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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February 16, 2016

If you do not promote your art program, who will?

From: Frank Juarez

This week I will be sharing some ideas on how to promote what you are doing inside the art room. These tips have made a difference in my art program at Sheboygan North High School.

When I transferred to Sheboygan North High School in January of 2006 it was quite a culture shock coming from an alternative high school. The climate felt a bit different. The art wing didn’t seem inviting. To be honest, I did not know much about the art department other than that it had a strong art department. I was in survival mode my first semester there. I never thought I would be experiencing this again after 4.5 years of teaching. After the semester had finished I began thinking about all of the activities and conversations I had with students, staff, administration, and parents. At that time, the art department had a new art department chair. Let’s just say that our art program was pretty stagnant.

I was happy to be in a new teaching environment with amazing art students. I was not too content with the leadership. So, I told myself that if and when I become art department chair things will have to change.


Fast forward to today, things are rocking’. The road we took to where we are today was not easy, but it sure was worth the journey. Instead of focusing on the BIG picture we focused on the small details. What I have learned is that in order to make things happen there has to be a vision. Actions you take needs to compliment this vision and advance it. Here are three tips:

1. Art education is a business. The number of students taking electives is decreasing by the semester. I have an open door policy where anyone can stop by to check out what we are doing inside the art classroom. When I get visitors it is my responsibility to greet them and to give them an overview on what my students are doing and learning. Keeping in mind that their visit may be a short one I need to keep it short. Having an elevator speech would be most fitting in a scenario like this.

We are always competing for numbers annually. Sheboygan North used to have two full-time art teachers, but for the past 5 years we have had one full-time art teacher and one 80% art teacher. As the art department chair, I need to figure out how to increase student interest, student enrollment, modify extra-curricular activities that we offer, re-brand the art program, and to continue to find opportunities outside of the Sheboygan North.


2. If you do not promote your art program, who will? No one knows the art department better than the one who leads it. Before I continue I would like to clarify that to promote is different than to advocate. When I think about promoting I think about the nuts and bolts of an art department such as a website, social media outlets, business cards, student exhibitions, press releases, brochure, posters, etc. Being the Past-President of the Wisconsin Art Education Association I have heard many stories on what art teachers are doing in their art programs, but when it comes to sharing it beyond the classroom and their school this is where things get difficult. We live in a fast-paced world and it is easily to get overwhelmed by apps, software, programs, etc. The thing is you do not have to use everything that is out there to promote your art program.

I recommend selecting three things that you are comfortable with and use them well.  One thing that I do is use the hashtag #nhsartdeptsheboygan when I post images online via Instagram. What I like about this is that anyone can submit a photo. What I like even better is that the images posted are very selective, which helps make our art program exciting. If your school has a monthly newsletter that is sent out to parents consider submitting content on a monthly basis sharing student accolades, student works in progress, finished projects, etc. This will definitely set you a part from other departments. You can take this newsletter even further by getting your hands on a PDF, which can be turned into a JPG. This JPG can be published on your classroom blog or on your facebook art department page.


3. Write for art education publications. One of my goals for this school year was to begin writing about what we are doing in the Sheboygan North High art department. I started by writing in my classroom blog,, and then it led to submitting articles for consideration to SchoolArts Magazine. When your article in published not only does it share with art educators from across the country about what your students are doing, it also brings attention to your school and art program. Administrators love to see this. Parents love to see this. Students love to see this.


Like many of you, I am passionate about what I teach and my philosophy on art education has changed drastically in response to the experiences I have had both in and outside of the classroom. I have found that ‘change’ is a great thing and if you welcome the business of art into your classroom, the possibilities are endless.


Web resources:
SchoolArts Magazine:
North High Art Department:


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