NAEA15 in Review: Big Moments, Takeaways, and Untold Stories

NAEA15 Wheel

If you were looking for just one word to describe New Orleans, “colorful” would certainly fit the bill. Add a few thousand art teachers to the mix, and the hue and saturation levels of the city were only enhanced. Just like the colors on the color wheel, the people, events and exhibits at the 2015 NAEA Convention blended together to make up a pretty spectacular whole. We broke the convention into different categories and assigned each a color. Whether you attended the convention or not, we’re hoping this article goes deep into some of the lesser-known aspects of this year’s event. Enjoy!

Ian: As art teachers, we are constantly asking our students to compare and contrast. Whether we realize it or not, the NAEA convention provides an opportunity to compare and contrast big ideas as well. For example, two sessions I attended that ran back-to-back were “AP Design Issues” and “Unit Design for a Graffiti Designed Curriculum.”

The titles may suggest vastly different content; AP seems slightly highbrow while graffiti evokes street smarts. However, both presenters discussed value and contrast and pointed out the importance of using the elements and principles of art.
graffiti session
Nic- When I saw a presentation titled “Collaboration Drawing,” I knew there was no way I could miss it. Lauren McCann focused on how to run collaborative projects to support reading and life skills. She gave several examples of how to do collaborative projects with some of our youngest students. Her ideas to help students understand reading better though drawings and collaborative art projects were motivating for me as a teacher of young artists, as well as a parent.
Lauren McCann

Nic: If you’re on social media with other art teachers, you’ve probably seen Tim Gunn’s face plastered all over. Mr. Gunn was so generous with his time and his message that all of the NAEA convention attendees fell in love. He was welcomed onto the stage that first day, the very first hour of the convention to thunderous applause. That applause only continued for comments like, “Art is the only subject where the answer is not in the back of the book.” He made us laugh with his stories from his time spent as a student, teacher, and administrator. He gave us chills and moved us to tears with his real and powerful appreciation for our profession. He was an extraordinary way to start the 2015 Convention.
Tim Gunn
Ian: We attend the convention to hear the keynote speakers, to visit the vendor booths and to learn new ideas from the sessions. If we were asked, “What is the NAEA Convention all about,” our first response might be to mention one of these top three topics. However, the convention is really about the attendees –the thousands of art teachers who band together once a year in solidarity.

During this year’s convention, the AOE team members caught up with each other over a meeting followed by dinner. Since not all of us had met in person, we played an icebreaker game to get to know each other a little better. I learned that one of our members is a state champion badminton player, another member is a closet electrician and a third hates jelly. When we meet someone new at the convention, many times the small talk revolves around the sessions we took or are planning to attend. I can’t imagine the things we could learn about each other if we all played a round of an ice breaker game.


Ian: No matter who you are, the question about what to a wear to an NAEA convention is on everyone’s mind. First timers aren’t sure of the dress code while veteran attendees know, if nothing else, to wear comfortable shoes. This year, with New Orleans as the venue, it wasn’t uncommon to see strands of beads wrapped around necks. However, there is one person who always dresses to impress. One person, when it come to adorning themselves with artist clothing who stands out among the rest. That person is none other than myself, seen here sporting a trendsetting ensemble. When asked about it, fellow festive dresser Cassie Stephens remarked, “How can I unsee this?!”
Nic: I was thrilled to see jewelry that I saw posted on the Art Teachers Facebook Page. I had to take a picture of these charming earrings. I found out they were made by Stellar Shannon and that she has an Etsy page, StellarShrinks. These pieces were the perfect accessory for the NAEA convention.
Ian: Traditionally, when we consider art being displayed, we think about the exhibit of the students’ work that hangs prominently in the vendor hall of the convention (see below). The dedicated teachers that present these works should be commended along with their students. However, there is another display of work created by students that should be so obvious yet goes unrecognized. That is the hundreds of examples of art embedded in slide presentations and projected by LCD lights. These pieces were selected by the presenters to represent the best of what is happening in their classrooms, however, I would doubt that the teachers or the students even consider this work as part of an exhibit. Still, these works will be catalysts for new projects, new ideas and perhaps new presentations at the next NAEA Convention.
Ian: The range of vendors showcasing art supplies at NAEA was impressive. Many of the vendors displayed traditional materials from paint brushes to kilns. This year, however, one vendor really stood out to me: ColArt.

