Martin Mensah has spent nearly 30 years as an art teacher, but when the West Africa native arrived at Veterans Memorial Middle School, he was greeted by an administration that was open to his ideas. The results have been breathtaking.
Martin Mensah was born in Ghana, West Africa, and discovered his passion and appreciation for art at a young age. He placed third in a district contest at his school in fourth grade, an event that spurred his motivation to learn more about the arts and develop his talent. Mensah’s inspiration to pursue an education and career in the field was passed down from a family member.
“I have an uncle who was an artist and very successful in life—he owned his own house and piano at a very young age—and I said to myself, ‘I can be like him with my art, too,’” he said.
Mensah grew up in a church program called The Boys Brigade. Part of an international program and interdenominational Christian organization, it focuses on developing leadership qualities in young boys between the ages of 6 and 17.
“I went through the ranks of The Boys Brigade to become the captain of the program as an adult,” Mensah said. “My father was my motivator, as well as my Boys Brigade leaders. They saw the talent I had as a young boy and kept encouraging me to pursue art as a career.”
“At the beginning of my classes. I repeat a Michelangelo quote to my students: ‘A man paints with his brain and not with his hand.’”Martin Mensah
As captain, Mensah became effective in running activities in arts and crafts, hiking, camping and community service. “Teaching as a career was the best option for me to have time for the young boys and also practice my skill,” he said, “hence teaching art as a career.”
Mensah attended Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Kumasi, Ghana, where he majored in sculpture; painting was an elective for his first degree. He also holds a master’s degree in art education from the school and completed certification programs at The Art Institute of Seattle and The Art Institute of Atlanta. Mensah taught in Ghana and the Bahamas before he arrived in the United States in 2001. He has taught students of various ages throughout his 27 years in the classroom, from kindergarten through college.
“I have seen my students develop through the arts to become successful, practicing artists in their adult life,” Mensah said.
After he settled in America, Mensah landed multiple teaching positions at several schools in the Atlanta area before he came to Veterans Memorial Middle School in Covington roughly five and a half years ago. His teaching techniques and learning strategies have had a major impact on his students there. Mensah has made use of the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math program, which allows gifted students—including those in art—to earn high-school credits while still in eighth grade.
“These are the students I have been working with on mix-collage portraits,” Mensah said. “They were students who were identified at the end of sixth grade and put in an intermediate visual arts program in seventh grade to prepare them for the high school-level program. Most of these students have a strong interest in art, which is the main ingredient for learning and developing their artistic skills.
“This makes it easy for the teaching and learning of the visual art program with these identified students,” he added. “Though the program is very challenging, they strive to meet the level of every requirement. All I do is motivate them and develop their confidence.”
Mensah also models practical application after instructing students on techniques.
“This helps them better understand the process of the project and builds their confidence in the teacher with what he is asking them to do,” he said. “I am not really surprised at the results I have seen in my students because growing up as a boy their age, I was also doing great works like them; and I do tell them they can do better with all the modern technological devices that aid artistic development.”
According to Mensah, support from the school administration and VMMS Principal Dr. Takila Curry has been paramount to his program. “She gives me all the support, supplies and resources I need to be a successful art teacher,” he said. Mensah points to the development of confidence in his students as one of the secrets of his success, as they use daily creative thinking skills and a warmup activity called “What Do You See?” He finds inspiration in one of the greats.
“At the beginning of my classes,” he said, “I repeat a Michelangelo quote to my students: ‘A man paints with his brain and not with his hand.’”
Martin Mensah’s artistic talents and skills extend beyond the classroom. He founded the Adanko Studio in 1989 and operates it out of his basement. While wood carving and cement sculpture are his specialties, he focuses more on acrylic painting in the abstract—Pablo Picasso cubism style. He also paints realistic portraits. To schedule a portrait session or to find out more about Mensah’s artwork, email him at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Click here to read more stories by Terri Webster.
I’m glad to see you and hear you coming this far, some of us actually are not too surprised for you coming this far. You really worked hard, responsible, committed, discipline and above all very focused. Martin!! kudos to you and congratulations. The sky is your limit. Shalom!!
That’s my friend and brother Martin Mensah, were colleague teachers at La Presec,in fact pioneer teachers. I’m proud of him. Adanko!
Am so pleased to see you accomplishing great things.
Some of us still have fond memories of Adanko Studio where it’ all started. Proud of you Uncle!
Proud of you Uncle.
Am so pleased to see you accomplishing great things. Some of us still have fond memories of Adanko Studio where it’ all started. Proud of you Uncle.
Wonderful to see Officer Martin doing what he loves. God bless you. Beyond the skies is your limit. Thank you for being there for us growing up in Ghana
Well done officer Martin. You’ve made La Boy’s and girl’s Brigade proud. God continue to enlarge your territories.
Very proud of you bro. Keep it up boss! The sky is the limit
Mr. Mensah is my colleague and art mentor/teacher to my daughter. Many thanks for pouring your heart and soul into your students and for expanding their knowledge and love for art. You’ve grown my child’s mind for art exponentially. Again, thank you!
Very impressive accomplishment uncle Martin! Wow! I am speechless! Keep soaring high and high!
To God be the Glory, I thank your maker for how far he has widened your scope. Kudos to you, but I am not surprised at all.