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 28, 2020

Fostering Community Virtually

By Michelle Harrell

Spending time with those who share my passion for visual journaling is a huge part of my self care plan. These art educators have served as my believing mirrors long before COVID-19 forced us all into isolation. A few of us get together once a month at our local Jerry’s Artarama for what we call Journal Playdates. Art Educator Ophelia Stanton develops the night’s prompt though all are encouraged to bring others projects we need to work on or want feedback from the group. The only prompt we repeat is my favorite way to begin each year: The Word of the Year. When we began working from home, we decided to meet virtually and have continued each week. Our #JournalCare 30 day challenge was developed as an extension of this group with Jodi Aker co-leading it and the rest some of our most active participants. It’s good for my soul.

IMG_0399                      Ophelia Stanton Geli Printing at our Journal Playdate                        

IMG_8790Ophelia and Me

Connecting with a group of artists and makers is an incredible self care strategy. As art educators, we foster a sense of community among individuals who may feel incredibly isolated. I love how Melissa Purtee created a Google Classroom for all the students she doesn’t teach who like to come hang out in her Art Room during their lunch. There are countless stories in our NAEA Collaborate discussion boards about how art museums, colleges, and schools are fostering creative communities virtually. 

Toledo Museum of Art (TMA) has reimagined an exhibition related project to a virtual quilting bee reaching creators across the country. I recently chatted with TMA Educator Maria Iafelice who shared the following:

“Connecting with our community and integrating art into people's lives is what we do here at TMA, but for our upcoming exhibition Radical Tradition: American Quilts and Social Change, the Covid-19 pandemic makes our Quilting Bee more poignant. It’s remarkable how many people are using their skills to make masks for frontline workers, but we also know that quilters across the country are making things that provide solace and comfort to themselves and their families. — Toledo Museum of Art Youth and Family Programs Manager Maria Iafelice

LARGE- COVID 19 Quilting Bee SquareTMA COVID-19 Quilting Bee Square by Caitlyn Gustafson. Image courtesy of the Toledo Museum of Art.

What other online creative communities give you a sense of belonging during this time of COVID-19 quarantine? Please comment below.



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