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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Saturday 06.30.18


From: Renna Moore

In my last article, I talked about connecting the Art class to other areas. I thought for my last post I would give you the information on two Science and Technology based photography projects that my students have really enjoyed.

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The 1st lesson deals with using a 3-D Printer. 3D printed photos, also known as 3D Printed Lithophanes, are an extremely unique and creative application that with teach your students how to 3-D model and give a creative way to display their photography.

Lithophane is a 3D representation of a photo that can only be seen when illuminated from behind. Lithophanes where originally etched or molded artwork in very thin translucent porcelain or basswood. A gray-scale representation of the image is created and then depending on the color it is then converted to a calculated 3D printed height. This allows a specific amount of light to shine through. Darker colors block more light and the opposite relationship stands for lighter pixels. Each pixel in the image undergoes this process and a very unique art piece is created.

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I have a step by step printout of what to do to program the lithophane available if you need it.

There are 2 files. One has the step by step screenshots of the 2 programs I use (Cura and imprimindo3d).

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The other has the overall lesson of how to create Lithophanes.

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The 2nd lesson deals with biology and chlorophyll.  The chlorophyll process is an organic alternative photography process that uses sunlight to bleach the surface of a leaf. If you have ever tried drying leaves and flowers as a child you might have noticed how they lose their color as they dry, especially if you leave them in the sun. This photo sensitivity can be used to make prints of your pictures.

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The step by step process is also available at this link:

My main advice on this lesson is to have the students experiment with the types of leaves and how much water they will need. I have found that tropical type leaves work way better if you are unable to keep the leaves watered. Also you can reuse the transparency photos. I found that this project was also very budget friendly. The only supplies needed were leaves, old pieces of glass I already had (by putting them on drawing boards, I made “frames”, tape, and copier transparency.

If you are teaching younger classes that do not do photography, you can also have them draw a positive/negative type picture on the transparency and use that to create an image on the leaf.

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I hope these 2 techniques can help you develop some fun and educational activities in your classroom.

Enjoy the rest of your Summer!


Thursday 06.28.18

Connecting Your Art Classroom to Your Student’s World

From: Renna Moore

 “Why do I have to take Art? I am not going to major in it.”  “My teacher said I could come back to his/her classroom during your class, since it is just Art.” “Why doesn’t my child have an A in your class? It’s Art.”  I know we have all heard these things at least once from students, fellow teachers, and parents. Its statements like these that can suck the joy out of teaching Art. Not a day goes by that I don’t see a fellow Art teacher post about something like this in one of the many Art teacher Facebook groups.

Each teacher has their own way of dealing with these comments. When it comes to my students, instead of waiting for the whining about being in my classroom, I try to deal with it head-on on the first day of class. After going over all of the usual information, I divide my classes into groups and do the usual teambuilding problem solving icebreaker. I try to change it up each year. Last year we did the balloon tower challenge.

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After the class has finished, I sit everyone down and ask everyone to tell me what they think the point of that was. I get a lot of answers about how it was to get to know their classmates and how it was fun. I tell them I agree with them, then I ask them why we would be doing that in an Art room. Sometimes I have students get it right away, others not. But as a class we have a discussion about how the challenge was Problem-solving and an opportunity to be creative. I then tell them, even if you have no plans on pursuing art as a career, you do need to be able to solve problems. That is what my art class is for, to help you come up with creative solutions to whatever “problem” or “challenge” I give you. This usually opens up the conversation about how Art relates back to whatever is their other interests.

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To help with the idea of how Art connects to other areas, I made this set of posters for my hallway.  The Info on each poster deals with how other subjects are found in Art. I found this on the incredible art website in an article written by Tina Farrell called “Why Teach Art?” I was so inspired by it, I had to use it.  I attached the link below.

Finally I have found that when it comes to other teachers, principals, and parents having a list of facts, ready to be quoted at any point and time, shuts down the naysayers.  My personal favorite has to do with medical schools, such as Harvard, Yale, and Penn, requiring art classes for their students (links below).

I would also make sure you have read over the NAEA Advocacy page. They have an Advocacy Toolkit that has great information to use.

Find whatever facts or data you find interesting and have those ready to go whenever you have someone question Why Art is Important?



Wednesday 06.27.18

Public Relations 101

From: Renna Moore

While on my mission to advocate for my classroom, one of the 1st things I realized was that in order for my art department to be valued, it needed to become a solution for one of the biggest problems my school was dealing with. In our case, it was Bad Public Perception. It can be disheartening to see your school or students from your school featured on the 6:00 news story for different negative issues. Instead of focusing on the different successes from our teachers and students, the spotlight was basically saying that there was nothing good coming out of our school. This wasn’t painting a fair picture to the community and parents.

After doing some research on Public Relations Campaigns, I started pursuing different ways to highlight my students’ successes in my classroom. I started out with social media, displaying student work on Artsonia and starting an Art department Instagram. I also encouraged each of my students to have their own separate Instagram for just their artwork and pictures of the process. This gives them an online “portfolio” and has really helped when it came time to create their AP Studio Art portfolio. Plus this has helped many of my students receive commissions and help make a name for themselves, while using an App that they already use in their everyday life.

Having highlighted my students online, I moved on with focusing on artwork within the school and community. I was already displaying artwork around the school, but having artwork and awards posted on the schools website and in school newsletters helped bring more focus onto art.  As for the community, there are lots of ways to improve outreach. Try partnering up with a local business. Not only can you use them for art shows/displays, but if your department is lacking supplies, it is mutually beneficial to create artwork/murals/signs for the businesses. Students from your class or school’s chapter of NAHS can work together to create artwork in exchange for donations (supplies or money) to the art department/art club.

Another way to be visual to your community is to be involved in local events. One of my favorite ones from last year was having my students participate in an art display with our local Craftsman Guild. They not only where able to display their Batiks at the Crafts Center Museum, but were later invited to participate in the Craftsman’s of the Future show.  

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Another fun event was our local interactive arts festival, VERGE, where the students created an interactive printmaking display at the festival and at a pop-up show at the MS Museum of Art.
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You would be surprised at how many events are available once you start looking.

Finally, I learned very quickly the News could be your best friend. Local media outlets are surprisingly excited and eager to feature successful initiatives and are on the lookout for good human interest stories. Most stations have some kind of special segment that will focus on education, such as “What’s Working” or “Cool Schools”. 

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To get you classroom spotlighted, first see if your school district has a communications/PR person or department. Make sure to send every award, community service, and interesting activity to them. They will be able to get your information into local newspapers, news stations, and your District web page.  I also found it beneficial to contact the stations’ new reporters/correspondents, because most of them are actively looking for stories that will get them an on air story.

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I hope that you will be able to implement some or all of these tips in your art program.

- RM

Friday 06. 1.18

Becoming an Art Room Advocate

From: Renna Moore

It’s Finally Here! Summer! It’s the time to rest, renew, and reflect on your past year and decide what worked and what needs to be tweaked. Coming up on my 14th year of teaching art and having the opportunity to write this blog, I thought I would first focus on something I feel has strongly helped the atmosphere in my classroom and improved the value of art in my school.

I teach at an urban Title 1 school in a failing district, where a large percent of the students are more concerned about getting to their part time job that pays the light bill and other teachers and administrators are more interested in test scores or school image.

I hear time and time again how art teachers feel underappreciated and devalued based on their subject matter. I even hear art teachers themselves refer to their classes as “Well it's just Art.” Okay I admit it; even I used to do that. But the more years I have under my belt, the more I realized that by downplaying Art and being willing to be treated as an Elective, Extra, or “Specials” teacher, I was making my job a lot harder on myself. Students know when a class is not considered important. Why would they obey, turn in completed work, or fully participate, when it doesn’t matter.

So a few years back, I made it my personal mission to become an art advocate for my classroom at my school. It has taken a while, but my art classes went from a 100% dumping ground to a classroom that is considered one of the strongest in the school and a subject that is held in respect with students, other teachers, and my Administration. In my June NAEA Mentor blogs, I am going to talk about different approaches to make your classroom stand out, fun Interdisciplinary lessons that bring art into each and every classroom, and different ways to be an Art Advocate of your classroom.