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.



Join the largest creative community established exclusively for visual arts educators, college professors, researchers, administrators, and museum educators.

Join NAEA Renew Membership

« February 2016 | Main | April 2016 »

Thursday 03.31.16

The Role of Humor in Teaching and Mentoring

From: Gloria Wilson

What role does humor play in teaching and learning in art education?

humor /ˈ(h)yo͞omər/
noun. the quality of being amusing or comic, especially as expressed in literature or speech.

“Like a welcome summer rain, humor may suddenly cleanse
and cool the earth, the air and you."

-Langston Hughes

When laughter is shared, it binds people together and increases intimacy. It has been noted that laughter gives the immune system a boost, diminishes pain, and protects you from the damaging effects of stress. To these ends, I share with you my final post as an offering of encouragement in the wake of what may seem insurmountable challenges at all levels of contemporary education.

 A. Hauter, 2016. (MTSU Art Education Student)

A recent Gallup Poll sampling of 900,00 students in grades 5-12 concluded that student engagement in public school is dropping; a new report on the state of America’s K-12 infrastructure reveals an underinvestment in public school facilities. When applied to teacher preparation, these statistics pose a challenge for pre-service education, which continues to face its own unique set of challenges. Green’s (1995) understanding of educational currency is just as salient now as it was 20 years ago. She notes: “Standards, assessment, outcomes and achievement: these concepts are the currency of educational discussion today” (p. 9). Kozol (1991) too, seemed to forecast the on-going deterioration of opportunity for those whose cultural/social capital does not match that of the dominant culture in education.

Underneath (or “above it all”) exists a set of influencers, game-changers and transformers--mentors--who remind us that through it all, we might launch our social imagination, or, “the capacity to invent visions of what should be and what might be in our deficient society” (Greene, 1995, p. 5).

What role then, does humor play in this “educational” scene?

Evan-Palmer (2010) suggests that there is a potency in humor; that there is a correlation/relationship between perceived use of pedagogical humor and instructional efficacy. In other words, use of humor instructional strategies deeply impacts the classroom environment and learning outcomes; humor affords resiliency for stressful situations (think: students AND teachers). I agree, when distinctly applied, use of humor is a game-changer.

The Tribe, 2008 (MGM high school students, Mobile Alabama)

Use of pedagogical humor has helped to launch important and critical conversations with and among the high school students I taught years ago (above); it has further propelled me forward in provoking my pre-service teachers toward critical conversations about the economic and social issues that plague education, and thus humanity. Humor supports my pedagogical eagerness to appear and reappear--to show UP when I am (and my students are) down. It also finds itself appearing in the midst of courageous conversations with research colleagues and friends (below). 

Research Meeting, November 2015

Research suggests that our use of humor evolved as a coping mechanism, necessary for survival (Martin, 2007). I agree and suggest that social humor activates teaching and learning, such that it builds a bridge between teacher and student and peer to peer. A student once shared with me that she had never witnessed any of her professors exhibit vulnerability in being able to laugh at themselves. I couldn’t help thinking: what a shame. Students (humans) should be offered the opportunity to release the idea of perfection, to relax into discomfort and be shown that “failure” provides new openings. That said, humor might provide the breakthroughs necessary for any environment that inspires instruction and learning.

I have often been told that I hum unconsciously; that I am sometimes child-like and silly. I find it difficult to be angry, frustrated or sad when humming (try it!). After 20 years, I continue the task of teaching. Despite the daily reminders of assessment and standardization, budget cuts and worn-down crowded classrooms, I teach, poke, prod and press forward. I move back and forth between comprehending policy domains while also attuning to the the ease and unease of the realities of particular students, who live in particular environments.

 J. Shind, 2016 (MTSU Art Education student)

As I wind down my posts for this month, I leave you with this: the expanse of mentoring cannot be neatly defined, and as such, questions for how we might take up mentorship in a contemporary (art) educational landscape should persist. Using conceptions of compassion, identity, paradox, transformation, story, and humor are but a few of the possibilities for the creation of this inquiry. 

My final musing: What are the limits/possibilities of mentorship?

A BIG THANKS to NAEA for offering this platform for art educators to share their worlds and to Linda Scott for her welcoming mentorship and assistance this month. I truly hope that we are able to connect in New York in 2017!!


