Artists' Birthday Box
Submitted by: Sara Gant (from an idea by Christa Wise), North Carolina
Unit: Modern Art - Art History Research
Lesson: The Un-Birthday Present
Grade Level: Middle school through High School (adaptable to elementary)
To learn about an artist, his or her time period, and learn what he/she would have valued in his/her lifetime.
To create an object using your own creativity and open-ended critical thinking skills.
Artwork below from Rebecca Burch
Pablo Picasso - Keith Haring - Frida Kahlo - Andy Warhol
Your task is to research your artist as thoroughly as you can, learning not only about the artist’s most famous artwork but also about his or her documented mannerisms, medical problems (if any) or personal habits that will help you become acquainted with your artist.
Decorate a box in the style of your artist. "Think outside the box" when doing this- you can use the artist’s signature as decoration, works of art, wrapping paper, old style photographs copied from books and printed/copied using a sepia tone, etc.
Select five objects that would be appropriate to give your artist as a birthday present. Be creative- look in yard sales, junk yard stores, second-hand stores for "old" items- often you can haggle over the price, or they will be very cheap to begin with.
Put your presents in your box. You can wrap them individually if you want.
Write neatly on one side of large index card for EACH present, explaining what the object is, and why you are giving it to your artist. Be sure to include some context here- information about the artist, why this present is appropriate for this person. Extra points if this is typed and pasted to the index card. One separate index card should have your name, your class, (Art II, III or IV) and the name of the artist who you are giving the gifts to. THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT PART OF THE PROJECT. If you can’t explain why you are giving each present to your artist, don’t include them!
Extra’s such as a birthday card, invitations to the party, a party "theme in the box" etc, will be welcomed but not mandatory. The more effort, time, and research spent on your box, the more points you will earn.
A: Neatly wrapped/decorated/painted box, with clever conceptual idea or very neatly done rendition of artist’s style/work. Artwork is rendered with care and precision. Presents inside show a deep understanding of the artist, and reflects a connection on a personal level. An index card accompanies each present, making the connection clear for the viewer. (Example: "TO: Monet FROM: Mrs. G Happy Birthday! I know you are having difficulty seeing as you approach your 80th. It must be painful to paint your beautiful water-lilies when you can’t see properly. I hope these eyeglasses help!") Presentation is outstanding, flawless, neat, and created with pride and care, idea is original and unique. Student may have ‘gone the extra mile’ to create a birthday atmosphere- issuing invitations to staff, custodians,etc.
B: Box is wrapped or painted neatly. Artwork is neat and carefully rendered. Presents inside show a good understanding of the artist. Original concept and idea, carried out satisfactorily…with a little more polish or finish could be outstanding.
C: Box is wrapped or painted satisfactorily. Artwork is put together, and reflects somewhat of an understanding of the artist as a person. Shows a lack of extra time and effort- the minimum of effort was made to complete the project with.
D: Box is sloppily done without much care or connection to the artist. Messy, incomplete or rushed work reflects no work or thought on part of student.
F: Ooops- you forgot the birthday party... no project turned in, or unfinished project with sloppy work that did not quite meet the criteria described.
LIST OF ARTISTS/SCULPTORS
M. C. Escher
Suggestions from Rebecca Burch:
1. I made the students cut 6 6" X 6" (15 x 15 cm) squares out of leftover matte board. I have tried giving the students a template to cut out a box pattern and then fold it into a box, but it was so much more difficult. Assembling the squares into a box worked out so much better because they were easier to paint, easier to fix if a student mis-measured, and easier to take home to work on (and it's a great use for those little, leftover pieces of board!) Plus, for some reason, a 6" X 6" (15 x 15 cm) square isn't as intimidating as a great, big cross-shaped piece of Mat board. Then assembling the box became part of the project. The student who did one of the Van Gogh boxes sewed it together with Raffia, which looked really cool with the textured landscapes. And the student who did Keith Haring put hers together with duct tape, for an urban, funky look.
2. I gave the students a list of items they could not include for their artists. For instance, a "paintbrush" would work pretty well for just about anyone, and you don't have to really know your artist to think that one up. Got a lot of paintbrushes, last year.
3. I gave bonus points for students who brought a food item that continued their artist's theme to the food table. Of course, the girl who studied Andy Warhol brought Tomato Soup, and surprisingly, that worked pretty well as party food! The Keith Haring student brought crackers with different toppings, and called it "Crackers is Wackers."
4. I did make the students actually copy their artist's work on the sides of the boxes, instead of gluing pictures on. It's a huge confidence booster when a kid realizes she can paint like Picasso.
This is really a fun project, and I can't believe how excited the kids got about their artists. They would never learn this much by writing a paper! This is the third year for me to do this project, and it just gets better and better each year.