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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May 01, 2019

Social Networking Via Skype

By Frank Juarez

ISkyping_with_Joe_Busselln 2014, my principal shared his building initiative of increasing Literacy across all content areas. I assumed that this would entail more writing and reading, but soon discovered that it encompassed so much more. The first thing we do, as educators, is brainstorm on what this may look like in our classroom with our students. The second thing we do is to begin looking for resources, usually free ones. The third thing we may do is look for online articles that we can use. Lastly, if we cannot find something free, then we either start looking for grants, our operating budget, our PTO, etc. to fund this type of resource.

Early in my career, I have learned that if I want to implement something into my curriculum, then I need to cater it to my students. It is important to use a resource that will engage them in the learning process, to put them into a situation where they would need to utilize the knowledge they have learned thus far in real-life scenarios, to effectively navigate the web to seek specific information, and to make inferences based on information presented. This resulted in creating The Midwest Artist Studios Project (2014-2016), which combines art education and contemporary art.

The Midwest Artist Studios™ Project was a three-summer field research project. The team consisted of a project manager, photographer, writer, and assistant whom traveled the Midwest visiting contemporary artists who:  a) embrace the importance of Art Education, b) believe that their art experience was influenced or shaped by their K-12 Art Education and c) following their artistic dream of art making. These visits provided a close and personal approach into the studio life of an artist. The team traveled over 5,800 miles visiting 24 artists from 18 different cities/town across the Midwest.

What I truly enjoyed about this experience is that I was able to create a platform in which I made the art world a 360-degree experience. Often times that art world can be one-sided, meaning that if someone sees a work of art in a museum or gallery, he/she may not have the access to contact the artist. Even though we are resourceful such as googling the artist and sending the artist an email via their contact form, there is no guarantee that we may get a response. If the goal of this project is to address Literacy within my curriculum, then one of my goals is to give my students access to the artists whom we visited and studied. One way of achieving this was to incorporate Skype into the art experience. This allowed me to facilitate a lesson designed after the artist’s work and studio practice, sprinkled with varied strategies for Literacy, and topped off with the opportunity to bring these artists into the classroom via Skype for a Q & A, critique, business of art practices, or simply a conversation about being an artist living in the Midwest.

Through this practice, I began to network with other artists across the U.S. to introduce to my students the diversity that exists within our own art world and art community. For example, I had a student working in collage about three years ago. Her work reminded me of a collage artist from Brooklyn named Jay Riggio. So, I contacted the artist, explained why I was contacting him, and asked if he would be willing to spend 20 minutes with my student via Skype. Without hesitation, he said yes. Through this type of interaction one cannot get from reading a book or surfing the net. This was an authentic art experience that made an impact on this student’s creative life.

It seems that money is always on the forefront of what we can or cannot do. I have learned a long time that giving up does not produce results. We are creative thinkers! With a plethora of available resources and platforms, let’s continue to think outside the box, and make things happen for our students.






Beth Hull

"Through this type of interaction one cannot get from reading a book or surfing the net. This was an authentic art experience that made an impact on this student’s creative life." Well said, and what a Great Idea! I absolutely am going to use this type of interaction within my classroom.

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