Evans-Palmer, T. (2010). The potency of humor and instructional self-efficacy on art teacher stress. Studies in Art Education. 52(1), 69-83.
Greene, M. (1995) Releasing the imagination. San francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Kozol, J. (1991). Savage inequalities. New York: Crown.
Martin, R. (2007). The psychology of humor: An integrative approach. Burlington, MA: Elsevier Academic Press.

Wednesday 03.30.16

Mentorship through Arts-Based Strategies: Affirming Embodied Cartographies

From: Gloria Wilson

How might mentorship through arts-based strategies affirm stories of the lived experience?

car·tog·ra·phy / kärˈtäɡrəfē/
noun. the science or practice of drawing maps.

story / ˈstôrē/
noun. an account of past events in someone's life or in the evolution of something

#tumblingbodies #academiccartographies (2016). WJB Gallery, Florida State University

"The arts are a viable means of challenging what representation means and how we, as researchers, might live in/with, make sense of, and show a mutual respect for our individual/relational stories" -The MYOA Project, 2016

For the better part of two years, I have shared a personal/professional journey alongside three women academics; significant moments along the way have required one (or more) of us to support/mentor each another through the victories and challenges associated with “tenure-track” pathways of higher education. This post focuses on the details of the first phase and evolution of our arts-based (Barone and Eisner, 2012;Cahnmann-Taylor and Siegesmund, 2013) autoethnographic research project.

Prior to transitioning into tenure-track positions at different universities, the common thread among the four of us was that we graduated from the same doctoral program in art education. Our physical movements tracked us toward four cities in the southeastern United States, and the aesthetic and "felt" embodiment of such movements emerged in our experiences.

G.Wilson (2016). #Blackademic

In the midst of inhabiting our varied academic spaces, we, as a collective of researchers/visual artists/educators began to consider the notion of “embodied cartography” as a conceptual way-finding process of shared (and individual) conceptual mapping and sense-making. The past two years found each of us provoked by our lived experiences, and through ongoing dialogues, we attuned to our varied, yet interconnected epistemological, ontological, and methodological movements while engaging with each other and with our new spaces.

Animations rendered by M. Wooten in ArcGIS (v10.1) using the
2013 TIGER/Line Shapefiles [machine-readable data files]/prepared by the U.S. Census Bureau, 2013 and GMTED2010 data available from the U.S. Geological Survey.

Our project draws upon two distinct, yet complementary qualitative methodological approaches: collaborative (collective) autoethnography and arts-based research. We imagined the potential for representation within shared scholarship through an ongoing arts-based autoethnography. Our inquiry engages this question:

How do we, a diverse collective of female, tenure-track assistant professors, map our movements individually, collectively and aesthetically through academic spaces?  


By inviting cartographic inquiry to include the visual arts, the "aesthetic" becomes a living discourse and relational event that brings together maker and observer. Embodied cartography as a theoretical perspective encourages moving through, engaging in, and therefore, entangling aesthetically with our human and nonhuman world. The diversity of factors shaping our lives as women, (spatial/bodily locations across time, for instance) has resulted in different expressions of these common themes. This framework acknowledges representations of corporeality in general (Harrison, Wakeman and Ogden, 2013), and specifically, racialized and gendered bodily inscriptions. As such, an understanding of “the body” necessitates that it holds meaning and does not and cannot exist independent of the world. The body is always in the world, of the world, with the world, part of the world (Mzerleau-Ponty, 1964).  

B. Hofsess (2016). #milk #heat #time

Our shared experiences as tenure-track faculty unites us in our research explorations, yet we also acknowledge how our own epistemological and ontological influences generate varied experiences within our collective.  With this awareness of the difference among us, we felt it important to specify the in, of, with and parts of the world our bodies occupy.  

S.S. Shields (2016). #fiveyearsandcounting

This arts informed and polyvocal methodological approach to collaborative research brings together multiple researchers through co-constructed yet ambiguous, uncertain, and sometimes contradictory perspectives of cultural experiences. Embracing a critical postmodern sensibility (Wilson, Shields, Guyotte, & Hofsess, in press), our approach preserves the individual voice while also exploring how these voices comprise a collective and dialogic process of meaning-making through the research process.