Bill Worley approached me at the both. I mentioned to Bill that I was a big fan of Liquitex spray paint. It’s acrylic-based and doesn’t stink up the room like traditional spray paint. Before I could say, “but…” Bill said, “…but the nozzles clog.” Bill then went on to explain how to keep the nozzles clean (soak in water within five minutes of using) and also said he would send me a box of nozzles free if I emailed him. That’s great customer service.

Nic: Searching for a good platform for digital portfolios is a hard task for an art teacher. I have seen teachers use Artsonia, Google Docs, Weebly sites and more to create digital portfolios. Among the vendors’ booths, I discovered bulb. Bulb describes itself simply as “a place to publish your work.” It is free to try, and for a small fee, a teacher can assure class privacy and gain more storage for all of their students. The great thing is, this site is individual to each student, so even after the class is over, the young artists can still continue to add art to their individual sites. The sites are beautiful and image-based. It feels like a cross between Pinterest and a blog. It’s definitely worth looking into.
Ian: If you have something to share with other NAEA Convention attendees, getting the word out can be a challenge. Social networking plays a big role in disseminating information, but many still rely on old school styles of communication to pass along the word. Business cards, flyers, and brochures are great ways to distribute your message, but it would be impossible to hand them out to everyone. One solution is to leave them for others to discover on their own. Check out this table covered with everything from personal, hand-written notes to professionally designed cards.
bulletin board


Ian: If you’ve ever been to an NAEA convention, you know that after you check in at the registration table, you decorate your name tag with badges. Name tags are adorned by attendees to show who they are. There are badges for elementary through high school teachers. There are badges for museum educators and presenters. Perhaps the best looking badges are for preservice teachers. This year, several groups had their own badges created. I received two such badges, an #ArtsEdPLN badge, and an #ArtsEdChat badge, for attending specific presentations.
There is your 2015 NAEA Convention report viewed through a color wheel lens. If you were part of this year’s party, I know you can relate to many, if not all of the colors on the wheel and we’d like to hear about it from you.

Did you see a unique badge, meet an interesting attendee or discover a new art supply you didn’t know you couldn’t live without?

Were there any presentations that blew your mind? What did you see that you think others may have missed?

Leave a comment or photo describing your experience below!


Jessica Balsley

Jessica Balsley is the Founder and President at AOE. She is passionate about helping art teachers enhance their lives and careers through relevant professional development.


  • Oh my gosh, I laughed out loud at so many things in this article! “How can I unsee this?” (HILARIOUS!) And that fabulous jelly-hater. :)

    • iansands

      There is no doubt I will be getting someone a membership to the “jelly of the month club” as a Christmas present.

  • Leslie Paprocki

    Is there room for museum educators in your color wheel? We make up a decent chunk of the convention, what with our pre-conference and dozens of sessions and all.

    • iansands

      Leslie, it’s funny you should mention museum educators because I brought up your species at our AOE meeting mentioned in the article. You could fall under attendee or presenters or both.

  • Kendall

    I have a friend who attended for the first time this year. She teaches architecture at a university. She came to me afterwards and said two thing that really hit me. One is that she never knew how isolated most Art teachers feel and (this is fav) she had never been at a convention where everyone was so happy.

  • Pingback: 5 Pieces of Solid Advice for Your Digital Photography Students | The Art of Ed()

  • Pingback: 10 Essentials to Bring to Your Next Art Ed Conference | The Art of Ed()

  • Pingback: 6 Important Pieces of Advice for Entering a New Teaching Position - The Art of Ed()