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MARCH 2017

So what does an art teacher do after returning from her 19th annual National Art Education Association Convention? She updates her e-portfolio and tells her students about all of her amazing learning moments she had in NYC last week!!

That sounds about right...oh, and she begins to CELEBRATE YOUTH ART MONTH loudly!  

Speaking of, I am really excited to be the NAEA Monthly Mentor this month as I am talking all about YAM and how it is our nation's #1 advocacy tool!  Check it out at: http://naea.typepad.com/


#NAEA2017 didn't disappoint - it was another incredible 4 days of presenting, going to workshops and presentations and learning, networking, seeing old friends, meeting new friends, reminiscing and just having a wonderful time in my favorite city!  The Chuck Close subway murals are incredible btw!  I'm already planning what I want to present in Seattle next March...remember those proposals are due in mid May!


We are so busy at school right now, my students just completed their Unsung Hereos project and essays - holy WOW!  They are about to complete their Art of Anatomy work and their Memory Projects are beyond beautiful!  I will show a few examples here but remember, I post most of their work on Pinterest, FB and Twitter, and I'm slowly getting better at Instagram.  


I am excited to be asked to keynote at the Wisconsin Art Education Association Fall Conference this October and the South Carolina Art Education Association in November - I absolutely LOVE working with teachers, so let me know how I can help! 


Thanks for checking in and stay in touch - dewestudio@bellsouth.net or via social media!

Until soon!




Happy New Year!  I have to laugh - the last time I wrote, I was positive that I would be doing this monthly and sure enough, the life of the busy ART TEACHER took over and now it's not only 8 months later, IT'S A WHOLE NEW YEAR later!  


And with that, I am happily moving along and enjoying my 24th year of teaching my kiddos through the arts!  We have been super busy telling our stories visually and I am honored to have just found out that I will be receiving the NAEA Southeastern Secondary Art Educator of the Year award in NYC this March while I am attending my 19th NAEA Convention!  To say I'm excited is an understatement!  I will humbly accept my award in the names of all of the incredibly awesome students that I have taught over the years!  I'm excited to be presenting with Nicole Briscoe this year as well...make sure you come and see our Session on Saturday the 4th!

I have been busy teaching 182 students at the moment and teaching a few Saturday courses at my studio (Crystal Collage Children's ART Studio) - but my studio space has moved to American Redemption and it's quite a place!  I'm super excited to be there.  I am selling my custom stamped jewelry (Crystal Collage ART Wears) at trunk shows and have done a few shows in NC and SC as well.  And I'm continuing to write for Arts and Activities magazine and have another series underway this year with curriculum specifically designed  for Art II high school artists.  I am loving that I am part of this outstanding publication!


My NAHS students organized an awesome collaboration recently with another school and our 26 students created a Finster inspired piece that is now permanently on display at the High Museum in Atlanta...check out the video link: https://animoto.com/play/rOSW201wNQRvES9LPOkRIA


I am truly hoping to start blogging more and more now that my daugther is a freshman in college (I guess that's where the time went, 2nd semester of senior year was intense and I did shed a few (thousand) tears along the way!


Stay in touch:  dewestudio (Twitter), dewestudio (Insta), Debi Dunavant West (FB) and good ole fashioned e-mail:  dewestudio@gmail.com



APRIL 2016

Again, I am in shock that another 5 months have flown by - I guess it's true what they say, "time flies when you're having fun" and what an incredible time I am having in my 23rd year of teaching kids through the vehicle of the visual arts!  


I was blessed to spend a week in the middle of March attending my 18th NAEA convention in the great city of Chicago!  It was another incredible learning and teaching "artventure"!  

I co-presented with two dear friends that I was lucky enough to meet in Chicago 18 years ago as we were all there receiving 1998 National Youth Art Month awards so it seemed fitting that Linda, Denise and I would present on YAM = NAEA Leadership...Who Knew!!  Scott Russell, Southeastern VP elect and I had a great time presenting at our Southeastern Leadership Meeting and facilitating our Southeastern Awards Ceremony...and another Delegates Assembly is now in the books!  It was so wonderful working with the other regional Vice Presidents as we condensed this event into a one day success!  We successfully passed 4 new position statements and all but one of the reviewed position statements passed, so that was great news and hard work that I am proud to have been a part of. 


Seeing GREAT friends, meeting new friends, celebrating all that is WONDERFUL in this profession - the energy palpitated with "happy" and I am now contemplating what to present next year in NYC 2017.  The submission process is now open, so if you haven't presented, please consider it - it's so wonderful when we share our successful teaching strategies with each other and the ultimate winners are our students!


Youth Art Month was AWESOME at North Gwinnett this year!  We held our 9th annual Relay for Life ART Auction where we raised $9,100 (see the video my students created: https://animoto.com/play/5qatJlUijYaMlSHqWW6ccw ) and our students also worked with special needs adults at the Next Stop again in March!  What a beautiful event this is and our kids are excited to go back in mid April.  My students also created amazing Artist Trading Cards and artified VANS shoes for the Custom Culture competition.  Oh, in during all of that, we exhibited 72 pieces of art from my classes in the county Tapestry exhibit!  Whew...I guess that's why time keeps ticking by so quickly.


In 34 days my daugther graduates and so I really am afraid to blink - a new chapter is about to begin and I'm not sure if I'm ready.  I feel an artistic series may be underway soon to channel these emotions.


...and again, ART saves!


Vans 2016 - Music, Sport, Art, Local Culture



Southeastern ART Stars - NAEA Delegates Assembly 2016


 A few samples of my students and their work in Tapestry 2016



I have to laugh as my intentions are to keep up with this informative, art portfolio "blog" monthly, yet here it is, ANOTHER 4 months and I am just now finding a few free moments to sit and reflect and share some of the amazing successes that my students and Southeastern colleagues have experienced since school started in August.


North Gwinnett High School visual art department continues to do well with our team of 3.5 art teachers and over 450 visual art students!  We are working hard on ensuring that they succeed in school, in art and in life!  In October, several of our National Art Honor Society students worked with homeless children at the Rainbow Village to create a "homes from the heART" mural that was then auctioned off for...are you ready...$18,600 at their gala event!  We were blown away by the generosity of the community, and most importantly, with the love that went into this collaborative mural!


