Louise Nevelson

Louise Nevelson was a very strong, Jewish woman who was also a sculptor of assemblages. An assemblage is really just a gathering of things that don’t normally belong together, found objects. Nevelson would take things from the side of the road and put them together. She created unity by painting the sculptures all the same color. We watched part of this video of artists discussing Nevelson’s work. (starting at 1:50)

“I fell in love with black; it contained all color. It wasn’t a negation of color… Black is the most aristocratic color of all… You can be quiet, and it contains the whole thing.” -Louise Nevelson

“Women at that time were supposed to look pretty and throw little handkerchiefs around… well, I couldn’t play that role.” -Louise Nevelson

This assemblage by Nevelson is called Homage to 6,000,000. One art critic claimed “Each box is the same, yet the interiors are each different. This huge installation speaks of the unbelievable number of Jews who died during the holocaust. Perhaps for her, each box was the remnants of a separate life, all combining into a formidable wall of remembrance.” When students analyzed this assemblage, they really understood this idea the artist was trying to get across.


In this portrait of Nevelson, she looks like a living assemblage!

Nevelson by Avedon

Students chose to create their assemblages in a radial symmetrical design, asymmetrical design or mirror image symmetrical design. The found objects were found in my grandma’s basement! My grandma is an artist herself and when she moved into assisted living, she had to give up most of her supplies. Some of the boxes had stuff in it I never thought I could ever use, but it was perfect for an assemblage project! Fake butterflies, small straw hats, parts of old blinds, fake flowers, doll heads, doll hair and so many more odd and interesting things.

IMG_4113Students loved going through this box of miscellaneous stuff! I think I could have made this project two months instead of two class periods and they would have been just fine with that.

And some of the finished assemblages..

MMSD Art Standards:

Identify the purposes, subject matter, stories, feelings, or symbols communicated through art.
Identify and use color, shapes, lines, texture, space, and movement in works of art.
Identify and use contrast, repetition, emphasis, unity, and variety.
Use creative problem solving skills and risk taking skills.
Describe artwork and will continue to develop this skill.
Recognize an expanding number of artists and their styles.
Recognize artwork representing various cultures, gender, media, time, and subject, ulilizing developing resources from the Chazen.

3rd grade Labor Murals

3rd graders began this lesson with a close reading of Diego Rivera’s murals. Students got into groups and began sketching their plan for their own group mural. As they began painting, they needed to review how to mix for secondary colors. They also needed to know what kinds of brushes to use. It makes sense to say out loud that you would need a small brush for details and a large brush for the big areas, but it is something students needed to be reminded of to think about.

Students really started to learn what the word craftsmanship means through this project. At various stages, students needed to be on the lookout for different ways they could see in their murals that they were really doing their best work and not rushing things. In the painting stage, that meant being White Spot Inspectors. When they were finished painting, that meant getting out their black markers. If you click on the links, you can see the videos created by another art teacher that students watched on these craftsmanship concepts.

IMG_3849 IMG_3854 IMG_3853After painting the murals, students learned about gesture drawings to help them create the workers for their murals.


After a month and a half of work, here are the results!

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Standards in this lesson-

MMSD Art Standards

Identify the subject matter or story communicated through art.

Identify and use color, shapes, line, texture, and space in works of art.

Recognize and use previously introduced elements, media, techniques, and processes and will continue to expand their knowledge which includes:

1. Drawing as a planning tool for later use with a variety of media.
2. Drawing with contour line.
3. The techniques and processes of color mixing which include secondary colors
Describe artwork and will continue to develop this skill.
Participate in group discussions describing artwork.
Identify subject matter and feeling found in art. Identify the narrative qualities of artwork, i.e. cultural meaning and illustrations.
Create artwork with various subject matter, symbols, and emotional content.
View styles and techniques of a limited number of artists, and/or cultures past and present.
Start recognizing the principles of art in various art disciplines
Recognize endless relationships between visual arts and other
disciplines, i.e. Observation drawing – social studies, science Landscape painting – science, social studies
MMSD Social Emotional Standards
Students will work cooperatively with partner and in small groups.
Students will identify and practice strategies for resolving conflicts constructively.
Students will recognize that they have choices in how to respond to situations.

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.

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!

Don’t forget to VOTE!


We have lots of exceptionally politically aware 4th and 5th graders at Randall Elementary. I decided I wanted to do a lesson around the idea of voting with the Presidential election coming up and because it is a subject many of our students are already interested in. Because many my students come from very progressive homes and they live in Madison, I thought it would be a good idea for them to learn what the term ‘non-partisan’ means as well as know the main issues from Democrats and Republicans.

I began by showing this video called “I’ll Be the President” from Flocabulary.com which seems to have kind of a modern School House Rock thing going on. This might be a favorite Randall song now as they are also learning it in music with Ms. B for our November all school morning meeting.

We discussed the word non-partisan with the kid-friendly definition of not telling someone your opinion about politics but just giving the facts. One rule in our posters is that the viewer can not tell what the political beliefs of the artists are. Some of our students have very strong opinions so this was rather difficult for some of them.

