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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December 28, 2020

Losing Yourself in Art

By Sally Ball

Picture1 Courtesy of Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art


“Art is the only way to run away without leaving home.”

                                                                               -Twyla Tharp

I first came across this quote in a social media post and feel like it sums up beautifully the power that art can have in people’s lives. Throughout the pandemic I have used art as a place of connection, belonging, and even escape, in a time when it is easy to feel lonely, isolated, and overwhelmed.

This process began in April of this year to maintain the sense of community in my team of museum educators when we began working remotely. Each week I facilitated close looking dialogues with works of art and ended the sessions with a prompt for team members to respond to and share with each other. It was a great way to feel connected and keep morale up while we were away from the museum and the students we usually worked with. I soon added a similar session once a week for teachers in the community who are a part of our Teacher Advisory Committee. For this group, art making prompts were given at the end of a session and responses shared at the beginning of the following week’s session. This group has become its own community and is very dear to me. Months later we still meet almost every Thursday night. Sometimes we look at art, and sometimes it is just a safe space where teachers can talk about their day and the challenges they are facing.

While the museum was closed due to COVID-19 we also provided opportunities for staff to come together and have facilitated conversations about works of art. Below I share some of my favorite prompts from 2020 as well as a link to  specific works of art from the  eMuseum, an online resource for images and information regarding works of art in the Crystal Bridges permanent collection.

My Favorite Prompts from 2020


Emotion Scavenger Hunt

Using the eMuseum as a resource, look for works of art to represent the following emotions or feelings:

Happiness, loneliness, uncomfortable, anxiety, anger, awe, anticipation, acceptance, fear, relief, disappointment, peace, hope, love.

Thinking about the works of art you selected, Answer the following question about each one: What is it about the chosen work of art that evokes that emotion for you?

Alma Thomas created this painting by arranging the color into mosaic-like patterns, imagining what one of her favorite gardens might look like from the new vantage point of space Imagine you can step into this painting. How do you feel in this place? Where do you imagine you are?

Comfort Food Still Life

What has been your go to COVID-19 comfort food? Is it a usual comfort food or a special occasion comfort food? How would you compose a still life featuring your comfort food? What items would you include to get across why this food is special to you? Create an actual work of art that represents your comfort food using the art medium of your choice.

Looking Beyond the Obvious: Finding Connection

Choose two works of art that appear at first glance to you be completely dissimilar. Spend some time looking more closely at both works of art together. Find three similarities between the two works of art. Try using a graphic organizer like a Venn diagram and setting the images side by side to help with this process. Next, think of someone you know who you think is completely dissimilar from yourself. As you are thinking, try to find three things you have in common with this other person. You might be surprised to discover how many things you have in common once you start looking for similarities.

Special Spots

What is your favorite place to be? Use verbal description to help us “see” this place. What makes this place special to you? Create a sketch of the elements that make your place special.

Peto Prompt- What are your “old companions?”

Think about the things in your life that are important to you. You could choose objects, people, ideas…literally anything. If you were to create a shelf with items that tell us a little something about you, what five items would you place on your shelf? If you chose people or ideas, how would you represent them symbolically on your shelf?

If you are interested in more prompts like these please send an email to [email protected].

- SB


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