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Submitted by: Donna Kauffroath, art teacher of Casa Grande Jr. High of Casa Grande, AZ
Grade Level: 7th - 8th grade (adaptable to elementary)
Lesson: Giant Fast Food - McTwisted* - Pop art
Contact local fast food companies in your area. Tell the manager you have been studying Pop Art (Andy Warhol and Claes Oldenburg). Tell them that you want to make a sculpture as social commentary on American Pop Culture.
Fast food sculpture photo by: Trisha Pickerel
Your subject matter will be Fast Food. You would like permission to make a sculpture representing their business. See what kind of answer you get. If you get a supportive answer, do your project as planned. If your request is denied, shame on them for violating your rights of freedom of expression - and proceed to plan B - Fast Food Parody of that particular business.
Present to your students the basics of Trademark Law. It is difficult to research whether or not Andy Warhol and Claes Oldenburg got "permission" to do what they did during the Pop Art Movement. Times are different today. Companies are VERY protective of their Trademark and Trade Dress. These companies may view your FAIR USE for this educational purpose an infringement on their trademark.... you never know... Read up on Brand Name Bullies: The Quest to Own and Control Culture by David Bollier.
Giant Fast Food is a great Paper Mache lesson for 8th graders. Have your students bring in regular-sized fast food containers (McDonald's®, Burger King®. etc) Students work in groups of 3 or 4 and choose one container to enlarge.
They need to measure the container and multiply the measurements by 5 or more (a great way to integrate math). Then they need to make a cardboard/Tag board armature of the container using the measurement. (Ross Labs donated the heavy paper.) Three layers of newspaper and paste (thinned wall paper paste works great) on the armature will make the container strong enough to stand on its own.
Use tempera or acrylics to paint the containers realistically. This project wowed the parents and teachers when put on display!
*Trademark Law - a new twist to the lesson
Creating these sculptures is a violation of trademark law. An artist can not make a derived work without the expressed written permission of the trademark holder. I am permitted to use them here regardless, as they are used to teach a lesson of current Trademark law. Fair Use applies as my defense.
If you wish to publish your work on your school web sit, here is the NEW twist: Before you post work from this lesson, have them write letters to the fast food companies. I imagine they all have web sites. Address your letters to the legal department. Companies such as McDonald's® have sent out numerous "cease and desist" letters for trademark infringement. If you get a negative reply back, simply change your lesson to Fast Food Parody the next time and don't publish your work using work using the Trademark - or post it and block out their trademarks - your choice. You at least exercised your Freedom of Expression to make the work inspired by our visual culture. Please do contact Incredible Art Department if you got a negative reply back. This lesson is a very old one and has gone unchallenged by them. It has been on line since the early 1990s and similar lessons have been published in art education magazines over the years.
NOTE: Andy Warhol was not permitted by Quaker Oats® to use "Aunt Jemima" for his American Icons series. A contemporary artist is no longer permitted to sell his VW Bug drawings.
Here is a sample Letter:
Dear Legal Department,
I am a student at (name of school). We have been studying Pop Art Movement - artists such as Andy Warhol and Claes Oldenberg who both made everyday objects monumental. Andy Warhol did his larger than life silk screen prints of popular name brand products while Claes Oldenberg made large sculpture of objects we use everyday.
We have also been studying Trademark law and are aware it is a violation to make a derived work without express written permission.
We feel in this case we are justified as our use is allowed by Fair Use - but in order to put these images on our school web site, I need your permission to display your "trade dress" (painted on my sculpture).
Please send me your reply to (address).
Name of student
Name of School
I can not guarantee you will get a reply, but at least some eyes will roll. Do your lesson anyways as you made an effort to get permission. If any company says no (which I doubt) then make a parody for that company (also allowed by law). If you can not get permission from the companies, you may simply ask the local managers/owners if they will allow it for educational purposes (already permitted by law - Fair Use defense).
Fast food companies have not endorsed this lesson. Trademark names are used for descriptive purposes.
An email requesting permission was sent to McDonald's® January 14, 2006. Note: McDonald's did pay attention to my email request. I have the name of the person and phone number for you to contact.
Wendy's® is property of Oldemark, LLC and licensed to Wendy's International, Inc. Email addresses were not available. Image will be removed from photograph at their request. Teachers will have to send snail mail letter for permission to use their "trade dress."
KFC® (Kentucky Fried Chicken®) was contacted January 14. 2006
Fast Food Parody "McTwisted"
I suspect you will not be able to get permission. Those who do not grant permission, could have a spoof trade dress/fast food item created. Change it just enough so it is not identical - but close enough so the viewer will be able to tell which company you are "spoofing". Courts have ruled time and time again in favor of the artist in the case of parody - providing that your design is not offensive. Your "McTwisted" (or whatever name you chose for the McDonald's spoof can not have a golden arches as that in itself is trademarked.
Of course, an alternative would be to write letters to the editor of your local newspapers the fast food companies will not support or allow your art project to proceed. That should get some attention. Some lawyers take the first amendment rights pretty seriously.
Below is an image of a logo you are allowed to use. Of course it is not food related but an adaptation of this lesson could include DVD cases or the like. This logo is from one of my own companies that is no longer in business. The DVD rental business was too competitive to stay in business. Because the company was based in Indianapolis, I included the word "Indy" in the trademarked image. It cost me approximately $275 overall to get the trademark myself without using an attorney. The process was very complicated and I'm sure many use attorney's and end up spending thousands.
For those who really get into trademarks and copyright, to give you an idea what is involved with trademarking a logo or brand, you can see the trademark application for the Incredible Art Department here.
Questions on Parody - FAQ's from Chilling Effects. (Archive)