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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« Getting Money for your Program: Grant writing and more | Main | Promoting global understanding: Islamic patterns in context »

February 06, 2017

Shaping Human Potential

From: Dr. Patty Bode

Countering Islamophobia directly aligns with our NAEA mission to “advance visual arts education to fulfill human potential and promote global understanding.” Language matters. The careful selection of language in our NAEA mission to include “fulfill human potential” is significant. The term potential is critical here, since the etymological structure of the term potential stems from late Latin potentialis, or from potentia, which translates as “power.” Allowing Islamophobia to go unaddressed diminishes human potential – or strips power from humanity. Not only are Muslim students, families, colleagues and community artists dehumanized, all of us who allow Islamophobia are diminished in our humanity as well. The effort to counter Islamophobia includes teaching all of our students to interrogate misinformation, biased propaganda, and hate speech, which will aid in promoting “global understanding” as advanced in our NAEA mission. Art education can assertively participate in these efforts through studies and studio practices related to Islamic art by engaging at least these three strategies: 1) expanding historical and cultural contexts of current curriculum; 2) inviting dialogue that analyzes vocabulary; 3) connecting traditional art forms to contemporary practices. Each of these three strategies will be addressed in the next three forthcoming monthly mentor blog posting previewed here:

1. Expanding historical and cultural context of current curriculum. Many art teachers embrace the interdisciplinary vigor of studying tessellating patterns in relationship to mathematics, and a wide range of rich resources are available to teach these concepts with a focus on the contributions of Dutch graphic artist, M.C. Escher. Yet, many of the lesson plans miss the opportunity to investigate the original inspirations for Escher’s work: his study of the Islamic patterns in The Alhambra and Reales Alcázeres in Spain, and relationship of tessellation to the concept of the infinite. The sociocultural context of teaching about tessellations will be investigated further in a later blog posting.


2. Inviting dialogue that analyzes vocabulary may guide students to become aware of the language they read and hear within art education texts and discourse, as well as in the broader social context. A future post will expand on the notion that language matters in art education. Critically heightening the understanding of terminology we use about artists and art-making communities, may realize the power of language-in-use as well as the social construction of meaning. Youth literature resources about Islam and Muslim experiences may guide this effort. Visit the website of the Amherst Regional Middle School library for resources curated by Peter Riedel, school librarian.


3. Connecting traditional art forms to contemporary practices. A study of contemporary artists who draw upon, extrapolate from, re-appropriate and juxtapose concepts and imagery from Islamic traditions can open avenues for all students to understand contemporary, multi-dimensional complexity of art-making and intersectional identities. Some contemporary artists and art communities will be investigated in a future blog.




Alicia Lopez

Awesome, Patty! Love having you as our leader.

Kay Furst

Thank you Patty! As art educators we must not forget to do our research more deeply. For all artists, including the ones who inspire our lessons, found their inspiration from another.

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