We have submitted work to the WADE Competition as well as USC Emerging Artists event and garnered awards at both.  Scholastic art is due in early December, so that is next on our list of "to-do's" and today was our huge community "American Education Breakfast" event that was arts based in nature with over 500 visual art works, music performed by our orchestra, band and chorus and a dance performance that should earn a Tony!  A celebration of the arts in education that is applauded loudly each year!


Several NAHS students are building a mosaic wall to honor educators in our outdoor classroom and I can't wait to share this collaborative magic with you all shortly!


We had 3 county winners for the PTA reflections art competition and these students will now move onto the state level! And we had 6 students make it through their visual art county interviews for our state Governor's Honors Program - they now move onto the state interviews! Very proud teacher moments for sure!


I have also been busy as I finish my run as your elected NAEA Southeastern Vice President!  I continue to communicate with our leaders and I have traveled over the past 3 weekends, speaking at Moore College of Art and Design's Symposium in Philadelphia two weeks ago and just returned from a fantastic Colorado Art Education Association Conference in Breckenridge where I was honored to be the Advocacy Keynote Speaker last Saturday.  I head to Chicago tomorrow for our fall NAEA Board meeting and always look forward to seeing our national art education leaders!


Life is good...on a personal note, my daughter is a senior and so we have also been busy visiting colleges in the Southeast!  I am beyond proud of her as she has worked hard over the years and can basically get in any school she wants...now it's all about the scholarships!  She is taking AP 2D design this year for her photography!


...and tomorrow, I turn 49!  No regrets, just lots to be thankful for!  Life is wonderful when you love what you do every single day!  I love calling myself an ART EDUCATOR!


 Rainbow Village Collaborative Mural


GHP student art work!


10th grade county winner - Reflections



JULY 2015

Just like that, another 4 months has flown by!  And after an incredibly successful and wonderful NAEA Convention last March, I am now busy planning the upcoming Southeastern Region Leadership Conference, "Together...We ART Better", scheduled for July 16-19 in the lovely New Orleans!  There are 30 Southeastern leaders about to embark on an awesome journey of leadership, fellowship and FUN!  

Scott Russell (Southeastern VP - elect) and I are excited to welcome delegates from Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia.  Our special guest is Dr. Deborah Reeve and we have some super events planned to help us have wonderful and meaningful conversations that revolve around the growth of our individual states as well as the NAEA.  We will discuss the 2015-2020 Strategic Goals, look over the Position statements, consider new position statements, work together in World Cafe Sessions and share state reports to learn from one another! We will be meeting at the Renaissance Arts Hotel as well as the George Rodrigue Foundation for the Arts...and I'm quite sure a Blue Dog, or 10, will emmerge!  Huge thanks to Square 1 Art and Jane Reid for donating the great bags for this event!


I am looking forward to sharing our successes in August once I have compiled all of the information gathered.  In the meantime, enjoy this photo of our Southeastern ART Stars taken during delegates assembly at the convention last March.



MARCH 2015

#NAEA2015 has ARRIVED!

I landed in NOLA about 4 hours ago and am so excited to enjoy my 17th (?!?!) NAEA Convention.  It's hard to believe that I have been involved in this wonderful organization for so long, but as I sit here and reflect I know that I am a better art teacher due to my many NAEA friendships and the connections and sharing that these conventions provide!  It's fun to see how social media has changed the way in which we connect, but there's something so special about that hug, that laugh, that memory that rekindles our passion for teaching kids through the vehicle of the visual arts!


As the Southeastern Vice President, I will be BUSY, but excited to be such a big part of Delegates Assembly (Wednesay 8-4 and Thursday 2-5), to have organized the SE Leadership Meeting (Friday 1-2) and the SE Awards Ceremony which is guaranteed to be a GREAT time celebrating our Southeastern Art Stars - "We Can't MASK Our Excitement!" (Friday 4:30-6)....and I get to hang out with Tim Gunn!  I can't wait to stop by the Elementary Division Awards and celebrate my dear friend Drew Brown as she accepts her National award!  I can't wait to co-present on Saturday 8-9, as Stephanie Pickens, Stephanie Wirt, Michael Bell and I take you on an artventure where we will be  "Mining for Ideas: The Power of the Prompt" together... and I am beyond excited to see our vendor friends! 

It's hard to sum up the energy that exists at an NAEA Convention - imagine 4500+ art educators with a love and passion for children and art education in the same city - the same hotel - the same convention center - exuberently sharing their creativity!  It's a highlight of my year....and I can't wait to see what's in store!


In the meantime, I thought I would share a few of my Draw/Paint students recently completed large scale food studies - I posted a few of these on the Art Teacher Facebook page last week and the response was overwhelmingly positive - my students were thrilled! 


 (and to see more of my student's work - go to my pinterest pages - I have 16 boards full of student work and inspirations that prompt their learning)




And not only have 5 months flown by, but another year is upon us!  Wow - how does that happen?!?!

And, as usual, my students continue to amaze me with their ability to work hard, think creatively, practice and succeed in their art making skills!  Lots of GREAT news to report!


NGHS received 24 Scholastic Awards this year - we are down quite a few from past years (58 and 79 respectfully) but it seems as though our regional numbers are down by over half so perhaps SCAD has changed some criteria - but nonetheless, we are thrilled for our Regional Award Winners!  


I had my draw/paint students participate in the state Youth Art Month flag design contest and am happy to report that my student Lauren C is the winner and her art will now be made into the state YAM flag and will fly in New Orleans during the NAEA Convention!  Kelsey S and Hanna E will also have their art exhibited on our state YAM board at the National YAM Museum!  More proud moments!


Yesterday was the state Capitol Art Exhibit (CAE) and our school represented well with 6 students in attendance and they had the oppotunity to meet with legislators as well as the state Superintendant to discuss the importance of art education...it was a VERY GOOD DAY!


I am enjoying my participation on the Governor's Arts Learning Task Force and as we meet each month and discuss the recommendations to ensure that every child in the state receives a high quality arts education, we are evidently being heard...last week the Governor's office announced they are seeking a Fine Arts State Coordinator (a position that has been vacant for over 20 years!)  So this comes as more exciting news!


