Putting the Emphasis on Process - 10 Questions with Visual Artist and Arts Integration Specialist Natalie Hyder
Duval County Public Schools (DCPS) has made a pledge to revitalize education through use of the arts. In an effort to support this goal, DCPS created the position of Arts Integration Specialist and hired artist and arts educator Natalie Hyder to serve in the role. Going into the 2017-2018 academic year, four schools in Duval County were designated as arts integration schools. Those schools include Hyde Park Elementary School, Hyde Grove Early Learning Center, John Love Early Learning Center, and Brentwood Elementary School. Within these schools, it is the mission of DCPS to facilitate a cultural shift, improve teaching and learning, and ensure the success of every student enrolled.
Hyder received her undergraduate degree in studio art and art history from Florida State University in 2008. In 2016 she completed graduate school at the University of Florida, where she studied art education. Hyder served in the classroom as an arts educator for eight years until she moved with her husband from Tallahassee to Jacksonville in the summer of 2017.
Upon arriving in Jacksonville, Hyder became involved with Lift Every Student, an arts integration initiative being led by Any Given Child Jacksonville (AGC), the Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville (CCGJ), and DCPS. Through this collaborative program, four artists will instruct students in art integration projects while co-teaching with DCPS teachers. Many artists applied for this paid opportunity and ten artists were selected to go through arts integration training provided by The Kennedy Center. During the two-day training session, artists developed residency plans that could be implemented within the classroom to meet curriculum standards.
Hyder played a paramount role during the two-day training session. She then worked closely with artists to revise and further develop their residency plans. Hyder represented DCPS and assisted representatives from AGC and CCGJ when selecting Lucy Chen (performance art), Sarah Crooks Flaire (visual arts), Valerie Esguerra (literary/performance art), and Erin Kendrick (visual arts) as the first round of teaching artists. The pilot year of Lift Every Student was fully funded through the the support of a PNC Arts Alive grant and a generous donation from sculptor and arts advocate David Engdahl.
Hyder's CV includes several key research projects and the development of arts integration lesson plans. As an educator, Hyder sought to connect her students to their communities and environment, as well as expose them to global issues and cultures outside of their own. She utilized the arts as a tool to carry out this goal. Hyder has immersed herself in Jacksonville's arts and culture sector since arriving in town. She has made an effort to connect with artists of all disciplines who are interested in opportunities to serve as teaching artists.
10 Questions with Natalie Hyder
Do you have any patterns, routines, or habits when starting a new project?
I try to have a sketch book always available, whether in my car, on the coffee table, beside my bed, etc., so that when an idea comes I can sketch it out before I forget. I always sketch out my ideas and use the sketches as a point of reference. Usually, the art piece will grow and change organically from the original sketch, and that’s okay because I want my art to always be evolving and never stagnate. I try to create multiple pieces that support one overarching idea. I move on to a different medium or theme altogether when I feel like I have resolved the idea.
For example, I have a lot of paintings that are Asian inspired. I was exploring my personal journey through yoga and Buddhism. I became very curious and excited by Asian culture and even traveled to Japan. My painting of the "Diabutsu" is from a photograph I took while visiting Kamakura.
Recently I've begun to explore collages, which have been inspired by my surroundings. The collage "Kick Flip" was created from a walk I took around downtown Gainesville. I took photos of obscure colors and textures, like peeled paint, bike racks, promotional stickers and, flyers that were stapled to telephone poles - things that you often find in urban settings. I used the photographs as color inspirations and even collaged in some music flyers and skate board stickers I found while on my walk.
What have you learned about yourself through your artistic endeavors?
I've learned that I want to always evolve in my artistic expression. I enjoy learning and working with new mediums and exploration of new topics. As an artist, I am always a student - progressively finding the answers to what excites, upsets, and perplexes me. I am able to explore and find new personal tastes through the artistic process.
How do you define success in what you do?
For me, art is more than just a form of self-expression. It is a reflection of my time, my training, my influences, and my point of view. It is the product of a journey, and all these factors influence the end result. Creativity is not a natural or easy process for me. I have to work at it, a lot. In the process I might create a lot terrible art, but eventually I will create something that resonates with someone. Sometimes it is a piece that I think is terrible that actually connects with someone. I feel successful when my art has made a connection with someone because it is like they are connecting with multifaceted parts of my personality.
How has your background as a visual artist influenced your decision to work as an arts educator and administrator of arts integration programs?
Having appreciation for the creative process is what has made me successful as an art educator. Having to work at my creative process has made me realize that the process is the most valuable tool to teach students. When I first started teaching, I thought that I needed the students to produce cookie cutter types of art work. The students were frustrated and so was I. It wasn’t fair to make them copy a project.
The students didn’t have much invested into their creative process, because there wasn’t one. By having them all make the same art, I took that creativity away from them. I changed my whole way of teaching to a choice-based curriculum. This means I would spend 4-6 weeks on one type of medium, teach students a few skills and techniques and then let them create whatever they wanted using that medium. Sometimes they had to follow a theme, sometimes the concentration was on a color or shape. Other than that, they got to choose. Like real artists. The length of time spent on a medium helped them gain experience and mastery of a medium.
