Giuseppe Arcimboldo

Our wonderful jazz and Romare Bearden experience required me to be at Randall on a day I am normally at Huegel so it was a sub day for Huegel.

Arcimboldo was an Italian painter and he is best known for his portraits made up of fruit and other miscellaneous images. Huegel students have done some work with identity this year so I wanted to build on the portraits they had done to do a silly one.the-librarian(1) vertumnusGiuseppe_Arcimboldo_-_The_Waiter_-_WGA0835 Students cut images from magazines to create a self portrait.

5th grade WPA US Postage Stamps

In the last post, I educated you all on the Chazen and their WPA exhibit. After students learned more about the New Deal and the WPA, we looked through books and books of amazing African American women. February is women’s history month and African American history month. We talked a little about why we would choose these two groups of people to highlight. What struggles have women faced in order to be successful? What struggles have African Americans faced? What struggles are these two groups currently facing? What about African American women specifically? We had a wonderful conversation in all five of the 5th grade classes inspired by these questions.

I showed them that President Franklin D Roosevelt commissioned them all the design US Postage Stamps. IMG_5903And here are some of the results!

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WPA and Arts Advocacy

I haven’t organized any official field trips for art and I’ve been at Randall a few years already. I am changing that this year! Every Randall student will be heading to the Chazen this spring. Each grade level is studying different things this spring based on what they will focus on for their field trip.

The 5th graders study American history in their classroom curriculum so they will be focusing on the Works Progress Administration or WPA art exhibit at the Chazen. They will be studying various WPA artists over the second semester (Romare Bearden was also a WPA artist) but we started this larger theme by creating US Postage Stamps honoring African-American women.

Students started by learning a little about The New Deal created by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The New Deal was a series of economic programs that involved presidential orders or laws passed by Congress during the first term of President FDR. It was a response to the Great Depression to create jobs for the unemployed and poor to help the economy recover to normal levels. Some of the gifted and talented students made some connections to issues that have been in the news recently.

Part of the WPA was the Federal Art Project which focused on commissioning artists for public art. Some say over 200,000 separate pieces of art were commissioned from 1935 to 1943. Many famous artists were part of this project including Romare Bearden, Jackson Pollack, John Steuart Curry, Arshile Gorky, Jacob Lawrence, Elizabeth Olds, Loiuse Nevelson, Mark Rothko, Augusta Savage, Grant Wood and many more. As 3rd graders, they learned about John Steuart Curry and his murals right here on the UW campus.

The Chazen has a special exhibition that was installed February 16th and will be up until April 28th honoring these WPA artists.

“The Public Works of Art Project was the first federal program to support the arts. In 1934 the PWAP employed thousands of artists to paint regional, recognizable subjects—from portraits to cityscapes and street scenes to landscapes and rural life. This exhibition celebrates the 75th anniversary of the PWAP, presenting 56 vibrant paintings from the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s unparalleled collection.” -Chazen website

Read more about the exhibition from the Wisconsin State Journal and their connection to recent events to funding cuts for the arts.

Exhibit of Depression-era art is illustrative comparison as state cuts public funding for arts

“The money Wisconsin will spend this year on the arts — 15 cents per capita, compared with $5.77 in first-ranked Minnesota — reflects a 67 percent cut in funding to the Wisconsin Arts Board in 2011, when Gov. Scott Walker folded that statewide arts agency into the Department of Tourism. (Wisconsin’s Percent for Art program, in which 0.2 percent of a public building project was devoted to public art, also was dismantled that year.) -WSJ

arts imageWisconsin ranks 46th in arts funding. I’m hoping you’ve been able to see how important the arts are to education through my blog. Please contact your representatives and let them know how important the arts are! Don’t forget to let the school board know as well. They are in charge of art education funding right here in our Madison schools.

I’ve gone on an arts advocacy tangent, I know. But it’s important. Back to the students! Check out the next post for more on their WPA project.

Part 1: Romare Bearden and Jazz

We just finished a three week Jazz and Art integration unit planned between Ms. B (the music teacher) and I. It was awesome!! The kids loved it, the teachers loved it and I hope you love it too. (4th and 5th graders at Randall were part of this lesson).

In art class, we began by brainstorming about community. IMG_5895Students broke into groups to describe, analyze and interpret five photos I printed out showing communities in different parts of the world. They were told to write down all the describing words they could think of describing the photos. Then they wrote down their thoughts about the photos. We came together as a class to share out what each group wrote down and came up with a class list of what all the photos had in common.