I am excited about the upcoming NAEA Convention and hope to see many of you there!  We want to pack the house for the Southeastern Awards Ceremony - so if you want to get your "pARTy" on - make sure to find the loud group on Friday at 4:30!


Stay in touch, I would love to know how you are celebrating YAM!  - dewestudio@bellsouth.net or on FB (Debi Dunavant West) and keep loving your kiddos..and loving your discipline!  It makes for a glorious life!





So 6 weeks in and my 22nd year of teaching kids is going GREAT!  We started off the year unpacking boxes while teaching and I'm happy to report that I got through all of my boxes AND my 195 students are RoCkIn' my curriculum and making some spectacular ART!  I have 2 intro art courses, 2 art II course, 1 combined art III course and a new, spectacular STEAM based class called CONNECT - where we have 42 freshmen working in Biology, Language Arts and Visual Arts and WOW!  has that class been a great experience thus far!


My intro students have started with their Name Designs, their Visualizing Vocabulary, and they are completing their Contour Studies this week.  Each week their Visual Journals get better and better as they continue to expand their use of media creatively, draw, collage and add text to follow each prompt!  I am excited to share a few here (chair prompt), but to view about 40 per week check out my pinterest page "Room 416".


My art II students have been busy working on technical works including graphite portraits from life and from photos for an awesome compare/contrast lesson, their left brain/right brain lesson, their upside down Picasso contour, line quality and color theory lesson and their current charcoal direct observation works.  Once all of these technical processes are complete, these students will be diving into the creative realm - from the Plains and Peanuts Postcard contest at the state to PTA Reflections - so we are busy and learning in room #416 this year (same room - different number!)


I am excited to be presenting at the upcoming NAEA Virtual Conference at the end of the month!  Make sure you sign up for this exciting event - September 27 and 28th!

I will be presenting on Saturday, Secondary: Responding: The Memory Project-Mixed Media Portraits.  It's been a cool journey utilizing these new Visual Art Standards into my curriculum and I love it because it's making me think...and better yet, its making my students THINK!  Enduring Understandings = GOOD TEACHING!


Stay in touch - and I look forward to working with many of you throughout this school year!







(Looking at my students creative solutions to simple visual journal prompts makes me truly realize how lucky I am to call myself an ART EDUCATOR!)


JUNE 2014

And 3 months literally FLY by...again!!  I guess that's what happens when one spends a month and a half packing up 5 art rooms for summer renovations on an old high school and continues to teach - just a little stress in April / May!  Not sure if I am happy or sad that I had to completely take my room apart and pack it up, but I will let you all know when I return at the end of July and begin to unpack the 600+ boxes - YIKES!


I am happy to report that I completed my 21st year of teaching and my students continued to completely WOW me!  It seems they are really good at that.  My draw/paint students completed their semester with the popular and always successful "Pinspiration Portraits"!  I do believe this has become one of my favorite lessons I ever wrote due to the high success rate AND the engagement of EVERY student.  It's amazing how art II students respond when they have the freedom to select their media, their surface and their inspiration - the final pieces were beyond incredible and I would say that most can be used for AP portfolios next year - to see them all, check out my pinterest board ( http://www.pinterest.com/dewestudio/ ) and here are a few for your viewing pleasure!




I "taught" this lesson for our county's Teacher Connection series as well, so here is the link to the actual lesson:  http://cdnapi.kaltura.com/index.php/extwidget/openGraph/wid/1_ltecmoap


On another exciting note, I just taught a class at the Inaugural Woodruff Arts Center's Educators Conference on Wednesday - it was wonderful to have educators from across the state in EVERY DISCIPLINE come to this conference! The 35 who joined me to learn about my Summative Assessment Book Making lesson were truly inspirational educators!  The conversations and springboarded ideas were palpible!  Everyone seemed excited and WE ALL learned from each other - this was truly an incredible conference!


I will be teaching next Wednesday with ArtsNOW! and then continuing my 2D/3D curriculum writing for the county on Thursday and Friday.  I am also thrilled to be a Secondary Faculty member at the 2014 Tennessee Arts Academy in July!  More news to come as I am planning my lessons with 70 art educators - can't wait!


AND I look forward to the NAEA Summer Leadership Conference in Santa Fe, New Mexico July 22-27.  I have some super fun ideas for our regional Southeastern Break-out meetings and know that we will all leave this experience better educators, thinkers and leaders!


With that, I am headed out to the beach with my family to reflect on my blessings - I am amazed daily with this profession that I get to call mine - being an Art Educator fills me with complete JOY!



MARCH 2014


I love March because it means that I can have "YAM JAMS" in my art room every day! I can advocate about the importance of an arts education to my students, my staff, my school, my community and my state and I can "be the change I want to see in the world of arts education" by utilizing this wonderful tool!


This year my student's are loudly advocating with me!  Last week my NAHS students worked at the Next Stop teaching our special needs friends a fun art lesson that they will use for their up coming golf tournament fundraiser!  This week each of our 450+ art students are working hard on their Relay for Life ART Auction works - they have found their clients, considered which art they will create and are set on an opening bid - and on March 20th, the bids should come rolling in as our community and school will be celebrating the beautiful ways in which our students are sharing their talents and skills to help others!  Last year our auction brought in over $6000 and this year our goal is $10,000!  This is always a fun, energized and successful event because our students understand the concept of "Art with Purpose" and "Compassion in Action"!  

I am posting a few of my students bike studies, they were too fun today, saying they want to "ride - to save a life!" during our crit!


I have a fabulous student teacher right now from GA State University and she is truly a gem!  Each day it is a joy to come to North Gwinnett High School, teach my kiddos and watch them grow - and now I get to share all of that with Ms. Westcott!


I am posting a few pics here but for a full range of students works visit my dewestudio pinterest pages, specifically New Student Art and Inspirations 2013-2014 OR visit me on Facebook - Debi Dunavant West OR Twitter - @dewestudio

I use social media to showcase my students and their talents daily!


Can't wait to see you all in San Diego in a few short weeks at the NAEA Convention - what a perfect way to end another GREAT month of Youth Art Month!


