MI VIDA: Painting project for grades 5-12, Five Day Minimum
Students will create and produce a mini-mural on wood or foam board, depicting important events and emotions in their lives. I bring in my own “Mi Vida” mural to show, and describe the process by which I created it. I also present a Power Point on Latin American Muralists when appropriate. We begin with thinking activities to identify what students might want to include in their painting, then begin sketching, and finally paint the ideas onto the surface. We finish by showing our paintings (if desired) and sharing what they mean.
This project deals directly with CCA 4.1 for 6th grade Visual Art, which includes Mexican Muralist Diego Rivera. It relates to the Core Content for other grade levels in each of the four Big Ideas: Structural elements and principles for 2-D art are covered throughout the process of creating the individual paintings; Humanities in the Arts are covered by discussions of the impact that the Mexican Muralists continue to have on the art world; Purposes of creating this type of art can be expressive, narrative and persuasive; Processes of creating 2-D art are explored, focusing on acrylic paint techniques. This particular project lends itself to collaboration with the English/Language Arts teachers since the students can be asked to write a personal narrative, poem, etc. about the events and situations depicted in their paintings.
Parents can be involved in several ways: we invite parents to an exhibit of student work; I can offer an evening session for parents in which they create their own painting similar to what the students will be doing; a letter always goes home with students explaining my presence in the school and what the students will be learning; students are encouraged to discuss the content of their paintings with their families.
I never tell the students exactly what they should paint; I lead them into their own decision-making process through which they choose their own content, spatial organization and color scheme. The emphasis of this project is not on the realism of the final product; rather, it is on the students’ expression of themselves and what is relevant to their lives. Creativity and self-discovery are the results.
Students have the opportunity to express themselves visually through their paintings. They may also explain their work to each other and (if desired) those who attend the student exhibit. This is a great way to let them practice their speaking skills and allows them to get constructive feedback about their artwork from their peers and community.
I show the students my own “Mi Vida” and tell them about the process I went through to create it. I emphasize that the images in the work are not realistic, but abstracted to draw attention to them, and I encourage them to resist the urge to think everything they paint should look like it does in real life. Once they see the example and realize they are allowed to color outside the lines, so to speak, their creativity really begins to flow. I also spend a lot of time with individual students during class time to encourage them and help answer some of their questions.
This project is not about me – it’s about drawing out creativity and self-discovery from the students. I use my own work as an example, and talk about my professional career as an artist in order to encourage students and teachers to feel free to express themselves. I have done this project in many schools and PD seminars with the same result – the participants are surprised at the high quality of their work. There are multiple cross-curricular connections, including writing, careers, and social studies. My approach –setting the participants as the focus – releases creativity, encourages cross-curricular learning, emphasizes communication in many forms, and ensures an end result that students and their teachers are amazed at and proud of.