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After WWII, many artists were eager to move beyond the old ideas of the past. They thought that art and architecture should not reference antiquity but offer a blank slate that could reflect modern ideas and experiences. In New York, Hans Hofmann was at the center of the art scene. Show students the image of
by Hans Hofmann. Contrast this with some of the examples of art in the schools from the New Deal Era or Progressive Era. Begin by having them notice the major differences in the work that was being installed in schools. What do they think were some of the reasons for this shift? What do they think is a more legitimate form of art in the schools? Can art be decorative, and offer the viewer something beautiful to look at, or should it offer some lesson and teach something to the students in the school? You can also show images of Mary Callery’s,
Fables of La Fontaine
, which is supposed to offer the opportunity for students to climb, so in a sense becomes functional. Encourage a discussion or debate around the role of art in the schools that has students consider each of these approaches.
Students will develop their own ideas for artwork in their school. Have them consider where they would place it and what purpose or function the work would serve. They can work in teams of two or three to select a location, create drawings of what their artwork would look like and develop a written proposal that explain their rational and how it fits into the context of the school as well as the location that they chose. To introduce a math element into the lessons, students can consider things such as scale and proportion.
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