Debi and Hannah - rockin' their YAM JAM 2014







Another Year - how ExCiTiNg!  Already it's been extremely "artful"!  On Saturday we hung the state Capitol Art Exhibit - this is Georgia's annual kick-off event for our state Youth Art Month celebrations!  It's always so wonderful to spend the morning with dedicated art teachers and to see the beautiful works of our children.  This is truly our strongest advocacy tool!  Looking very forward to February 12th where we will showcase the work to our legislators - it's a magical day when our students have the opportunity to meet their legislators and talk about their art and the IMPORTANCE of their arts education!


On the 18th, we participated in the 3rd annual state ART THROWDOWN!  Yes, once again 8 schools participated in an "art olympics" so too speak, or as one of my students described it - "art learning in action"!  It was a super fun day full of energy and learning at the High Museum of Art.  My students made a cool video of their reflections on the day.  For some reason I can't upload an animoto video here but check it out on the website: artthrowdown.com and go to the photo page!  Enjoy!


And as always, my students are "wow-ing" me with their desire to learn and grow!  My Draw/Paint students are just completing their Memory Project portraits where we have "adopted" 35 students from Napal and are honoring their identity through the art of portraiture. 

(for more info: memoryproject.org)


My 3D intro kids are grasping the difference between last semester's 2D projects and this semesters 3D lessons.  We are starting off with the art of relief and a really cool research project - so far, so good!


I am constantly posting my student's works on my facebook page, twitter and my Pinterest boards so please consider following us!


Here's to a year full of art, health and happy!

Hope to see you all in San Diego at the end of March!




Seriously, I have NO idea where the time has gone - but this semester, I am happy to say, has been INCREDIBLE!  As we complete our last week of this "year", I sit and reflect, surrounded by portfolios and incredible art work created by growing artists who share their talent, hearts and courage to learn and grow, with me daily.  I am amazed by the individual learning that occurred and is so apparent.  From my intro student's work I recall them each walking in my door back in August excited and scared, and today I am looking at their summative assessment personalized themed-based books that clearly showcases 8 of the 13 lessons they completed with confidence and skill...and I am humbled.  (images coming)


And then there are my art II student's Still Life Series final works that are truly MASTERful!  They have spent the last 2 weeks drawing from a still life that they put together, encompassing mini lessons they have completed this semester.  They have looked carefully and drawn from direct observation using graphite and/or charcoal and they now understand the tools needed to create the illusion of realism!  From these works, they have created a second still life inspired by a master artist / era and together they have written beautiful compare/contrast essays.  Their presentations today validated why I get up at 5:30 every morning and gladly begin teaching kids at 7 am! (images coming)


This has been a heartfelt - giving - joyous semester and the best part, my students have LEARNED and they have GROWN as artists, divergent thinkers, see-ers and givers!  From our 700+ cans for the needy to our latest collection of over 1000 toy for our school's Toys for Tots campaign - our "art with purpose" lessons have proven to be successful beyond words!


I am blessed.  I am an art educator - an art guide.

I love these kids - they are all my living art!




Such a wonderful school year!  I have been blessed with a superb group of students - the most I have ever taught at the secondary level, 172 this year, but hard working, dedicated and eager to learn!  So life is good in room #416 this year!


Being a Southern school means that we have been working for 7 weeks now. My art II (draw/paint) students just completed their charcoal studies and I have to say, I was blown away.  Again, students were required to draw from life (hanging sheet) and from a photo (high contrast portraits) to conduct their own compare/contrast and the results are outstanding!  (see photos)


Our National Art Honor Society students have been busy!  We have 90 students involved this year and last weekend was our first home football game where they raised $142 painting faces!  Saturday was our community's largest event, the 30th Annual Suwanee Day - an art and music festival that starts off with a fun parade!  This year there were over 100 floats and our NAHS students won "Most Creative" - (see photos) - they incorporated the theme of the day into their design - "Art Celebrates the Past, Present and Future"!  It was a rainy day, but a super FUN day!  Again, students raised money painting faces and were an important part of the community!  For more info about our NAHS events check out our site:  www.ngnahs.weebly.com


Please check out our PINTEREST boards (http://www.pinterest.com/dewestudio/boards) - I am posting my students weekly Visual Journal successes as well as inspirational art for their research. Each student is also required to keep a pinterest board.  I have found this is more user friendly than Artsonia so check out our newest creations here.


Thanks for checking in...

Until next month!










Not sure where the summer went, but today was our NGHS Orientation and my 21st year of welcoming a new group of excited and eager students into my art room and I have to say, it's still like Christmas morning to me!  I love to "unwrap" my students and meet them with a hug and a smile - assuring them that they are in the right place - a place where they will be free to CREATE!  I love having the opportunity to meet their families and to quickly discuss that I was put on this planet to be their art guides!  It was truly a "goosebump" day!

I also have the largest classes I have ever had - 35 in each of my intro art courses, filled with freshmen to seniors, many of which haven't had an official art course since the 5th grade, and 2 awesome art II courses that are at 25 and 28 respectively. 


Again, the summer flew by and until today, I wasn't 100% sure I was ready to say good-bye to it...but alas, I am ready to teach our future!  I love these kids - they fuel me!


I look forward to sharing their successes with you in the coming months!




APRIL 2013

Another quick and busy month of educational visual art bliss!  Students continued to WOW me this month as we worked hard on community projects as well as classroom lessons that showcase the learning that can happen in a strong visual art program.


My art II students have almost completed their "Model Monday" works - this lesson is a wonderful collaboration with our dance department and teaches our students figure study through mixed media.  Each Monday for 8 weeks we have several dance students come into the art room and do 3, 3 minute poses, so this only takes about 10 minutes out of our "regularly scheduled program".  Our artists use a different media each week to capture these gesture drawings - using the SAME piece of 18" x 24" white drawing paper!  The layering effect is part of the WOW factor.  Next week we will have our last session and then the students will be given a week to deconstruct and recreate a final piece!


Here are some samples of where we are now - and some finished pieces from last year's students.  This is always an extremely powerful and successful lesson - it teaches our students to technically SEE and then to be creative with their studies.








