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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November 12, 2014

The Importance of Mindset

Let’s dispel the myth of the artist as creative genius propelled by innate abilities, and instead, let’s celebrate hardworking artists who spend untold hours and energy diligently pursuing their art. Throughout history there have been a number of artists who could have worn the “creative genius” label—Leonardo, Michelangelo, Vermeer, and Picasso. Yes, they excelled at their craft but they also thought outside of the box and advanced art (and sometimes, science) through creative breakthroughs. However, I think it is important for our students to understand that most successful artists have to work hard at their art.  

Recently I read Mindset, The New Psychology of Success (Balantine Books, 2008), by Stanford researcher, Carol S. Dweck. She researched how we view ourselves and how this can affect the way we live our lives. She identified groups with a growth mindset as those who see challenges as something to overcome in contrast with those who had a fixed mindset and see themselves as limited by intelligence and abilities. So what does this have to do with teaching?  Dweck cites several examples of students who were told they were good at something (the artistic genius), only to become unmotivated and, in some cases, failures. They were victims of the fixed mindset. In other examples, with the encouragement of a growth-minded teacher, students who practiced or studied would excel in their pursuits. These teachers didn’t dwell on what the student could or could not do, thus labeling them.  Growth-minded teachers put the value on efforts and the process of getting there. This will sound familiar to art educators as we already value the process as much as the finished artwork.  

Here at the NGA, we had the opportunity to host the second day of the NAEA Creative Industries Studio conference. This two-and-one-half day conference for NAHS students from across the country featured talks by creative professionals, workshops with artists, and visits to museums. I was particularly moved by the keynote speaker, Maria Fabrizio, illustrator, designer, and blogger of Wordless News. She described her work process: gets up at 4:45 every weekday to review major news sources, processes the information, formulates ideas into sketches, and completes a wordless illustration of the news story, posting it on her blog by 10:00 am. Then she begins her day job as a graphic designer! Maria Fabrizio’s work ethic and almost total immersion into her work exemplify what I believe is the life of today's serious artist.  

Photo.MariaFabrizioMaria Fabrizio from the NAHS Creative Industries Studio

Teachers are not miracle workers and there are “no short cuts” to achievement.   
It is our responsibility as art educators to place the same value of practice and hard work as a means to success as is expected in other disciplines.  

-Elisa Patterson


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