Stepping Stones is a monthly column that breaks down seemingly daunting tasks into simple, manageable “steps” that any art educator can take and apply directly to their classroom. Stepping Stones will explore a variety of topics and share advice for art-on-a-cart teachers and those with art rooms.
PREPARING FOR THE NAEA CONVENTION
by Heidi O’Hanley
I’m so excited for this year’s National Art Education Association (NAEA) convention because it’s taking place in my home city! My first convention was back in 2006 (which was also in Chicago), and my eyes were opened to a world of endless ideas for my classroom and curriculum! Since then I’ve attended the event almost every year in other cities and have learned some tricks to navigating this amazing national convention. I’d like to offer some tips in preparing for the national convention and visiting the city of Chicago.
1. Be prepared for strange weather! Chicago has been known for its odd weather patterns, so keep a close eye on the forecast! Prepare to dress warm in case of strange pop-up snows in March, but hope for warmer sweater weather. The lakefront (which is close to the hotel) is the best place for morning jogs, especially near the museum campus!
2. Don’t forget your walking shoes! Even if you’re not a morning runner, the Art Institute of Chicago is walking distance from the hotel, and two miles straight north is the Museum of Contemporary Art. There are plenty of artistic experiences to be had within Chicago, and plenty of ways to get to where you need to go! There will also be shuttles available from the hotel to the convention center!
3. Utilize the NAEA Chicago convention app! When NAEA started using their convention apps a few years back, it was a huge help with planning out all the sessions I wanted to see by divisions, workshops, connections with friends, and super session speakers. The app is available for your phones and iPads, and I highly recommend downloading it! You can also use the app to write and store notes while attending presentations, which can be stored within the app.
4. Make room in your luggage for the vendors! A few times when I flew to attend a national convention, I packed a suitcase within a suitcase to bring back all the free samples and giveaways received. I even remember a year when I shipped boxes back! In other words, don’t over pack before you head to the conference! Save some room for those samples and goodies you want to take back to your classroom! The vendors consist of companies that supply your art materials, magazine subscriptions, art fundraisers, books and posters, and much more! You can even order supplies while at the convention to be shipped to your school!
5. Print labels with your address for raffles, giveaways AND MORE! Every year that I forget to print labels with my email and school address, I regret it. The vendor area is like an art teacher’s toy store: you have multiple vendors with giveaways, mailing list sign-ups, and prizes. Labels make it much easier for you to place a sticker and go instead of spending time hand writing your entire address and phone number.
6. Plan some time to visit the city of Chicago! There’s plenty to do off site from the convention. You will be close to plenty of museums, such as the Field Museum of Natural History (a great place to sit back and sketch), the Shedd Aquarium, and Adler Planetarium (all three museums known as the “museum campus”), to the Art Institute of Chicago, and even further down to the Museum of Contemporary Art.
There are also plenty of sculptures up and down the walking path of Lake Michigan, as well as cultural centers in Chinatown, Little Italy, and more. Monuments by famous artists are located in Graceland Cemetery on the north side, and gallery districts lay all over the west and south side of the loop. There are also plenty of architectural tours within the city and outskirts in Oak Park. In other words, you will have plenty to do and see.
7. Make a stop at the information booth! The volunteer committee will be available to help direct you to where you need to go! From local restaurants, workshop locations, cultural attractions, and more, members are around to help you with any assistance you need!
8. Attend the social-media “meet-ups.” If you’re on Twitter (#artsed), Facebook (Art Teachers Group), or any other social media outlet, there will be plenty of meet-ups, brunches, and events around the convention. Keep an eye out on your preferred social media network for extra gatherings to meet people face to face!
If this is your first convention, I hope you have a wonderfully artistic experience! There is so much to do and see both on- and off-site, you will leave will a head full of ideas and inspiration for your classroom, curriculum, and art department. The NAEA convention is one of the best professional development opportunities available for art teachers. Have fun and be inspired!
Arts & Activities Contributing Editor, Heidi O’Hanley (NBCT) teaches elementary art for Indian Springs School District #109, in the Greater Chicago Area. Visit her blog at www.talesfromthetravellingartteacher.blogspot.com.