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The Art Curriculum

The Art in Action curriculum introduces concepts, vocabulary, and skills in 9 Program Levels, arranged in three groups: Primary, Intermediate, and Advanced. With minor adjustments, any Program Level can be taught to older students. To teach Advanced Program Levels to younger students, concepts and vocabulary should be limited and projects simplified. Each Program Level has a theme that unites its lessons. The order of lessons within a Program Level is arranged for continuity and skill development, but may be adapted to your school and curriculum.

Click on a program image below to learn about the 12 lessons in that program. See a sample art lesson.

Primary (grades K-2)
Primary students learn about realistic, abstract, balance, pattern and repetition in Programs K-2. Program K introduces young students to art from different times and places; Program 1 encourages students to discover the story in a work of art; Program 2 explores how artists use their art to reflect themselves and their ideas about the world. Students explore basic art concepts such as color, line, shape and texture.

Art Around the World (K)

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Introduction to art from different times and places. Students create Persian miniatures, Japanese prints, Native American Kachina masks, and Byzantine mosaics, exploring how people from different cultures incorporate art into their lives. Other projects include sunflower paintings inspired by Vincent van Gogh, weavings in the style of the medieval unicorn tapestries, and collages based on Henri Rousseau's Jungle Scene. Students also learn to draw basic shapes, patterns, faces, and landscapes using tempera paint, oil pastels, chalk pastels, and collage materials.

Art Tells a Story (1)

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Discover the story in a work of art. Students learn to analyze clues in a composition to interpret the message of the artist. They see how jagged lines can make a seascape threatening and how color can set the mood in a landscape. Students master techniques such as drawing contour figures, employing Georges Seurat-style pointillism, and printing repeated designs inspired by Polynesian tapa cloths. Additional projects give students the opportunity to craft a clay animal based on Eskimo art, design an African mask, paint an Impressionist scene, and create an abstract composition in the style of Jackson Pollock.

The Artist's Vision (2)

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Learn how artists use their art to reflect themselves and their ideas about the world. Students examine art representing various viewpoints, from Vincent van Gogh's troubled self-portrait to Wassily Kandinsky's playful color study. As they make portraits with clay, oil pastels, collage paper, and finger paint, students master the techniques of drawing facial proportions and express their views of themselves. They gain historical perspective and build their artistic skill by drawing prehistoric cave animals, making Chinese calligraphy trees, and printing a Currier and Ives-style landscape.

Intermediate (grades 3-5)
Intermediate students learn about perspective and viewpoint, color theory, and 3-D form in Programs 3-5. Program 3 focuses on landscapes and how artists use aerial and vanishing point perspectives to create three-dimensional illusions; Program 4 looks at modern artists who use abstraction to emphasize the importance of feelings and ideas; Program 5 explores American artists throughout history and how their work portrays different aspects of national and cultural life. Students explore more complex concepts such as form, movement, rhythm, and unity.

Perspective in Art (3)

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Learn how artists use aerial and vanishing point perspectives to create three-dimensional illusions. Learning the tricks of perspective can help students see the world in new ways. Students investigate methods used by Maurice Utrillo and Paul Cezanne—such as varying size and overlapping forms—to create the illusion of distance, explore Johannes Vermeer's manipulation of color, and learn how a viewer's perspective is affected by composition and technique. In other projects, students make a Chinese scroll, compose a Georges Braque-style cubist still life, and draw horses inspired by Edgar Degas' Race Horses.

Modern Art (4)

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Learn about artists who use abstraction to emphasize the importance of feelings and ideas, rather than trying to capture a realistic scene. Students create drawings of abstract animals, wire sculptures of action figures, and stencils of organic shapes. They explore Salvador Dali's transformations of realistic figures, Charles Demuth's precisionist style, and Georgia O'Keeffe and Helen Frankenthaler's abstract color studies. Other projects give students a chance to abstract a face as they create a Pablo Picasso-style portrait, sculpt a clay figure inspired by Auguste Rodin, and paint a historical mural on Mission life in the style of Diego Rivera.

American Art (5)

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Learn about American artists throughout history and how their work portrays different aspects of national and cultural life. As they study the techniques of colonial painters, students learn to draw proportional figures; by comparing various landscapes, they come up with their own interpretation of a westward expansion scene. Students complete portraits in the style of John Singleton Copley and Gilbert Stuart and learn to show texture and detail in paint like Winslow Homer and John James Audubon. Additional projects include pop art prints inspired by Andy Warhol's Campbell's 100 Cans, Faith Ringgold-style quilt designs, and a clay food sculpture based on Claes Oldenburg's Two Cheeseburgers, with Everything.

Advanced (grades 6-8)
Advanced students analyze the principles of scale, symmetry, proportion, format, and 2-point perspective. Program 6 focuses on art from ancient cultures; Program 7 includes Renaissance art; and Program 8 shows American art, exploring the artist's intent, social commentary, and use of graphic design.

Ancient Art (6)

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Explore art from ancient civilizations. In addition to expanding their skill with color, design, and perspective, students develop a comprehensive understanding of classical forms and ideals. Students design Egyptian stele, draw Mesopotamian animals, experiment with Chinese brush painting, and practice detailed incising in their creation of clay mummiform figures. Other projects include a Greek vase and classical Greek temple, a charcoal and chalk pastel piece inspired by a Roman portrait, and a dreamlike story using colored markers on a transparency inspired by Marc Chagall's America Windows.

Renaissance Art (7)

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Learn realism and perspective through the work of Renaissance artists. Using masterpieces by Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo Buonarroti, and Raphael Sanzio to guide them, students learn the techniques of foreshortening, drawing frontal and profile figures, shading to create form, and arranging composition. Projects explore purely decorative design as well as the architectural concepts of balance, symmetry, and unity. Students create African clay animals based on a Yoruba ivory bracelet, design antique fonts in the fashion of the Irish Book of Kells, print landscape images based on Hokusai's The Great Wave, and explore the Islamic principles of design in Taj Mahal.

Art and the American Experience (8)

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Study the work of artists exploring the American Experience. Students encounter America through the eyes of realistic artists like George Caleb Bingham, Dorothea Lange, Grant Wood, and Thomas Hart Benton, as well as in the work of modern artists like Roy Lichtenstein and Frank Stella. Like the work of the artists they study, students' art varies from realistic landscapes and historical portraits to reflections of conceptual psychological ideas and social commentary. Projects include a mixed media collage based on Robert Rauschenberg's combines, watercolor houses inspired by Edward Hopper, an etched door and foil-sculpted figure modeled after a piece by George Segal, and a mixed-media narrative influenced by living artist Flo Oy Wong’s Baby Jack series.

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