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Contemporary Art in the Elementary Art Classroom: A Blog Round-up!

contemporary art in the elementary classroom

This year my professional goal was to learn more about contemporary artists and to create art lessons inspired by these artists.   I taught about William Wegman and Justin Vining.  We looked at contemporary artists inspired by microscopic things and living artists that used Disney as inspiration.  At the end of the year, my students learned about Shinique Smith, Nicolas Lampert and various artists that used stuffed animals as a theme in their art (blog posts to come soon about all of these ideas).

Recently, I asked some of my favorite bloggers to tell me about contemporary artists they taught about in their classroom.  I wanted to find out how other elementary art teachers used contemporary art in their classroom.  I received an interesting range of ideas.

Nic Hahn, fellow midwesterner and author of MiniMatisse, said, “Marty Cooper is a recent artist that I featured in my class.

He does stop motion animation. Cool dude, but some of his work is a little ‘non-elementary’, so do your research before.”  Here is how her students brought cartoons to life.


Nic also introduced me to artist Michelle Stitzlein who creates some wonderful recycled sculptures.  She does artist residencies making amazing bottle cap mosaics with kids.  Check out her website.  If you do bottle cap art, she might be a good reference for your lesson.  Nic Hahn has a seemingly endless amount of ideas and knowledge to share!

Tracy Burton, a fellow blogger and friend from my ISU days introduced me to contemporary pop artist Burton Morris whose artwork is bright, bold and colorful!  Love his work.  Thanks, Tracy!

Phyl of the popular blog There’s A Dragon in My Artroom said, “OOH! How about Michael Albert!  This is the pop artist guy who cuts of and collages cereal boxes and other food packaging, and then calls it ‘cerealism‘! Makes me smile. I did a blog post a LONG time ago, here: http://plbrown.blogspot.com/2011/03/cerealism-no-thats-not-spelling-error.html  Why do I like it? Because it is light-hearted and silly, and kids ‘get’ it. How did I teach it? It was a natural progression. My students had learned about surrealism; they had learned about pop art. So they got the humor behind the name ‘cerealism’ and they were intrigued by something so common, cereal boxes, being used by a ‘real’ artist. I was very open-ended in my lesson. I shared images of Albert’s work, and cut up a heap of cereal boxes, and let them choose how to design their own collage using the pieces. Some kids searched colors, others looked for specific letters and words, and so on.”  I remember reading this blog post a loooonnnng time ago and loving the idea.

Sheryl Depp, of Primarily Art with Mrs. Depp,  recently taught her students about contemporary artist Romero Britto.  Pop art seems to be a favorite to teach at the elementary level!  There are so many great artworks that kids love.  Sheryl created a handout for her students to complete a patterned heart project.  This seems like a fun and easy project to leave for a substitute.  I love Sheryl’s blog and enjoy seeing what she does in her classroom.

Heidi O’Hanley, of Tales from the Traveling Art Teacher, wrote an excellent blog post about how to invite an artist into your classroom to use as a resource for your students.

Heidi also taught a split-level class about Wayne Thiebaud and his sweet artwork!  She shared two different project ideas, a gumball machine and cupcakes.  Look at these student-made cupcakes.. aren’t they amazing!!?  I’m totally impressed.  Wayne Thiebaud is 95 years old!


Now, I need your input!  I’d like to continue this series with more ideas for teaching about living artists in your classroom.  Send me an email (marciadotcom@yahoo.com) or leave a comment on this post with a contemporary artist you teach about and examples of how you teach about them.  Links to student examples, blog posts or resources are appreciated!  I will compile more posts as I get responses.

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About Marcia Beckett

Marcia is an elementary art teacher and loves painting, drawing, sculpture, art journaling and clay. Her blog, Art is Basic, features many exciting art projects for kids.
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4 Responses to Contemporary Art in the Elementary Art Classroom: A Blog Round-up!

  1. dmasse71 says:

    hey marcia! the majority of my lessons are based on living artists. i just did a fun lesson with my kinders inspired by the mosaics of jim bachor http://www.shinebritezamorano.com/2015/05/street-sweets.html
    and followed that up with them creating a real mosaic. Another guy I love is Thom Pastrano. http://www.shinebritezamorano.com/search/label/Thom%20Pastrano
    Ive got a series of articles coming out in the fall that will go into more detail about my use of contemporary artist in the elementary visual art curriculum. If you look at the tags on my blogs, you’ll see a bunch more living artist examples:)

  2. Stephanie says:

    On Red Ted’s art blog she has a post about Andy Goldsworthy. He makes the majority of his art using nothing but his hands, teeth, and any natural tools he finds in nature. She has a really cool project where she has several different colors of leaves, flowers etc and the kids go outside and make temporary artwork like he does. In my class at the Y because we aren’t able to go outside we made sun catchers using cardboard box, contact paper and flowers. I believe this idea came from The Artful Parent blog.

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