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!

IMG_5902 IMG_5901 IMG_5900 IMG_5899 IMG_5898 IMG_5897 IMG_5896 IMG_5905 IMG_5904


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.

Jacob Lawrence

Jacob Lawrence (1917-2000) is a painter who is well known for documenting the great migration of free slaves from the south to the north. Lawrence lived in the New York neighborhood of Harlem in the 1920s. Lawrence was inspired by African American sculpture August Savage. He thought about the Great Migration in the 30s and decided to honor and record this event through his art. He spent months in the library researching historical events before he started his series on migration.

This panel is panel 57 of a woman doing laundry. She seems to be concentrating on her work with determination. We discussed this painting in depth. What do you know about the woman in this painting? What shapes do you see? What do the shapes represent?

Picturing America is a collection of posters given to schools around the country by a grant from the National Endowment for Humanities. This painting is part of that series. Picturing America posters come with a video, questions, information and lesson ideas for each image. Before starting our own paintings, we watched Picturing America’s video on Jacob Lawrence.

Then we discussed our own migration stories. Some students are first generation migrants while others’ families came to the US many generations ago. Each story is important to the make up of our community and each story deserves to be documented and told. So each student took their migration story and painted their own three panel of paintings just like Jacob Lawrence.

This is painting is by a student who just moved here from Russia this year.

Telling the Hmong migration story.

Irish migration.

African slave trade.

Some students either didn’t want to tell or didn’t know how to tell their migration stories so they painted a series on an important event in their life.

Wisconsin protests February 2011.


Students have relieved so many compliments on their beautiful paintings!

Circle Painting

This circle painting stuff has been flying around the art education blogs recently. Check out a few blog posts at My Blog of Art and Elementary Art Fun. A video on circle painting here and a whole website with lots of examples here. I wasn’t going to jump on the circle painting bandwagon but when Randall PTO asked me to create something to auction off to raise money for Neighborhood House, I thought we’d do some collaborative art.

The circle painting was just meant to be an exercise to introduce 3rd graders to the idea of collaborative art work. Their conversations while working and their actual painting fascinated me! They were wonderful at discussing whole ideas, how they decided to work together (take turns or work at once?), sharing space, talking out disagreements and so much more. Their work turned out beautiful and so unique from group to group!

Students began with a simple shape in the middle. Each student had one color to paint with and every five minutes or so they would switch colors. Some groups decided that one at a time would paint. Others decided that they would work all at the same time. Each way presented it’s own problems. The group that decided they would work one at a time found out that their mural wasn’t as filled as the other groups. The group that decided to work all at the same time discovered another problem of respecting others’ space and work.

Each kept growing and growing for the entire art period. None of the students became bored and they were all engaged. There wasn’t one student that wasn’t excited to participate or frustrated at other group members.

You can see how each group’s working philosophies played out in their paintings.

Here are the final results!!


Monochromatic Self Portraits

Lesson inspired by smART Class.

First art project of the school year! Today after school I hung five art classes worth of art work. Up and down the huge ladder that I haul from hallway to hallway. I have ten art classes art work to hang still. It may be a lot of work to hang artwork but it is very worth it. I think it’s very important for artists to see their work displayed. As I was hanging art, a 3rd grader had come back to school with her mom to get something she forgot in her classroom. The mom started asking her daughter questions about her work in the hallway. They had a lovely conversation about her art. This is part of what art is, getting people to talk and question new ideas.

Students started with a pencil drawing about themselves. Some students chose to draw themselves and some chose to draw objects that describe them.

After students finished their pencil drawings, students picked one color plus black and white to paint their paintings.

We learned some new art vocabulary. Monochromatic means something that is one color with tints and shades of that color. Tints would be white with color added and shades are the color with black added.

Students also learned about craftsmanship with a little help from Tricia Fuglestad’s White Spot Inspector and Black Marker.

Stay tuned for the second projects of the school year! 3rd graders are starting to learn about Madison artist Bruce Howdle with a clay project, 4th graders are starting to learn about Wisconsin Georgia O’Keefe with watercolors and 5th graders are starting to learn about American Pop artist Andy Warhol and printmaking.

Children’s Day in Japan – May 5th

K/1 students learned about an entire day devoted to children. They could hardly believe it!

“Every May 5, it is Kodomo no Hi or “Children’s Day” in Japan. Families fly koinobori banners in the shape of a carp (a type of fish) for each child in their house. In Japanese folklore, the carp is a symbol of determination and vigor, overcoming all obstacles to swim upstream. Samurai warrior figurines and samurai kabuto helmets are also displayed in homes to inspire strength and bravery.

Children indulge in kashiwa-mochi, sticky rice cakes wrapped in oak leaves, and other sweets. Around the country there are many events for children and families. Children take center stage in traditional Japanese plays. Thousands of children compete in the “Kids’ Olympics” held at the National Kasumigaoka Stadium in Tokyo. Children also use the day to thank and show respect for the teachers, parents, and relatives who care for them.” (source)

We began by reviewing the art words, ‘pattern’ and ‘line.’ We brainstormed as many different lines as we could think of.

And created some beautiful paper.

And then created our own fish kites to celebrate Children’s Day.

We ended our celebration by listening to a new song: