Monthly Mentor

Shelly Breaux (December)
Each month, a different member and NAEA awardee is the guest writer for the NAEA Monthly Mentor Blog. Shelly Breaux established the Art Program at David Thibodaux STEM Magnet Academy in Lafayette, LA. In her classroom, Breaux focuses on inquiry-based learning, problem solving, collaboration, conceptual thinking, and constructive criticism. She believes in using art as an educational tool, and that art provides her students with a voice and an outlet. Click "GO" to read her full bio.

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June 27, 2018

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. https://www.vergejxn.org
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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

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