K. Guyotte (2016). #embodyingathens

Our work is informed by what becomes manifest in and through female bodies as they move through academic spaces. For our most recent representation of this work (see photos throughout this post), we turned to arts-based modes of representation to help fully realize the creative potential of our narratives.  


On the tails of the representative debate, the arts have emerged as a viable means of challenging what representation means and how we, as researchers, might live in/with, make sense of, and show a mutual respect for our individual/relational stories. With the fundamental understanding of experience as an embodied encounter and embracing the visual arts ability to seek out qualitative nuances, we aim to advance empathy, give new insight and share our capacity to engage with life. Thus, our arts-based research collaboration, has awakened us to openings of transformation of self/other as we move together, aesthetically mapping our journeys in higher education—an embodiment ever finding its way.

Musings for art education:

How might mentorship provoke art educators to consider and engage with the personal stories of their students?
How might students be mentored to think critically about stories that have been submerged? To make forgotten stories visible?


Barone, T., & Eisner, E. W. (2012). Arts based research. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.
Cahnmann-Taylor, M., & Siegesmund, R. (2013). Arts-based research in education: Foundations for practice. New York, NY: Routledge.
Merleau-Ponty, M. (1964). The visible and the invisible. Evanston Illinois: Northwestern University Press.
Harrison, K., Wakeman, S. & Ogden, C. A. (2013). Corporeality: The body and society. Chester, England : University of Chester Press.

Wilson, G. J., Shields, S. S., Guyotte, K., & Hofsess, B. (in press). Desirable difficulties: Toward a critical postmodern arts-based practice. The Journal of Social Theory in Art Education.

Wednesday 03.23.16

Paralleling and Juxtaposing: Pairing Paradox with Courageous Conversations

From: Gloria Wilson
par·a·dox /ˈperəˌdäks/
noun. a statement or proposition that, despite sound (or apparently sound) reasoning from acceptable premises, lead to conclusions that seem senseless, logically unacceptable, or self-contradictory.
Screen Shot 2016-03-23 at 3.35.40 AM.jpg
L. Leader, 2016 (MTSU Art Education student) 
“Human plights, though they may always express themselves locally in time, place, and circumstance, are nonetheless an expression of some more universal history. To ignore that more universal history is to deny the legitimacy of the broader culture…” --Bruner, 1996
As in years past, the 2016 NAEA conference (Chicago, IL) proved to be an inspiring event, including joyful reunions among acquaintances, exciting sessions and workshops, and wonderful museum visits--yet any observer lacking “wide awakeness” (Greene, 1996), might have noticed less, the black ribbons adorned by some conference goers. There were no grand overtures or gestures to acknowledge the presence of these ribbons, yet they were received and adorned by those who dared to take up a broader conversation; an expansion of a circle of concern of sorts. I was additionally impressed to notice a C2E2 conference-goer proudly wear (and speak to) the necessity of the “message” of the ribbon and the present and persistent injustices existing in our world.
Embracing the 2016 conference theme: Lead: Share Your Vision for Art Education, leaders in our organization have exhibited a noticing of a broader movement that has resonated in the minds of those who dare to take up the courageous conversations (Singleton & Linton, 2014)  through arteducation (Lee, 2012) and policy. My students have taken up the big idea of “paradox” and the role it plays in art education. In her journal, Lindsey (photo above) asks: How do we [in-service and pre-service art teachers] discuss delicate topics? I must say, she asks an important question. Scholars in education (Singleton & Linton, 2014) have aimed at offering ways into courageous conversations, and in doing so, simultaneously relinquish the comforts of silence and passivity. I applaud Lindsey and other students for their courage, to ask the difficult questions, to uncover and unpack the paradoxes, to reveal the “odorless, noxious clouds” (Greene, 1996). 
Returning to the definition of paradox, it may appear unreasonable to offer up a message of Black Lives Matter, as some perceive it too narrow a focus. Yet, considering the above Jerome Bruner (1996) quote, in ignoring a broader historical context, we deny what our present culture has become. In attempting to push toward a recognition of a concrete unity/equality of human beings, this movement has suffered misundertandings. In speaking with numerous parents over the years, I have yet to encounter one say: “I do not want my child to have the same rights and protections as other children.” 
I am hopeful that this 2016 conference gesture--taking a LEAD in the creation and offering of the black ribbons--will continue to do the work of not only provoking courageous conversations but also inspiring action
My question/s for this post are: 
How have you and/or others, as a contemporary art educator/s, addressed what could be perceived as “contradicting truths/ambiguities” in our culture? 
Bruner, J. (1996). The culture of education. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Greene, M. (1996). Releasing the imagination. San Francisco, CA: Josey-Bass Publishers.
Lee, N. (2012). Culturally responsive teaching for 21st century art education: Examining race
in a studio art experience. Art Education, 65(5), 48-53.
Singleton, G. E. & Linton, C. W. (2014). Courageous conversations about race: A field guide for achieving equity in schools. Thousand Oaks,: CA: Corwin Press.