Next class, we listened to Duke Ellington’s Harlem and drew lines that made sense with the tempo of the music. Students then took those lines and interpreted them through body movements. It was a lot of fun to dance our lines and was a great opportunity to let creativity fly. Students partnered up to combine two of their line movement interpretations and perform their merged moves. The class described and interpreted their classmate’s moves through conversation. Students then went back to the medium of drawing to interpret their classmate’s movements back into a line drawing. At the end of class, students had a good understanding of how Romare Bearden was so inspired by music in his visual artwork.

In the meantime, students were learning about call and response in music class with Ms. B and our artist-in-residence musician, Kevin Knapp.

Students listened to Ella Fitzgerald’s rendition of A Tisket, A Tasket and searched out examples of call and response within the song. Over the next two music classes, students had a chance to learn about call and response through drumming and other percussion instruments. Kevin taught us that there is a caller and a responder. When the caller is playing something, we must listen carefully and reflect on what we hear and then respond with something that makes sense. Kevin played some C-Jam Blues on the piano and students would respond through their percussion instruments.

In the third art class, students had their first experience with Romare Bearden and his artwork The Dove. Students had a class discussion on what they notice in this piece of art.

The DoveStudents watched this video by Picturing America and made connections between The Dove and Romare’s love for Jazz. Screen shot 2013-02-21 at 10.48.05 AMThe video talked about the large blocks of color Romare laid down as the background which can also be related to the beat or pulse of a song. Screen shot 2013-02-21 at 10.48.22 AMScreen shot 2013-02-21 at 10.48.39 AMAnd then how Romare showed the tempo or rhythm which is show as pattern in art.

Students broke into groups and discussed how they would show community through their collages and then cut out images they thought they would use for their collages. We didn’t glue this day, just cut out and laid things out to experiment a little.

The next class was all gluing. Students created a background to become the pulse of their collage. We talked about filling up the whole space and craftsmanship and then students just worked for two solid art classes on their collage creations. Then we discussed how to use call and response in creating a group collage. When one person lays something on the collage, the second person needs to look at it, think and reflect on it, and then respond with something that makes sense. What you are missing in the next blog post are the conversations students had through the art process. They were rich with ideas about so many ways to show community, what made sense together, laughter, silliness and some serious subjects. The collages themselves are amazing but their conversations and their experience working collaboratively were not to be missed.

From here on out, it was all hands-on collage creating. See the results in the next post!


Ms. Mincberg came to me and asked if I would create a lesson to enhance her social studies unit about learning about different cultures. I was going to do basket making in the spring but moved it to the fall to enhance this unit. Baskets are so important to so many different cultures for so many different reasons.

First we learned about sweet grass baskets from Sierra Leone and their history from Sierra Leone through slavery and into our current southern culture today. We also learned about the Navajo and how baskets carry stories with them. We looked at the Hmong culture and various European cultures to see how baskets are used in other cultures as well.

As far as techniques for making baskets, there is the coil technique and the weaving technique. There are many variations and styles on both of them but every basket comes down to those two basic techniques. Some students finished their coil baskets (made of yarn and clothesline) early and either made more or tried to make a woven basket with magazines and glue.


IMG_5192 IMG_5191 IMG_5190 IMG_5189 IMG_5142 IMG_5141 IMG_5116When I began this project, I had no idea what I started! So many students loved this project, that I lost over 50 plastic needles in the course of a month because they would take home more materials and ‘borrow’ needles to work at home. I’m pretty sure coil baskets ended up being a popular holiday gift in the Randall community!

There is a huge component to this lesson that I did not plan for and photos can not capture and that is how much persistence and patience Randall fourth graders showed through this lesson. The beginning of the coil baskets is not an easy thing for fourth graders. We discussed, at length, what persistence and patience means not just in basket making but in test taking and school work. It was really amazing to watch my students grow and learn through the creation of baskets. Sometimes, the lesson is better written by my students than me.

Frank Lloyd Wright


Both Huegel second and third graders as well as Randall fourth graders created these beautiful stained glass windows inspired by nature just like Frank Lloyd Wright. We started with observational drawings of items from nature and then abstracted them into geometric shapes to create our symmetrical windows using line symmetry.

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