MORE March 2013

We just celebrated and held our 6th Annual Relay for Life ART Auction last Thursday and it was a HUGE success!  We had community members join us for a most wonderful evening and had over 500 pieces of student made art that was auctioned off!  We have made close to $7000 thus far with commission work still coming in!


Here are a few images from a magical night as well as the video my students created to advertise this - HUGE thanks to Sara Haze for her song, "Firefly"








MARCH 2013


WOW - NAEA 2013 was InCrEdIbLe!

From start to finish - I surrounded myself with amazing smART people with a passion and love for students and for the discipline of the visual arts!  It just doesn't get any better than that!


I will post a few photos and my hand-outs and powerpoints on here soon!  In the meantime, I am going to share my latest NAEA assignment, to write up "Why ART Matters" - the overarching NAEA theme that I personally LOVE!


It was supposed to be 50 words or less...obviously, I couldn't get it down to 50 words but I hope you enjoy what I wrote and I'm sure much can be added to this great conversation starter!


Why ART Matters…

Let me count the ways! 

Being privy to the educational magic that happens in a visual art room daily for the past 2 decades  is enough to fill this paper with the text and imagery needed to better understand exactly “Why ART Matters”  - summing it up could prove to be a difficult task!


  • ART matters because without it our children, our future, will have no way to communicate creatively and divergently – they will be forced to learn in rigid environments that don’t permit adequate time and/or freedom to problem solve. 
  • ART matters because without it our children will be forced to continue to regurgitate knowledge instead of actually applying their knowledge to real world applications through their “Heads”, their “Hands” and most importantly, their “Hearts”. 
  • ART matters because without it many of our children will lose their desire to stay in school…to learn…to express themselves…to care! 
  • ART matters because it documents our past, our future and perhaps most importantly, OUR NOW! 
  • ART matters because OUR CHILDREN MATTER!

Debi West, Ed.S, NBCT

Department Chair and Arts Educator – North Gwinnett High School

NAEA Southeastern VP - Elect



It's ALMOST Time for NAEA 2013!!

I am getting ready for yet another fabulous NAEA "ARTventure"!  As I am looking over my NAEA iphone ap (coolest invention ever - loved it last year and it is even better this year) I am putting together my list of presentations and events and will post them here! 

I would LOVE to see you many of you at my presentations (in BOLD) as well as at our Southeastern Awards Event and conversations and Secondary Awards Event and conversations.  We NEED you to come and support your division as well as your region!  I am thrilled to be the Southeastern Vice President Elect and look forward to meeting many of you, hearing your stories and reconnecting with old (seasoned) friends!


I'm packing up my boots and ready for Fort Worth TEXAS! 

I know it's going to be awe-inspiring and motivating - just what I need this time of year!




Thursday, March 7th


  • Delegates 10-12:00 (Omni Ballroom 5)
  • Secondary Awards Ceremony 12-2:00 (Sundance 1 / Omni/ 3rd floor)
  • Secondary Conversations 2-3:00 (Sundance 1 / Omni / 3rd floor)


Friday, March 8th


  • Art is the Answer – 8-8:30 (Meeting room 203B / Center / 2nd floor)
  • Sponsor of the Year – 11-12:00 (Meeting room 200 / Center / 2 floor)n
  • Conversations with Colleagues – NAHS 2-3:00 (Meeting room 201A / Center / 2nd floor)
  • Southeastern Awards Presentation – 4-5:30 (Meeting Room 203 A / Center / 2nd floor)




Saturday, March 9th


  • Creative Compelling Curriculua – 8-8:30 (Meeting room 200 / Center / 2nd floor)
  • Telling Your Art Stories – 12-1:00 (Meeting Room / 121D / Center / 1st floor)
  • Southeastern Leadership Meeting – 5-6 (Meeting room 202C / Center / 2nd floor)




Another year - another month - time certainly flies when you're teaching students through the visual arts!  I can't even grasp that it's the 2nd week in February already!  My students have been working hard and raking in state and regional awards - I think 2013 is going to be a very good year!


2 weeks ago we attended the state DREAM@50 reception where my student, Kenny Luu received the 1st place runner up for his work about what the Civil Rights looks like in America today.  His piece, according to the founder of this event, was either going to "garner him an award, or get us all lynched" and thankfully, it brought him an award and a lot of praise for his bravery in creating a piece of work from his heart.  I will share his work and artist statement with you here. 



Kenny Luu

North Gwinnett High School


           " Adversity is perpetual…life is a daily struggle.


When I began to create this artwork for the Dream@50 competition, I really wanted to stun people with my piece.  I wanted the absolute confidence of it, a tongue in cheek statement, to make people think about what the “civil rights looks like in America today”.


I was taking this legendary figure with a name so inspiring and positive and putting him in drag, and despite the fabulous wig and teal shadow, Dr. King remained the same magnificent man, just a little more fabulous! We live on in his legacy through the faces of our generation. The face of equality may change but the message is still the same. 


The background of collaged historical art conveys that we are pushing forward, the past is behind us. The Marilyn-esque makeup and hair was inspired by the famous pop artist, Andy Warhol, a gay pop icon, one that was often controversial and outrageous. The way Warhol's work correlates with this piece, is that he pokes and prods at our boundaries of acceptance and the ideas of what is wrong and right. It makes us uncomfortable and I love it.


We are all scared.

      Of the world.

            Of Our selves.

                     Our peers.

                                                               Even our loved ones.


We hide our feelings and when you look at this painting I want you to feel empowered. I want you to fight life and to love it at the same time, being totally true to who you are.  That is the “Dream”.


This portrait was done in acrylic and painted on a separate paper and then collage transferred onto the background. The background was made by collaging famous artworks and bringing them to the back by adding dark acrylic paint. The hair and face was achieved through a mixture of sharpie, acrylic, art stick, and oil pastels."


...and that, my friends, is what art should be about! 

What are we teaching our students?  Hopefully to tell their stories visually and well crafted - as these visual works are documenting our students "right NOW"!





What a fun month!  I just submitted 50 pieces for our Regional Scholastic competition and my intro students presented their summative semester books today!  I was SO impressed with the learning, the creativity and the craftsmanship - it was a GREAT day!  Now...GRADING! 

I will spend the weekend grading 104 books, 104 performance final essays AND my art II student's will be turning in their final still life series works with their compare/contrast essays - so there are another 56 pieces to grade, the joys of the last week of a successful semester! With art this lovely, I really am not dreading the grading and as I have my students fill out their own project evaluation forms, this certainly helps as I get to see where they rate their work and read about the processes involved.


My students also just helped me to complete my "NAEA Homework" assignment, a video on "ART MATTERS" to be placed on the NAEA youtube page, created by the board members.


We enjoyed this assignment and I am happy to share the video with you:





Busy!  Isn't that the life of an art teacher!  We started our 9th week of school today and my students are continuing to WOW me daily!  Last week I taught my intro students the wonderful world of color theory and charged them with creating a CREATIVE Color Wheel using any media they wanted.  Well HOLY WOW, was it a great day as I watched 36 kids in 3 classes (yes, 108 kids!) present their creative learning!  From cupcakes, to cookie cakes, to color wheel recycled art, to mason jars with shredded paper, to soda cans, an FSU logo, a painted umbrella, a fruit tray, a hat, a clock, painted shoes complete with the color wheel written in contour with shoe laces, to melted crayons, to a fabric pillow, to pinwheels, to zodiac calendars, to a DRESS, yes a DRESS!  It was magical and yes, it reiterated that my favorite color is indeed - RAINBOW!  I posted a few of the images.


I am excited for this weekend!  I am one of the keynote speakers at the Nebraska/Iowa Art Education Association Conference.  I am looking forward to talking about advocacy and meeting new friends who have a passion for teaching our children through the visual arts.


On the 20th of October I am honored to be the keynote speaker for the Kentucky Art Education Association conference - again I am thrilled to be able to discuss art education and ways we can successfully advocate.  I have a lot of great KY art ed friends that I am looking forward to seeing! 


And on the first weekend of November I am looking forward to presenting at our Georgia Art Education Association conference in Valdosta!



So, another month gone as I watched July fly by; between living at the beach, teaching another children's art camp, traveling to OC to see friends and family AND attending 2 NAEA summer leadership retreats, while completing chapter 1 of my dissertation, I had no time left over!  I did manage to post a bit on my MemoiART blog and now, here I sit on the evening of the Closing Ceremonies of the 2012 Olympics after just completing my first week of a new school year! 

Once again, all I can say is...I'm tired!  And I'm invigorated!  My students are already showing that they are going to be GOLD MEDAL ARTISTS! Teaching is my LIFE!  I have another amazing group of students as I begin my 20th year in the art education classroom.  Our class sizes are larger than ever, but our visual art team didn't have to sit out as many students this year, so that is GREAT news!  I am teaching 2 advanced draw/paint courses and 3 intro (2D/3D) courses and have up to 38 in my intro classes.  I spent last week discussing the importance of journaling and sketchbooks and every student experimented with media to aid them in creating pages to prep their weekly visual journal assignments!  Between acrylic painting, watercolor techniques, collaging techniques and learning how to creatively add text to their direct observation drawings, it was an exciting week and I hope to see some spectacular journal assignments over the semester!


My advanced students had their first spreads, with the prompt "Me" due on Friday and I have a few to share - I think my students are understanding my expectations and are going to be the divergent, creative thinkers I aspire for them to be!  I can't wait to see the artistic magic that comes out of ArT RoOm 416 this school year!  Stay tuned and I promise to post a lot of wonderful, inspirational student work throughout the months to come!


Here's to a WONDERFUL school year for us all - remember how truly blessed we are to call ourselves EDUCATORS! 


JUNE 2012

School has now been out for 3 weeks - I was so sad to see this amazing group of seniors graduate on May 25th - I can't wait to see how well they all do during this next chapter in their lives, and WOW, do I miss them already!


I taught a unit to the Magill Elementary staff on May 24th that was so much fun.  The entire school is arts-based, so they work with a company that brings in art, music, dance and drama and I taught my Narrative Necklace unit - it was very successful!  I look forward to doing more of this work in the future!


My family spent 10 days in Hilton Head, relaxing and enjoying one another.  I taught my 3 day Summer Art Camp June 4-6 and had 25 wonderful students!  We explored "self" through "Expressions and the Elements" and the art was truly powerful!  From our hand art, to our self portrait masks, to our narrative necklaces and self portrait birds, line, shape, color, value, texture, space and form were explored through various media!


We just returned from 4 days with my family in St. Joseph, MO and are heading back to Hilton Head in the morning.  I plan on continuing in my visual journal, memoir writing and summer school course work.  I will be putting several of my stories and images onto my new blog - MemoiART3.blogspot.com


Check it out and send me some creative comments!  Have an ArTFuL Summer and I'll leave you with my latest spread, it began as a "Brighten My Day" piece but ended up as a "Tucked Away Memories" piece. 



MAY 2012

I can't believe I didn't post in April - I guess thats what happens when you teach full time AND take 2 graduate school courses in the same semester!  Driving back and forth to Athens (3 hours round trip) twice a week since January and reading, researching, writing and learning daily has left me with about 3 hours of sleep per night - needless to say, I am ExHauStEd!  One more paper and I have endured a crazy couple of months.  I absolutely loved my translingual memoir class and learned so much, in fact, I just changed my major from Art Education to Language and Literacy - so 4 more classes and a completed dissertation will leave me with a Ph.D in LLED - NICE!  I enjoyed my Qual 8400 course as well, learning so much about theories and qualitative research "stuff" - and Holy WOW, is there A LOT of STUFF!  I am still in love with a/r/tography and creating a "combine" of sorts with several ideas about incorporating my memoir and how it informs my curricula, specifically my "Art with Purpose" lessons.  With that said, my students are continuing to WOW me daily, my daughter continues to be the JOY of my life and my husband, at the moment, still likes me!  LOL!  So life is good - TGIT remains my mantra and I try hard to live it daily - even when my students forget how to clean their brushes - again!


Here is my latest memoir - this is a piece I wrote at the NAEA NYC conference in March.  I really haven't edited it too much - it's a bit raw, but perhaps you will go to that place with me and experience Chuck Close again, as I did - a highlight of my conference experience for sure!  ENJOY!


