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 30, 2020

An Unfinished Capstone

By Michelle Harrell

For this last blog post in our COVID-19 quarantine series, I feel the need to drop a profound truth bomb. The Monthly Mentor should be oozing with wisdom, right?

I’m not.

Despite spending the last year developing a self-care plan, I continue to neglect my mental, social, and physical health. Despite developing systems to integrate work and life, I’m still on my laptop when I should be spending time with the family. Despite coleading our #JournalCare challenge, my own prompts slip my attention. I have much to learn about selfcare.

In Spring 2019, I began a leadership program through NAEA School for Art Leaders (SAL). Through SAL, I developed a capstone project to synthesize what I’ve learned about integrating the different domains in my life by creating a self-care plan using visual journaling. I developed a visual journal as a form of graphic research for my capstone and created a blog to share online. I chose a visual mode of research because I prefer a visual mode of learning, plus the added anticipation of helping others learn. The format helped me chunk complex life lessons into strategies to share with other artist educators who find themselves in a similar state of creative burnout. The two modes of visual research demonstrate how I’m learning to live my most creative life.

What have I learned through this capstone? Through my visual journal, Morning Pages, and conversations with stakeholders, I observed three subtle shifts:

  • A shift in my well-being (improved health and relationship),
  • A shift in my mindset (from reactive victim to proactive leader), and
  • A shift in my focus (from professional to personal development).

I’m still shifting. In my visual journal, I can see the struggle to shift my mindset to focus on what’s within my control and influence. I have not perfected the art of self-care but I’m making progress. I have developed the confidence to be my most authentic self and share my vulnerability to help others. As a leader, I have to model the self-care I want to see my team develop so we can be our creative best and serve the needs of our community.

Today’s #JournalCare prompt is Gratitude which can have great psychological benefits as Robert Emmons describes in this article. By focusing on gratitude, we shift our mindsets and identify our blessings rather than our shortcomings. I am thankful to my believing mirrors for their continued support and the opportunity to share my journey through this platform.

Our entire world is still shifting. Our new normal evolves as we develop the tools to respond. As art educators, we support and challenge each other to “shape human potential and promote global understanding.” I am grateful to be part of our professional organization as we respond to our new normal together. We are in this together. 

Harrell_CanCantMichelle Harrell @michelleharrellart



Gant NormalSara Gant @ArtBrit

- MH


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