Friday 03.11.16

Uncovering and Discovering Mentorship: Temporal Spaces in Art Education

From: Gloria Wilson

How does the history of art education and the passage of time shape who we have been, are now, and who we become?

Retired Art Education Professor, Dr. Turner Rogers (March 2016, Mobile, AL)

The other day, I shared lunch with a cherished professor/mentor who set me on the path toward art education, Dr. Turner Rogers. After spending many years in the field, Turner retired from the Art Education department at the University of South Alabama in 2003 (personal conversation, March 7, 2016). As a pre-service teacher, I recall being a good bit shy, and indeed terrified at stepping foot in front of a class during my practicum experience; yet Turner, with the gentle nudge and support of a nurturing parent, encouraged me to plow forward.

We sat and recalled other moments of my pre-service experience, and eventually he was moved to discuss his own personal history of education and mentorship through art education; Turner helped me visualize my (and his) “pedigree” line, eventually leading back to Viktor Lowenfeld. I suspect that if we each take closer a look at our varied pedigrees (compulsory schooling and beyond), we would be lead down a historic path, un-/dis-covering names familiar and not-so-familiar. Along with Turner’s teachings, I have been directly influenced by the personal teachings of Drs. Richard Siegusmund (UNI), Tracie Costantino (RISD) and Carole Henry (UGA). Under their tutelage, I became immersed in the scholarship of Maxine Greene, Maurice-Merleau Ponty, VS Ramachandran, Michele Wallace, Michael D. Harris, John Falk and Lynn Dierking.

At the outset of my path toward teaching art, DBAE (Discipline-Based Art Education) approaches to Art Education (1990’s), were en vogue. This approach highlighted the intersection of art production, art history, criticism and aesthetics. Since then I have become familiar with Visual Culture Art Education—VCAE  (Duncum, 2009), which affirms pop culture imagery (film, television, etc…) as worthy of notice alongside the traditional canon of “fine” art. My students have benefitted from knowing these approaches, as they work to make sense of the visual intersections in/of the contemporary visual world.

I have found resonance in critical perspectives in art education (Desai, 2007; Kraehe, 2015); which operate within the assumptions that in order to understand factors influencing teaching and learning (in and through art), one must understand contextual factors such as sociocultural/sociostructural influences. As such, I have been influenced by the powerful and contemporary writings of colleagues in Arts Administration and Art Education: Drs. Yuha Jung, NaJuana Lee, and Joni Acuff to name a few. Aiming to “pin down” a theory/approach that resonates with us and benefits our students necessarily leads us through time and place--a history that begins and ends with mentorship, if one aims to understand where they are going and, more importantly, why they are going there.

Considering historical context, who has influenced/mentored your ways of being and knowing in art education?

As always, I look forward to your responses!


Desai, D. (2007). Notes for a dialogue on art education in critical times. Art Education, 60(5), 6-12.

Duncum, P. (2009). Visual culture in art education circa 2009. Visual Arts Research, 35(1), 64-75.

Kraehe, A. (2015). Sounds of silence: Race and emergent counter-narratives of art teacher identity. Studies in Art Education, 56(3), 199-213.

Monday 03. 7.16

Openings for Transformation through Arts Education

From: Gloria Wilson

noun. a thorough or dramatic change in form or appearance (Merriam-Webster)
 E. Breedlove, 2016 (MTSU Art Education student)
How might art teaching/education support the act of transformation? 

