Teaching with Contemporary Art

Hope and Change


Quite frankly, I cannot walk in and teach my classes with any sense of routine this week. Rebounding off one of the most historic and intense presidential campaigns in the history of the United States, it is important for teachers to give students a chance to say what they’re thinking and react to the events that have been brewing over the past two years.

Barack Obama will be the next President of the United States.

After this fact settles in, with both adults and young people, art educators have a unique opportunity to allow students time to respond to the election and the change this election has produced. Some suggestions:

  1. Ask students to create a poster that responds to the outcome of the election.
  2. After analyzing graphic designs and logos featured in each of the campaigns, have students create a logo for the new administration that brings together visual elements from both campaigns and incorporates the word CHANGE (or perhaps another word to focus the assignment).
  3. Have students create a series of drawings or collage for a 2009 calendar that features political commentary on the election.

Perhaps it’s part of our job to NOT proceed as usual this week?

Photograph (detail): August, 2008 Contemporary Art Start summer institute at MoCA, Los Angeles


  1. guest says:

    Within these discussions and projects, it is also crucial to discuss the role of the youth vote in this election. It is an interesting way to think about our role as educators and the art of engagement.


  2. Monika Navarro says:

    Art educators do have a great opportunity to not only let this historic election be an inspiration for students, but to also look at how visuals, graphics and media have been used to communicate a message.

  3. Lydia says:

    Your post and image made me think of an artwork recently installed for an upcoming exhibit of Worcester, MA area artists. Haruo Shiga folded a 10 x 10 ft paper crane. There is video of the installation on You Tube (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tv2xF4rK7mw).

    There is definitely a feeling of the optimism that is suddenly coming through all of the negative news in this piece.

  4. Joe Fusaro says:

    After some discussion in class, I actually wound up doing a “Reaction Quilt” with my students on Wednesday. Students were asked to design a blank 3×5 card with their reaction to the election- words, cartoons, phrases and quotes were all part of the paper “blanket” we created together.

    I agree with both Lydia and Monika about the power and possibilities that come with this historic election (and Lydia, thank you for the link!). So much can be shared as we move forward to encourage students to use their voice through spoken words, printed words and visual images.

    Teachers, please share stories and images of your work with students before and after the election. What a week!

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