On a Tuesday in February, Anietie Udo-Bassey (who goes by ‘Mr. B’ with his students) greeted his third grade students as they entered his art classroom, encouraging quiet so he could start his lesson. 

On the board was an abstract image of a face, with the prompt, “What does African pride mean to you?” Students were asked to reflect on the image and use it as a model to inspire their artwork that day. The day’s topic, planned as part of Black History Month, is close to Udo-Bassey’s heart. 

Born and raised in Nigeria, Mr. B. has been teaching art for six years and earned a master's degree in Art Education at Kean University shortly after immigrating to the United States. “My intention was to be a medical doctor, that’s what my parents wanted. But during high school, I discovered a passion for drawing, and my teacher would always encourage me by having me draw for other students on the chalkboard,” said Mr. B. “I told my parents they should allow me to make art, because a teacher told me I had potential,” he added. 

In art class at THRIVE, Mr. B’s students study the basics of how shape, color, and texture choices can be used to evoke meaning. His students often share with him art that they’ve created outside of class, and he displays it proudly on walls across the classroom. He views family involvement as an important aspect of cultivating his students' creativity and artistic talents. 

“Parents came in for an exhibition we hosted and they saw their children’s art. As a result, some of them bought their children paint and drawing pads, and asked for lists of items they could get at home. It gives me so much encouragement when I see students have the support of their families at home,” he said.  

THRIVE third grader Zy’Asia Gonzalez is an avid artist. “I really like Mr. B and making art. He teaches me to be creative and I like to take that home and make art there. I got a painting kit for Christmas and I even sell art to my family sometimes. So far, painting is my favorite type of art form,” said Gonzalez. 

Even if students don’t make a career of art, Mr. B knows that the lessons they learn in his classroom will serve them well as they define who they are and go onto world-changing careers. 

“A lot of my students tell me they want to be artists, and I encourage them, but also tell them they can do whatever they want as a career and continue to be artists, you can be a doctor and still paint,” he said. 

Mr. B.’s primary goal is for his students to apply the skills they learn to their lives. “Through art, you can learn to be disciplined, patient, self-controlled. They can apply these behaviors when times are tough and they need to calm themselves down. So I do that with them. I love doing it and I can’t imagine doing anything else,” he said. 

Third grader Zy’Asia Gonzalez works on creating a painting in Udo-Bassey's class in February.
Mr. B helps a student think about which colors to use in her painting.
Mr. B proudly displays student artwork in class, including work his students created at home. He encourages them to incorporate strong lines, bold colors and textures to make their artwork stand out when displayed.
Students painted faces in February, in preparation for painting self-portraits in a later unit.

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