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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Wednesday 04.22.15


From: Shanna Dunlap

This Thursday is our school’s art show called Art Quest.

This is such an exciting time for my school because everyone gets involved and students have the opportunity to show their hard work. Nearly 1,000 people attend the event. Many prizes and awards are given including "Best in Show" and "People’s Choice Award". Each senior gets to design and set up their own displays and use as many works as they would like. It’s a great opportunity to meet with potential clients and show others what you are capable of.

Art Quest is a great idea for all schools because it gives students the opportunity to show everyone what they’ve been working on all year and gets them involved in the arts.

The big prize of the evening is the "Best in Show" award, which any and every student only dreams of receiving. Prizes include $150, your name painted in the hallway, and sometimes you even get news interviews or press coverage. It gives students an incentive to work hard all year and to produce the best work they are capable of. We raise the money through fundraising events hosted all year and sell t-shirts to wear on the day of Art Quest. It’s kind of like the homecoming game for artists. It really is an amazing feeling to be pulled on the stage in front of hundreds of people to be rewarded for your work and efforts.

Wednesday 04. 8.15

The National Convention Experience from the Rising Star

From: Shanna Dunlap

Last weekend I attended the NAEA National Convention in New Orleans, LA. I arrived in New Orleans on Wednesday, March 25 and stayed through Saturday, March 28.

Although the Convention was mostly teacher-based (I was one of the only students there), it was very beneficial. There were tons of workshops you could attend that offered "how to" lessons. I learned a lot and got to experience many different teaching styles and new inspirations.

I am so lucky to have received the opportunity to attend this event. All the master classes I attended were very well crafted and I learned a lot from them even being a student not a teacher. It’s great to have the opportunity to share ideas upon other educators. Another awesome opportunity was the product booths. There was an entire room filled with new products to try out in your classroom. I was able to experience hands-on activities with companies such as Blick Art Materials.

My main reason for attending the Convention was the award ceremony, although attending workshops was very beneficial. It was so amazing to be recognized as this year’s NAEA Rising Star and I was rewarded with a certificate and a beautifully crafted necklace. I also met many people that were interested in my art and it was a great opportunity to get my work "out there”. It was an experience I will never forget.

Thursday 04. 2.15

From a Students' Perspective

From: Shanna Dunlap

While contemplating on what to make my first blog about I figured why not talk about my Rising Star award, my process and how hard work pays off.

I started photographing when I was in 6th grade. I had always loved taking pictures of people, mostly my friends. Then when I got to high school I took my first photo class. We have a huge art department at my school, art is a big influence. Every year we have a huge community art show called Art Quest. I had always dreamt of becoming the Best of Show at Art Quest and follow in the footsteps of past Rising Star award winners from Southern. So I made it my goal to push myself and always work hard. I never settle for second-best. If I don’t feel as though one of my pictures meets my standard I’ll go reshoot until I get what I need. I think that’s what sets apart someone who produces great work.

1I am blessed to be able to share what I create with the world. My subject matter within the past year has differed slightly from what I used to produce. I focus mostly in black and white and use kids as my subjects. I enjoy putting kids in situations you wouldn’t normally put kids in. I also like to leave the interpretation of the story up to the viewer. I think you connect more with an image when you make up your own story and engage in its re-enactment.

1 2
The process is also very important. When taking pictures it’s hard to not make events look staged. That’s why I try not to stage anything. I ask my subjects questions and tell them to imagine they’re in certain situations. For my picture with the girl in the dress and shoes I took my little sister to an empty house my dad was building and told her just to “dance as if no one was watching” and that’s exactly what she did. It’s much easier to create photos a viewer can relate to when the subject matter in genuine.