We also discussed how important it was to listen to people who have different opinions than you do because that is how we grow and are challenged. We learned about the main beliefs from Republicans and Democrats from this video discussing political parties. We also learned that Mitt Romney and Barack Obama are not the only two running for president. Many students were surprised to find out there was a woman running for president as well!

From a design standpoint, we talked about the principles of space and balance and filling the page as well as lining things up contributes to a well thought out composition. This was a great lesson to discuss symbolism as well. Red and elephant for Republican, blue and donkey for Democrats. A couple of bright students took this idea to the next level and asked questions like “Could purple be used for unity?” or “Can I see some of the third party logos?” Like I said, these students are exceptional. I mean I’m sure every art teacher says that about their students. I feel like a parent with my students, I just like to brag about them!!


Some artists thought about how to use popular culture and humor to create interest around voting. Can you guess where the ideas for these posters came from?

ImageImageMake sure to take a walk down Monroe St as some of our Randall artists are displaying their posters at Orange Tree, Art Gecko, Pizza Brutta, Sewcial, J. Kinney Florist, Paragon and Monroe St Framing. Thank you to our local, small businesses on Monroe Street! I didn’t get time to ask more businesses to participate so if they don’t have Randall art in their windows, it doesn’t necessarily mean they said they wouldn’t display art. I love supporting my local, small businesses when I shop because I know they support my students and the community in so many unmeasurable ways!

Pizza Brutta ^

Art Gecko ^


Display at Sewcial ^This is the owner of Sewcial, Sarah. Sewcial is new to Monroe Street and already very popular. They offer many different classes to fill your create fabric arts needs! I highly recommend checking this place out.

Romare Bearden

Romare Bearden was born in 1911 and became famous for his amazing collages inspired by the people and music in Harlem.

“Romare Bearden, one of the most important African American artists of the twentieth century, was born in Charlotte, North Carolina and raised in Harlem, New York. As was the case for another African American artist, Jacob Lawrence, Bearden grew up in the midst of the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s—a literary movement of notable writers and poets that centered on black culture.

Bearden studied art in New York during the 1930s, asking in an important essay that African American artists give voice to their own distinctive experiences. Gaining recognition during the 1940s and achieving international status by the 1960s, he made his memories of life in the South and in Harlem the basis of his art. His art and that of Lawrence parallel the spirit of American Scene Painting, which in the 1930s recorded and commemorated regional identities, most especially that of the Midwest. In the 1960s, Bearden experimented with a variety of collage techniques that became his signature medium. His later style captures the syncopation and liveliness of American jazz, playing upon caricature and the fragmentation of forms associated with Cubism.”

Madison Museum of Contemporary Art

After watching this wonderful video made by Picturing America, students learned about improvisation.

Romare Bearden was something of a Jazz musician himself. Jazz and art were one to him. My musician friend visiting from Nashville, Kevin Knapp, came into our classroom and introduced the concept of improvisation. Students had been discussing call and response as well as improvisation in music class as well. Kevin explained that improvisation is like a conversation. One person says something and the other person responds. But when you respond it has to make sense, it has to relate to what the first person said. So you need to listen to each other so the responses make sense with what has already been said. You also need to l leave space for each person to respond. If you talk over one another, you aren’t really listening.

Students practiced call and response improvisation with Kevin. Kevin ‘spoke’ something on his bass and a student responded with a rhythm clapped out or a scat. Students soon experienced the importance of listening and giving each other the space to respond.

Students began creating their own collages in partners. One student would cut out an image and glue it down. Their partner was to then cut out another image to glue down but in response to what the first person glued down. In this way, their art became a beautiful, improvised conversation.

100th Post!

Over the last 6 months, I have learned more from other art bloggers than my whole last three years of college.  I’m so grateful to have discovered the blogging world (with help from my friend Heather).

My hope is that my students start using this blog as a resource and it becomes as important to them as it is to me!  Coincidentally, the 100th day of school is this Friday.

In celebration of my 100th post and the 100th day of school, K/1 students created self portraits of what they look like now AND in 100 years!  I’ve seen this in quite a few places around the Art Ed blog world but the one that comes to mind is Teach Kids Art.

Me:  Why does your ‘in 100 years’ portrait look so bored?

Becky:  Because all old people are bored and sad.

Madison:  I’m going to have whiskers when I’m old!

Me:  What’s in your ‘100 year old’ portrait’s mouth?

Brock:  A thermometer.  All old people are sick.

K/1 Jim Dine

Jim Dine is really known for his heart images.

K/1 students created a multi media Jim Dine inspired art work.  Students spent time in four different stations to create four different hearts.


crazy collage (which included beads, feathers, yarn and all sorts of choices),

and paper collage.

Then we let our hearts rest for the next art class.

The second class period, students painted a background for their hearts.  They also added in some texture as well.

Here is the finished Jim Dine inspired art!

I think they are beautiful and just in time for Valentine’s Day!!