Student artists gain real-world experience as part of InspireNOLA’s Talented Art Visual program
Posted on 03/02/2021

Talented in Art - Art Visual (TAV) teacher Jennifer Lindsley is helping her students realize their creative potential while preparing them for a successful business in the art world.

The TAV program is designed for students in grades 3 through 12 who have been identified as gifted in art and is offered at every InspireNOLA school. Lindsley currently works with more than forty students at Alice Harte, Andrew Wilson, 42 Charter, and McDonogh 35.

“They really do have the proclivity,” Lindsley said. “They are really super gifted, amazing students, and many of the high school students have their sights set on going to Parsons.”

Student paintingInspired by her own art teacher, Lindsley said she likes to be quirky with her students and keep a sense of humor, especially this year.

“Part of the program is to make sure they are okay emotionally, and art is a place to help with this,” she said. Her project for them this year was to provide them with a sketchbook and a bag full of art supplies with the requirement they fill the book however they see fit, telling them, “this is a year you’re never going to forget. To keep a journal of it is so crucial. Fill it with sketches, collages, thoughts, drawings, whatever.”

She said she believes by doing this, they will come out of this year stronger. 

“It’s really trying to encourage the creativity aspect for sanity,” she said.  

Her students say that hybrid of in-person and virtual instruction isn’t hampering their progress, thanks to Ms. Lindsley.

“I think she explains very clearly, even though we are at home during this pandemic,” said Harte sixth grader Isabella. “She and TAV encourage me to keep practicing and getting better with my art.”

As part of TAV, Lindsley works with each student individually to not only help them excel in their chosen medium but to also stretch their creativity and experiment in different mediums and styles, while still offering students the   freedom to explore their talent in unique ways. For example, one student at 42 Charter is working on a project blending music and art.

Student painting on a canvas “Last year, he did a series of abstract painting on canvas with acrylics. Each painting was done to a different piece of music by Bach. Now we’re working on Miles Davis,” she said. “He’s doing some really neat stuff!”

Other example can be seen in the library of Andrew Wilson Charter School, where all students, not just those in TAV, joined together to create a mural that reflected their literary likes.

“I’ve been trying to do an initiative with the murals,” she said. “I think they are really good for building confidence with kids who are shy and for kids who are kind of interested in art but don’t know how to go about it.”

For Wilson’s library, students were asked if they could meet a hero from any of their favorite books who would they want to see. Lindsley then complied the results, which ranged from Captain Underpants and Harry Potter to Pete the Cat and Cat in the Hat.

“I got out the projector, and we sketched out the images, and the kids all worked on it,” she said. “It was a real community building project that the kids were all involved in, even the kids that aren’t in TAV.”

The mural includes a painted scroll where all the students who participated in its creation were able to sign their name, giving them “some intrinsic pride,” Lindsley said. 

Student working on muralThey also began work on a mural in Wilson’s cafeteria. “It’s going to be beautiful,” Lindsley said. “It’s a huge mural of all these multi-cultural kids jumping up, holding hands.”

A mural for McDonogh 35 is also in the planning stages. 

“COVID hasn’t killed the creativity, but it’s definitely made it a hurdle,” Lindsley said. 

But she’s not letting that get her down. Instead of working collectively on these community projects, Lindsley is continuing to help her students find other avenues of exposure and opportunities for real-world experience.

For example, last year, she connected a student with a Texas event looking for participants.

“One student I’ve been working with since third grade, who is now in seventh, is an incredible jeweler,” she said. “She was able to make $500 at Christmas selling them.”

Helping students prepare for the business side of being an artist is nothing new for Lindsley. Before becoming a teacher, she ran Acme Gallery on Magazine Street.

“It was a creative method of expression for kids,” she said. “If they wanted to sell their art they could. They had to learn how to sign contracts, how to price their pieces, and figure out commissions. They had to learn how to hang the shows, light the shows, do press and invites.”

Though she no longer runs the gallery, she does continue to curate an online version at acmegal.com, and she is in the process of establishing a student virtual gallery. 

“I’d like to do a student of the month showing so they can have a little virtual gallery they are in so they can put in on their resume,” she said. 

Additionally, she’s sharing similar business lessons from the gallery with her students.

“What I’ve been trying to do with program is to get them to start taking themselves seriously as professionals. They wouldn’t be in the program in they didn’t have a gift,” she said, saying she encourages her students to start utilizing their skills now and start marketing themselves. “I am trying to get them in the habit of pricing their art, and I work with them to design logos and business cards and setting up PayPal accounts.”

Lindsley has been teaching art for more than 20 years. In addition to creating her own pieces, she is also a published illustrator of several children books, including a collaboration with Johnette Downing called “Mumbo Jumbo¬Stay out of the Gumbo,” a story about a heroic chicken saving the animals from the Cajuns during the Cajun Mardi Gras, which she dedicated to Alice Harte and InspireNOLA.

“Ms. Lindsley is an excellent example of what an art teacher should be,” said Christian, an eighth grader at Andrew Wilson. 

Lindsley says she loves watching her students grow and sharing her experience with them.

“I like to show them some tricks of the trade I’ve learned and encourage them to experiment,” she said. “I love this program. This is just a great place for creativity.”

Her students said they appreciate her confidence in them.

“Ms. Lindsley is the best art teacher ever,” said Rashed, an eighth grader at 42 Charter. “What I mostly like about her is that she doesn’t believe in ‘I can’t.’ She tells me, ‘Even if you can’t, try.’”

McDonogh 35 sophomore Darriee agreed, adding, “She helped me express my feelings and become more confident in my art. She is a completely amazing talented art teacher.”