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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August 01, 2018

Reflection, Play, and Growth

From Don Masse

My first blog post for the month of August stems from two recent personal experiences that have strongly resonated with me. First, was the week I spent teaching at the Tennessee Arts Academy at Belmont University. I facilitated contemporary art inspired sessions that provided participants opportunities to explore and play with various mediums in figurative and abstract styles. The structure was quite similar to the way I format my elementary lessons at Zamorano Fine Arts Academy. I believe play, experimentation, and response to design constraints is important not only for our students, but artists and art educators as well.

This week-long academy provides such a rich atmosphere for creativity- it’s full of inspiring speakers and performers, it brings together visual art, music, and theater, and it left me wanting to plant seeds for something similar out here in San Diego. Which brings me to my first point- it is imperative for us as art educators to seek out opportunities to grow. We must bring ourselves to experiences like this- whether a day or weeklong in duration, whether in person or online,  whether monthly or annually, so that we can reflect on our practice, collaborate with other educators, and process the experiences so that we bring improved learning opportunities back to our students. Since I attended my first national convention in San Diego, I feel like I have grown so much as an educator and my students have benefitted immensely.

Screen Shot 2018-07-31 at 3.51.10 PM(From my Contemporary Focus sessions at TAA)

The other recent experience that rang my bell was participating in a local call for artists to redesign work for a public art project in San Diego. This project got me reflecting on my experiences in the community and creating work unlike I ever have before. It afforded me the opportunity to creatively challenge myself and sparked ideas for new student experiments, too.

Screen Shot 2018-07-31 at 3.51.21 PM(Mock-up for North Park Garage Art project panel that will be completed in September)

The life of an art educator can be exhausting and leave us with little energy to pursue our own creative work and we need to work to find a balance between our teacher selves and our artist selves. I believe that giving ourselves time to create throughout the year can fill us up, it can give us more energy when we think we’ve been depleted, and can also positively inform the creative challenges we provide our students. It doesn’t have to be creating a body of work for a public art project or gallery show, it can be as low key as visual journaling,  making quick drawings from observation,  drawing in the sand at the beach, or drawing with sidewalk chalk in front of your home. Find what works for you and give yourself time to play!

Screen Shot 2018-07-31 at 3.51.28 PM
My future blog posts for August will share tips on establishing a mural program at your school, bringing digital art experiments into your art curriculum, and the benefits of introducing your students to the work of artists working in today’s world. Stay tuned!



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