When I recall the moments of transformation in and through my artistry, teaching, and research, I am in awe of the subtle shifts in streams of consciousness, which necessarily provoke greater shifts within me and how I view the world. Most significantly, those changes have occurred when I move toward encounters that create moments of discomfort; whether it is learning how to manipulate a new medium, understanding varied distinctions of aesthetic experience, creating curriculum for 21st Century learners, or “reaching” a class of otherwise anxiety-filled students.
In this case, using the imagination to defamiliarize the familiar (or the reverse) allows arts educators the capacity to promote active learning, and thus transformation. Recently, asking my students to make art, using “books” as a medium, provided the challenge of transforming a structure, not only with the intention of creating a new piece of art, but also of pushing through porous boundaries toward a transformation of consciousness (Eisner, 2002). My concern: that students might become overwhelmed by the varied possibilities of modifying the book-structure, so I gave parameters by guiding them to use familiar/unfamiliar techniques and processes in order to alter the book. One of my student's seized this opportunity to completely transform a children’s alphabet book (see above image) in order to create a new narrative--one of symbiosis (his artist’s statement).

If experiences--old and new--are central to education and learning (Dewey, 1938) then the process of invention and reinvention is but one possible outcome of a qualitative arts education. Dewey’s (1934) aesthetic experience has educative function, and as a transaction that emphasizes an engagement with present issues and future possibilities, specifies a direction for advancing art education for the 21st century. An expansion of the possibilities of consciousness through small acts of transformation is what continues to guide my direction as a contemporary educator, artist and researcher.
What are some examples of transformation (people, places, things) in/from your life? I look forward to hearing from you!
Dewey, J. (1934). Art as experience. New York, NY: Perigree.
Dewey, J. (1938). Experience as education. New York, NY: Collier.
Eisner, E. (2002). The arts and the creation of the mind. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. 


Thursday 03. 3.16

Courageous Pedagogy in and through Compassionate Mentorship

From: Gloria Wilson

L. Shattuck, 2016 (MTSU Art Education Student)

How might the notion of compassionate mentorship inspire and inform courageous pedagogical practice?

Each semester, I am inspired to take up courageous conversations alongside students, with the hope that these moments might prompt occasions for/of transformation. Most recently, I have referred to these conversations as desirable difficulties--or openings for deeply felt transformation. This semester, I have challenged students in my Aesthetics course to take up inquiry and respond to contemporary aesthetic puzzles in order to develop insight into aesthetic issues and ultimately test and challenge aesthetic theories. Working alongside Dr. Sara Scott Shields (Assistant Professor of Art Education at Florida State University) in the development of this semester’s course content, each week, our students are challenged to apply these aesthetic puzzles to their own personal experiences as students, artists and preservice teachers. Practicing compassion allows us, as educators, to hold open a space for students to contribute varied responses to otherwise difficult topics. Our students have exhibited courage in doing so.

Weekly engagements in their journals/sketchbooks have revealed their thoughtful consideration of class discussions and readings and serve as a reminder that when we accept the mantle of educator, we are necessarily in service of respecting and caring for our students. Especially, “if we [aim] to provide the necessary conditions where learning can most deeply and intimately begin" (hooks, 1994, p. 13). I take inspiration from the visual/textual musing of my student (above image) and agree that in order to embody compassion, we must shift toward selflessness in order to connect with stories beyond our own, even when it is difficult to do so. That said, I believe that compassionate mentorship takes place when we allow ourselves to be in dialogue with one another rather than simply to or about one another.

What do you think? How might we contribute to mentorship in compassionate ways? In what ways are we preventing compassionate mentorship from taking place? Please share your thoughts!

hooks, b. (1994). Teaching to transgress: Education as the practice of freedom. NewYork: NY, Routledge.


Tuesday 03. 1.16

Mentorship in Art Education: Tangible Links Between Research, Theory and Practice

From: Gloria Wilson

At critical points in our lives, I suspect that each one of us has been impacted by meaningful mentorship.

What was that experience like for you? Was it a specific person? A group of people? In what ways have these relationships been impactful for/in your life?

This month for NAEA’s Monthly Mentor, my aim is to highlight the varied ways mentorship can be experienced and sought out. Using broad conceptions such as compassion, identity, paradox, transformation, power, and humor, I will sprinkle my posts with literature from the field, personal experiences in my own teaching/learning and questions for how we might take up mentorship in a contemporary (art) educational landscape. This year’s conference theme is a great one: Lead, Share your Vision for Art Education. I look forward to sharing the next 31 days with you and perhaps connecting with you at the Convention!