Putting the emphasis on process and then letting the students create original art (visual or performance) is the heart of arts integration. Arts integration lets the student practice 21st century skills in an interdisciplinary way. These 21st century skills, which include communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity, are the skills that are the most critical in K-12 education. The arts allow students to practice and build mastery of these important life skills. This is how students are able to build grit through practice with problem solving and in turn celebrating their missteps as well as their successes. Missteps are how we learn; they should be celebrated as part of the creative process not demonized.
What is the difference between arts education, arts enhancement, and arts integration?
Art in schools can usually be categorized in three different areas; art education, art enhancement, and arts integration.
Arts education is arts curriculum. It is teaching arts skills, techniques, history, and content. It is very valuable in the schools and an important part in arts integration.
Arts enhancement is when the arts are used to support curriculum, but students are not meeting objectives in the arts areas. It is used as a hook for engagement and is implemented as an addon activity.
Arts integration is a teaching method. It is HOW content is taught, not what is taught. Students meet evolving objectives in both the arts and non-arts content areas and the creative process is used a way for students to gain a deeper understanding in both. The teacher facilitates a way for students to use the arts skills that they are taught in arts education classes and apply them to solving problems in the classroom. For example, learning the ABC song to teach letters is arts enhancement. If the students create their own alphabet song that shows a clear musical pattern and a correct alphabetical order, that is arts integration. They are engaging in the creative process to show their understanding of the alphabet through music.
What is your role as the Arts Integration Specialist for Duval County Public Schools? Additionally, how were the four preliminary schools selected and what does DCPS hope to see as a result of these schools being designated as arts integration schools?
As the Arts Integration Specialist, I provide coaching and resources for teachers as they implement arts integration. Sometimes I will plan lessons with the teachers and co-teach with them so that they get a deeper understanding of the arts integration method. I also like to reach out to the community as an effort to bridge the gap between the school and the community. I think it is important for students and teachers to be aware of the artists and arts resources right here in their own community. The community should also be aware of the successes going on within the schools.
The schools that were chosen are Title 1 turnaround schools. These schools have low enrollment and a low school grade. Studies have shown improvements amongst schools with similar demographics that implemented arts integration. Arts Integration is a progressive teaching method that works for improving student engagement, which leads to greater retention. The hope is that changing to this teaching method will improve students' overall academic achievement within these schools.
What are the characteristics of an effective teaching artist and what is the best way for artists interested in working within the school system to get involved?
An arts integration teaching artist is different from an arts educator. It is about teaching your artistic process to students, so they can use this process as a way to build an understanding of what they are learning in the classroom. Teaching artists should be flexible in the content of what they teach and focus on teaching their creative process. What is created should be up to the students. An effective teaching artist is able to break down their personal process and teach it to students through skill activities and games.
For example, a musician might teach the students their process for writing lyrics to a song. The students take the process of song writing and then create a song about a passage that they read. Students are practicing reading strategies because they will have to take key elements from a passage to write their song lyrics. The teaching artist is using music to teach English language arts.
If you are an artist that is interested in artist residency programs, visit the Lift Every Student website and the DCPS arts integration webpage. Information on both sites are updated periodically as opportunities become available.
You have an affinity to travel and have visited five continents. How has being exposed to other cultures influenced your art and teaching techniques?
My creativity is inspired by new personal experiences. Traveling and immersing myself in various cultures inspires me. Studies have show that students learn more from first-hand experiences. I liked to incorporate the various cultures into my teaching as an art educator to inspire students creativity. I wanted to give the students insight into other cultures through art and at the same time show how valued the arts are in these communities.
One of my favorite lessons that I taught as an art educator was an art and global poverty unit. It explored three different countries in three different continents where art was used as a means to escape extreme poverty. My students learned how to make paper beads inspired by Ugandan bead rollers. Students also made handmade paper inspired by the paper-making commerce in Nepal and weavings from Nicaragua.
As a former educator, what does it mean to you when you see your students accomplish their goals or receive accolades for their work?
Of course I am proud when a student receives recognition for their work, but these students are few and far between. The real sense of accomplishment comes from witnessing a student’s grit. Grit is a student’s perseverance, fortitude, determination, and resolve when something doesn’t come easy. When you have a student that blows you away with a great idea or you see their idea come to fruition in an original and creative way through trial and error - that’s the good stuff. I wish for students to understand the journey is more of the reward than an end result accolade, because they are learning a life skill that will stick with them forever.
What would you like to see as an effort to support and grow the city’s creative economy?
A city's creative economy is really just describing a community’s culture. Music, theater, visual art, dance, traditions, and celebrations are what binds us and brings us together as a community. I would like to see the arts integration program and artist residency program grow to serve more schools.
I am an advocate for community-based education. This means that the community and the schools should be fluid within each other to offer students first-hand experience in which to make connections. Bringing local teaching artists into the classroom to co-teach arts integration can help facilitate connections between students and their communities. Students learn to think like artists and apply the creative process to other areas as a life skill.
In the end, we are all working together to create this thing that we call culture.