 “My Picnic with Chuck Close”
A pretty wow experience was occurring as I ate my sashimi "picnic" on the large ornate oriental rug of the NYC Hilton grand ballroom...I was all the way in the back of the room listening to the life and ideas of THE Chuck Close.  I was surrounded by 5000 art teachers sitting in their seats and standing all around me literally spilling out of the room, standing on the tips of their toes and trying to get a better look at this master artist sitting in his wheel chair wearing his florescent colored shirt of bright yellows and greens with touches of oranges.  The colors reflecting his brilliance.

I snapped a few images as his face appeared on the gigantic screen next to the stage, angling my iPhone perfectly in between the 2 art teacher buttocks before me. 


My sushi was fantastic, as I was famished and as I looked around the crowd of standing, and finally a few had joined me to a sitting position on the floor, art teachers listening intently to the words of Chuck Close it dawned on me what we were all searching for, all HUNGRY for - a glimpse of genius - a glimpse of an art dream - to hear about his experiences from life - his small town in Washington, his pet monkey, his attempts of being a magician at the ripe age of 7 - his failure as a student and his parents love and desire and belief that their son could succeed. As Chuck Close's life unfolded in front of us, we realized this dream was in all of us - and we could achieve it too and perhaps one day we would, but in the meantime we would take these words and thoughts of a determined and courageous artist and store them away in our hearts and minds and impart a few of them onto our students and enjoy being teachers of children using the media of the visual arts to guide them. 


And as I picked up my last bite of salmon colored tuna and dipped it longingly into the remnants of my wasabi infused low sodium soy sauce, I realized I had just experienced a true aesthetic experience at the NAEA 2012 convention.  I felt alive with "happy" as I watched the faces of my colleagues exit the ballroom and as I watched them I realized, they too had experienced something almost difficult to put into words.  We had been refueled.  Our souls had been fed.   We had shared a picnic of Chuck Close together. 





APRIL 2012 

Work, Grad School, Work, Mom, Work, Wife, Grad School - SPRING BREAK in CANCUN!!!  Work, Grad School, Mom, Friend, Grad School, Work, Grad School, Mom, Wife ....and more of the same!



My Doo Lee is our GA YAM Flag Winner!


Museum Exhibit "Blossoms"


Tapestry Exhibit 2012

5th Annual Relay for Life ART Auction


MARCH 2012 - YAM!!

What a fantastic Youth Art Month we are having at North Gwinnett High School!  After returning from an inspirational (and exhausting) NAEA Convention, we got back to business in the ArT RoOm! 


We have 2 community exhibits up right now, one at Chocolote Perks, "YAM: Still Life Series" where 20 framed Draw/Paint student's works are on display and to date, 2 have sold!  And the other, "Blossoms: Emerging Talent from North Gwinnett High School" is being exhibited in the main promenade of the Hudgens Center Art Museum in Gwinnett County!  Another 20 framed pieces - outstanding work!!  It's VERY EXCITING to not only be in our local museum, but to continue to utilize our community as our museum as well!  Photos coming soon!


I also had over 70 works in the county Tapestry Exhibit in mid March - the work was outstanding and I showcased so many of my intro student's works this year as well as my advanced kiddos, which is always so important!


We hosted our 5th Annual Relay for Life Art Auction this past Thursday and WOW, I believe it was our biggest and most successful to date!  We packed the house and will be close to $5000 for the American Cancer Society by the end of the week!  We had over 400 student art works and the bidding wars were in full swing!  I was so thrilled to not only showcase our students amazing talents and creativity, but also their beautiful, caring heARTS!  I have never been so proud!


I am continuing to write like a mad Ph.D candidate for both my Translingual Memoir Class and my Qual 8400 class and enjoy(ish) my weekly drive(s) to Athens.  Although this is a tough semester where I am busy wearing many hats, I am thrilled to be blessed with WOW students, WOW colleagues and a WOW family that continues to support my passion for art education as well as life long learning!


Stay in touch - and I'll be back soon with images and videos clips from the past few weeks! 


February 2012

NAEA - NYC is 4 days away!  From what I am hearing, it's the largest to date, with over 7000 pre-registered art educators heading to the Big Apple!  I am so excited - it's like a family reunion filled with art teacher colleagues and FRIENDS! 


I am attaching a few of my hand-outs and powerpoints (the ones that I could download, they are REALLY large and evidently, too big to attach, so make sure to stop by) for my presentations -  they will be EXCITING, EDUCATIONAL and FUN!


Thursday, March 1st


9:00 - 9:50 AM


Mixed Media Mania

Rosie Riordan, Diane Scully, Debi West, Sarah Cress

Do you have the urge to dump things and get messy? This round table session of best practices will highlight how these teacher/artists incorporate mixed media into their classroom.

Best Practice Lecture

Hilton Beekman Parlor 2nd Floor


NAEA 2012 Roundtable MMM.pptm 


10:00 - 10:50 AM


Creating a Legacy of Understanding: The Istanbul Center of Atlanta's Art and Essay Contest

Sandra Bird, April Munson, Debi West, Katherine Whitehead

Explore the benefits of a new Southeastern art and essay contest devoted to building understanding between cultures. You and your student could win a trip to Turkey!

Best Practice Lecture

Hilton Nassau Suite A 2nd Floor


1:00 - 1:25 PM


Get Published—Through the NAEA's IRG, It's as Simple as ABC!

Debi West

Come and learn the ABCs of the newly created NAEA Instructional Resource Gallery (IRG). Getting published via this online lesson planning site has never been more fun or more important! Participants will learn the steps involved in using this lesson plan.

Best Practice Lecture

Hilton Concourse E Lower Level



IRG presentation.ppt


Sunday, March 4, 2012


11:00 - 11:25 AM


Mixed Media Meets the "ART of ANATOMY" (and Other Great Lesson Ideas)

Debi West

When science and art meet, the results are creatively outstanding! Mixed media will take on a new meaning during this fun and educational learning experience as lesson ideas (6-12, including AP) will be presented and explored!

