhibit. Whether teachers were new to steam-punk or longtime fans I felt it would provide a canvas for an artistic adventure and spark conversation. My supervisor and I brainstormed our way to centering the exhibit on the shape and idea of Puzzles. He coined the title “Puzzled by Punk”. Each teacher was charged with the task of transforming a floor puzzle piece into a steampunk work of art. They were provided metallic sharpies, Kraft colored collage papers, embellishments of all kinds…both Victorian and Industrial. Teachers left the In-Service excited about the opportunity to transform the 14 x 18 inch wooden puzzle piece they received into a work or art. Below are a few examples of some linked puzzle pieces from the activity.

I hope that you are inspired to explore the steampunk world on your own. Your students may already know all about it…hopefully you can share this visual adventure with them.  


-Bobbi Yancey- Art Specialist/Consultant, Ed.S, NBCT
Lake Charles Boston Academy, Lake Charles, LA

Monday 09. 1.14

The Art of Service Learning

Because art teachers have the unique advantage of nurturing learners within the context of shared community they (YOU) provide the perfect setting for opportunities for social change that inspires and teaches students to care about each other and for others through service learning experiences.  In the case of the arts, art specialists can provide a creative community with expertise in areas that encompass all forms of artistic expression from visual to performing arts to media arts.  1

I began my career as an elementary art educator during a time when character education was emphasized to the point that our governor gave up his salary to fund character education award programs across our state.  I was a recipient of one of these monetary awards.  My “windfall” helped me to kick start a theatrical troupe of elementary “Art Angels”.  I hired a thespian/clown to teach these students the professional makeup techniques of the four types of clowns and tricks associated with the art of clowning.  This training coupled with the student’s visual art training enabled them to visit nursing homes and women and children’s shelters in our community to provide “art therapy” for the residents.  

Another public art service learning project that I spearheaded engaged artists, elementary as well as college students, non-profit agencies, volunteers from the community, and residents of the local Women and Children’s Shelter. Everyone came together to build a structure adorned with hand painted butterfly ceramic tiles. This House for Butterflies is a symbol for the victims of abuse and violence that pass through the doors of the shelter.  It demonstrates the “metamorphosis” the residents go through in their journey for healing and independence. The circular space was built in such a way that it allowed for clear passage in and out and seating for contemplation and reflection as well as plants and decorative wood houses for a variety of butterflies.2

Currently I am teaching at a high school that buses students in from throughout the school district.  Even with limited access and the rigorous demands of the secondary academic schedule, students have contributed about 200 bowls to the Salvation Army Empty Bowl project over the past two years and are planning even more this year.  Last year the Salvation Army raised approximately $10,000…each “empty” bowl represents $100.00.  

Service learning is an integral part of my curriculum.  As an art teacher I believe that my role is not only to help develop students’ creative gifts, but to encourage and guide them in sharing them.  As we embark on a new year full of promise, I hope you will consider including “Service Learning” as part of your curriculum.

-Bobbi Yancey- Art Specialist/Consultant, Ed.S, NBCT
Lake Charles Boston Academy, Lake Charles, LA