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 31, 2020

The Power of Story: A New Teacher Workshop Series Created by Raven Cook

By Sally Ball Picture1

In 2018, the museum had the honor of creating an African American Teacher Professional Development with the late professor from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, Dr. Alphonso Grant. As we sat planning on training teachers to use art as an entry point into the discussion on the African American experience, Dr. Grant began to connect paintings to African American literature. When asked why he made these connections, Dr. Grant eloquently summarized his thoughts on the subject by saying, "If you want to understand Black History and culture, you have to read Black literature."

Crystal Bridges has begun a teacher workshop series called the Power of Story to connect great works of art by Black artists with great works of literature by Black writers. In the paragraph below, program creator and facilitator, Raven Cook, explains the passion behind the development of her program.

 Dr. Grant passed away in December 2020, but his words will forever guide my practice as a museum educator. This program continues in Dr. Grant's thoughts, reflecting on understanding the Black experience through literature. The beauty of exploring the rich collection of Crystal Bridges and connecting visual art with historical figures and writings provides teachers with a new entry point into essential conversations around identity, justice, equity, and hope. The program occurs once a month and will reconvene in February 2021. The goal is to use the program to introduce African American History. Using artworks exploring themes and topics such as double consciousness, abolition, women's rights, Black Power, Afro-Futurism, and liberation, paired with essays and writings from Black authors we explore African American History in a new, more accessible way. The program's goals include creating space for teachers to ask and understand difficult topics. The museum program also strives to help teachers find their power to be an agent of change for their students. The program provides activities for teachers to continue the work in their classroom. In these times of demanding radical change, we seek to create a space for change and empowerment.

To register for upcoming teacher workshops visit our website, or for more information on offerings for teachers sign up for our Educator eNewsletter.

-SB

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