Best Practice Lecture

Hilton Murray Hill Suite B 2nd Floor


NAEA Art of Anatomy 2012 handout.doc



February 2012

Busy, Busy Busy!  The 3 words in the life of the art teacher, as I'm sure we can all relate! 

Between 8 upcoming student exhibits (2 are currently hung), our state NAHS Convention this weekend in Valdosta and getting prepared for the NAEA Convention in March, there is literally so much to do and so little time!


We are excited about the state's largest student exhibit and advocacy tool, our annual Capitol Art Exhibit reception - Tomorrow!  February 8th is the day that our students (7 representing NGHS) get the opportunity to meet with their legislators, the Governor and the Secretary of State to showcase the power and necessity of the visual arts in education.  Photos to follow!


And Big Congrats to our Doo Lee!  His art was selected to become the state Youth Art Month flag for 2012!  He will be at the reception tomorrow and will be honored. 


And then there is grad school.  This semester I am taking 2 courses, yes, that means driving to Athens twice a week and reading 37 books and articles and writing over 20 papers and articles - again, can you say BUSY!


I am in love with qualitative research - specifically autoethnography, narrative, memoir and a/r/tography.  I think I am going to create my own arts based research "collage", borrowing from Rauschenberg's Combines, I am going to call my research a "COMBINE" - where 2D and 3D merge, where my life and my teaching philosophies / curricula merge, where I sought out to become an art educator to save lives and art education ended up saving mine. 


And my story begins.


Here's some fun info on the art of the Combine - thank you RR!

"As the name suggests, the Combines are hybrid works that associate painting with collage and assemblage of a wide range of objects taken from everyday life. Neither paintings nor sculptures, but both at once, Rauschenberg’s Combines invade the viewers’ space, demanding their attention, like veritable visual puzzles. From stuffed birds to Coca-Cola bottles, from newspaper to press photos, fabric, wallpaper, doors and windows, it is as though the whole universe enters into his combinatorial process to join forces with paint. Rauschenberg also took an interest in sound, and in his later Combines, he developed analogies between music and visual arts.  “It is neither Art for Art, nor Art against Art. I am for Art, but for Art that has nothing to do with Art. Art has everything to do with life, but it has nothing to do with Art,” Rauschenberg once declared. (Interview with André Parinaud, in the catalogue of the exhibition Paris New York Paris, Musée national d’art moderne, Editions du Centre Pompidou, 1977.)


Rauschenberg reinvented the art of collage, giving them new impact in his Combines. A child of Dada, Rauschenberg was influenced by the assemblages of Kurt Schwitters, whose example led him to suggest that art and life are but one. The same can be said of the Combines, where each element maintains its own integrity without obscuring the others. The present and the past, press photos or reproductions of masterpieces of Western art, drawing and painting, cushions and boxes are incorporated into his works, as they attempt to introduce “totality into the moment”.


“The past and the future don’t interest me,” Rauschenberg once declared. “I am in the present. I try to extol the present with my limits, but by using all my resources.” (Interview with André Parinaud, op.cit.) And yet time in every sense of the word can be found throughout his work. The temporal dimension is above all depicted through images: images of the artist’s past and of ancient art that travel forward to mix with topical press photos in the CombinesBut temporality finds other expressive means in Rauschenberg’s work: from the omnipresence of mirrors that invite viewers into the work and make them reflect upon it and its immediate present, to the diptych structure of certain Combines, or paintings in two phases, not to mention the inclusion of actual alarm clocks, the artist has not stopped gearing his work to time.


William Rubin has written: “The iconography of the Rauschenberg pictures seems to reach back through time and consciousness, memory by memory.” (William Rubin, “Younger American Painters”, in Art International, vol.4, no.1, January, 1960). In his early Combines, alongside abstract painting, Rauschenberg introduced collages of images opening onto figuration and autobiography. An autobiography that can be read in the family photographs, pieces of wallpaper, fabric, doors, tied to his childhood and his professional and private life."





January 2012

I hope to see many of you at the upcoming NAEA Convention in NYC!


I am presenting (and co-presenting) several times and would love to have you join me! 

My schedule is a bit odd, I have 3 presentations on Thursday and 1 on Sunday - so get to NYC early and make sure to book your flight late on Sunday!


Make sure you stop by the Secondary Division Awards Ceremony - we're having a "Red Carpet Event" this year that you won't want to miss!


Thursday, March 1st


9:00 - 9:50 AM


Mixed Media Mania

Rosie Riordan, Diane Scully, Debi West, Sarah Cress

Do you have the urge to dump things and get messy? This round table session of best practices will highlight how these teacher/artists incorporate mixed media into their classroom.

Best Practice Lecture

Hilton Beekman Parlor 2nd Floor


10:00 - 10:50 AM


Creating a Legacy of Understanding: The Istanbul Center of Atlanta's Art and Essay Contest

Sandra Bird, April Munson, Debi West, Katherine Whitehead

Explore the benefits of a new Southeastern art and essay contest devoted to building understanding between cultures. You and your student could win a trip to Turkey!

Best Practice Lecture

Hilton Nassau Suite A 2nd Floor


1:00 - 1:25 PM


Get Published—Through the NAEA's IRG, It's as Simple as ABC!

Debi West

Come and learn the ABCs of the newly created NAEA Instructional Resource Gallery (IRG). Getting published via this online lesson planning site has never been more fun or more important! Participants will learn the steps involved in using this lesson plan.

Best Practice Lecture

Hilton Concourse E Lower Level


4:30 - 5:50 PM


2012 NAEA Secondary Awards Event

Lynn Felts, James Rees

2012 NAEA Secondary Awards Event: A wonderful opportunity to connect with secondary art educators and leaders from across the nation. We will honor our award winners and give out many door prizes.

Best Practice Lecture

Hilton Sutton Parlor Center 2nd Floor




Sunday, March 4, 2012


11:00 - 11:25 AM


Mixed Media Meets the "ART of ANATOMY" (and Other Great Lesson Ideas)

Debi West

When science and art meet, the results are creatively outstanding! Mixed media will take on a new meaning during this fun and educational learning experience as lesson ideas (6-12, including AP) will be presented and explored!

Best Practice Lecture

Hilton Murray Hill Suite B 2nd Floor





DRAFT: This module has unpublished changes.