Looking for Art

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artonweb5The Web is a fantastic resource for education in the visual arts. The Internet allows students to access artistic images from many different times and cultures. By exploring various art pieces from a wide range of times, cultures, and styles, students will learn to form their own opinions of the art they see. By answering the questions: “What is art?” and “Why is art important?” as they view images of art from all around the world and from ancient to modern times, students will gain a deeper appreciation of art and what it means to them.

What is Art?

This lesson will expose students to many different types of art, some of which may challenge their notions of exactly what constitutes Art. Begin the lesson by asking the class these two broad questions: “What is art?” “Why is art important?” Ask students to write down their answers and encourage them to share their answers with the class. After the class has had an opportunity to consider these questions, ask students to be thinking about their answers as you explore different types of art in this lesson.artonweb4

Analyzing Art: What’s the story?

Get off to a fun start by taking the class to Inside Art: An Art History Game by Educational Web Adventures Teachers’ Resources. This fantasy site explores what it would be like to be trapped in a Vincent Van Gogh painting, and helps students to think about the art they see by asking the questions “who”, “what”, “how” and “where”. As you click on the highlighted links at the bottom of the page to move through the site, the class will learn about different elements of art by answering interactive questions. At the end of this Web Adventure, students can take a quiz to see what they have learned and get feedback on their answers.

Now that students have some ideas about what kinds of questions they can ask themselves as they look at a particular piece of artwork, they can start creating their own stories about the art they see. Guide your class to this site by the Museum of Modern Art of New York: MOMA Learning. Watch the introductory video. Explore the links. Make sure to click the ‘Interactive’ link from the bottom left box. From here, students can choose any interactive art experience. Make sure to also click ‘Current Exhibition Sites’ and ‘Past Exhibition Sites’. Encourage students to work in pairs and discuss the art that they preview.

artonweb6Art and Culture

Next take your class to the National Gallery of Art’s Art Zone. Explore the links to various activities. Students will look through various samples of art from traditional to more modern. This site also presents information about the artists’ backgrounds, featuring artists from many different cultural backgrounds. As your class views each piece of art and reads about its creator, ask students the question: “What do you see in this work of art that reflects the artist’s culture?”

Art Past and Present

Are your students ready to do some of their own art research? For this project, have your class break into small groups and assign each group four works of art, two from the past and two more contemporary, from the sites discussed below. Ask students to use what they have learned from the sites in this article to compare the works of art they have been assigned. Ask each group to focus on the following questions: Why do you think the artist chose this medium? What story do you think this work tells? How do you think this work reflects the artist’s culture? How is the art from the past similar to the art from the present? How is it different? On completion of this project, have students in each group take turns presenting their project to the rest of the class.artonweb3

KidsArt's Art History on Imagination Station - Masters' Gallery 1999, featuring the Masters’ Gallery segments from the PBS Television show, Mark Kistler’s Imagination Station, is an excellent resource for this project. By clicking on the highlighted text, students can see an image of the artwork and read about both the work and the artist. Students may also use an art database such as the Smithsonian’s Search Collection.

For an historical perspective, check out The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Art Timelines. This is an ideal site for students to do a little exploring on their own. Ask students to record the title and artist of at least five or more pieces that struck them as inspiring or interesting.

Another great site for this project is The Art Institute of Chicago: Art Access. There are  several images from the museum’s collections in the following areas: Ancient Indian Art of the Americas; African American Art; Impressionism and Post-Impressionism; Modern and Contemporary Art and American Art to 1900. Click the highlighted text below each image to see selections from the collection and then click on an image to see a larger view and read about the work and the artist. (Teacher’s note: the text in this site may be a little advanced for some younger elementary students; however, it is an excellent resource for images and can also provide a challenging learning environment for your gifted students.)

artonweb2For a fun look at modern art, return to New York’s Museum of Modern Art and take your class to MoMA Learning | Online Activities. Let students explore this collection.

Conclude this lesson with a discussion, referring your class back to their answers to the questions at the beginning of the lesson: “What is art?” and “Why is art important?” Ask students to decide whether the information they have learned has changed their answers to these questions. Again, encourage students to share their answers with the class. Finally, ask each student to write an essay explaining how their answers to these questions have changed from the beginning of the lesson to the end of the lesson, listing the particular works and artists which helped to change their opinions.


§117.11. Art
(b)(3) Historical/cultural heritage. The student demonstrates an understanding of art history and culture as records of human achievement.
(A) compare content in artworks from the past and present for various purposes such as telling stories and documenting history and traditions;
(B) compare selected artworks from different cultures



Eduweb – An Art History Game

Museum of Modern Art – Online Projects

Smithsonian American Art Museum – Art Activities for Kids

KidsArt: Imagination Station Masters’ Art Gallery

The Art Institute of Chicago: Art Access

Museum of Modern Art – Online Guides

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