Mastering the Art of Collaboration: Northgate teachers complete a master’s program

Two Northgate High School art teachers have become students again.

An exhibition of their collaborative artworks is currently on view at the Françoise Gilot Gallery at the Nixon Center for Performing and Visual Arts. The exhibition, titled “In the Third Person,” is the culmination of more than a year of work – with most of the creation taking place over the spring semester.

But it’s not all thought-provoking and beautiful work. It is also a research project that helped earn the two degrees in Kennesaw State University’s Master of Art and Design program.

The program is part of an emerging course that is moving away from traditional college classroom lectures and toward individually tailored education—something that the ramped-up technology of teaching in the time of COVID-19 has uniquely prepared them for.

“If we had gotten our masters at any other point in history, we would never have learned as much about how to bring technology into our classrooms,” said Horne. “I have a friend who got her masters way back in 2002, and back then the technology class used transparencies. So I’m glad we did it now because we would never know all this cool stuff.”

Among the “cool things” available to Horne and Teets through the KSU program was the choice to take the usual master’s thesis through a year of artwork and an account of their processes, thought and emotional development and how to integrate what they learned replace their own classrooms.

“I’d never seen[a program]where you can actually do a project or a thesis, so we were like, ‘We’re in!'” Teets said.

But it wasn’t easy breaking new ground as a longtime teacher. During the school year the days were long, spending hours on book work, studio sessions and time in each other’s classrooms at Northgate – collaboration in the truest sense of the word.

The plan was to literally pass canvases back and forth, each adding elements of their own unique style of artwork. Circles and lines, natural elements, colors and textures, added by the artists in turn, formed what Horne and Teets consider another artist’s abstract work.

The first official piece for her project, Rooted, is painted as three women: Horne, Teets and the mysterious artist who is the inspiration for the exhibition’s name.

“It symbolizes a combination of our styles, perspectives and worldviews,” according to the exhibition’s artist statement.

The exhibition is unabashedly feminine, with women featured in paintings, multimedia pieces, and sculptures. It reflects the different facets of the women who created the artwork, their fears and slumps and victories. Individual works of art that emphasize the influences of the other partner also flank the joint work.

Nixon Center staff hung the show for the artists in early June and hosted a reception on June 23. The exhibition is open until August 1st, closing just in time for the newly minted masters to return to the classrooms.

Horne and Teets, both experienced homeroom teachers and accomplished practicing artists, say they will return not only with new skills but also with a changed perspective. Especially after they had to answer the question of why they chose to teach.

“We feel like it’s going to really impact our teaching,” Horne said. “For me I was really turned off and I felt like I was starting to hate teaching. But jumping into (the masters program) really brought me back to life.”

Teets said putting herself in her students’ shoes changed her perspective.

“We have a lot more empathy for our students now,” she said. “We think we’ll likely invite more collaborative opportunities into our classrooms.”

A message from the In the Third Person artists:

The art (in our exhibit) is the result of a research project conducted between January and April 2022 for Kennesaw State University as part of our Master of Art and Design program.

We wanted to know what would happen if two art teachers with different upbringings, worldviews, personalities and artistic styles created a work together. How would it affect her

individual studio practices? How would that affect your teaching? Also, how would it feel to relinquish complete control and ownership of an artwork when the process is typically a highly independent endeavor?

With the exception of the sculptural pieces and individual works, all of the exhibited pieces were created by passing them back and forth. The artist who owned the work at any given time had the freedom to add to, change or even delete what the other artist had previously done.

Through multiple criticism and discussions, we have brought the pieces into their current state.

Being involved in the collaboration not only resulted in what we found to be surprisingly creative and thought-provoking work, but also broadened our thinking about creating and teaching art.

Furthermore, we experienced a bond that could only have been fostered under the circumstances, as mutual trust and respect for each other’s creative tastes and perspectives were essential to the process.’

About the artists:

Jennie Horne is an artist/teacher currently residing in historic downtown Newnan with her husband, Billy, and their two children, Mailey and William.

Originally from Alabama, Jenni moved to Georgia after her marriage to Billy in 1996. These southern roots grounded her and shaped her art into what it is today.

She can often be found in her home studio working on several tracks at the same time. Her process results in the creation of paintings in a series, with each series focusing on different themes. From landscapes to portraits, her work is full of color and thoughtful characters.

She is currently working on a series of mixed media portraits of women. Horne says, “Influence has to come, to some extent, from the things that energize and excite me. I seek balance in my work by applying a variety of materials and layers to each canvas. I love to explore, experiment and evolve my painting process. Always a willing student makes my work engaging and excitingly refreshing for the viewer.”

Horne attended Auburn University, where she received a Fine Arts degree, cum laude, Phi Kappa Phi in 1995. Her focus was on printmaking. Shortly after graduating, she returned to the University of West Georgia to receive her teaching certification in art education.

Horne knew her calling was to share her love of art through teaching. She has taught in both public and private schools at all grade levels during her 25-year career. She has also taught adult painting workshops throughout the United States.

She currently has an online teaching platform called Paint Something, where students from all over the world join her painting classes. Horne has been a digital photography and painting instructor at Northgate High School in Coweta County for the past seven years.

Erin Smith Teets is an artist and art teacher who lives and works in Newnan. Her typical work features a limited color palette and a mix of water-based and drawing media. The manipulation of media is designed to evoke a sense of impermanence, mystery, and the psychological layers of the mind.

Through the symbolic use of imagery such as the crow or the cicada, she seeks to establish connections between the natural and spiritual worlds and continuously examine her own personal metamorphosis.

A desire to improve both her studio and her teaching methods led her to begin her master’s degree at Kennesaw State University in the fall of 2021. Her experiences in the Master of Arts in Art and Design have led her not only to diversify her artistic repertoire, but also to broaden her teaching ideologies.

Erin is happily married to her 21-year-old husband Richard and mother to 12-year-old German shepherd Ava. A native of Fayetteville, she graduated from Fayette County High School in 1991 before enrolling at Georgia State University.

It was during her pivotal years at Georgia State, under the tutelage of highly qualified and influential teachers, that she not only honed her artistic skills, but was also inspired to continue teaching art.

After receiving a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Art Education in 1997, she taught art at Pate’s Creek Elementary in Stockbridge for two years. After settling in Newnan with her husband, she taught at Madras Middle School for three years before transferring to Northgate High School.

NGHS has been their proud second home for 19 years. Her mission is to empower students through the creative process, instilling in them the same sense of accomplishment and confidence that her former teachers instilled in her.

It is their sincere hope that no matter what path they take in life, they will develop a lifelong love and appreciation for the arts.

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