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Honoring Ancestral Cultural Traditions and Finding Community in Contemporary Life through Art Making

Author: Alison Marzuoli


Academy at Palumbo

Year: 2021

Seminar: Southwest Native American Art & Culture

Grade Level: 9-12

Keywords: Choice Based Art Education, Ethnographic Study, high school art, Navajo Jewelry, Navajo Weaving, Pueblo Pottery, Southwest Native American Art, Southwest Native Americans

School Subject(s): Arts

How do we connect with our past in a changing world? How do we carry traditions through generations while reconciling them with our modern societies? Through the study of Native American art and culture, this study invites students to learn about their ancestral heritage, identify traditions in their family and honor these traditions through art making. The Pueblo and Navajo peoples of the North American Southwest have strong artistic traditions they have passed down through their families for generations. By studying the artifacts of these cultures, focusing on how they change and evolve over time, this unit invites students to connect with their own family and cultural traditions. Students will share their findings with their peers in a supportive way through the creation of works of visual art, their personal artifacts of learning. Working with students from diverse backgrounds, this unit strives to create bridges of understanding and pathways for students to continue to grow and learn about themselves and others around them.

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Full Unit Text
Content Objectives

In recent years, I have shied away from teaching about Native American art. When teaching previous lessons and projects I felt that I didn’t know enough about the cultures or works and students were left to appropriate imagery or techniques. Through this course, I have learned how artistic practices of Native Americans of the Southwest are closely intertwined with their everyday lives, family histories, and cultural community. In addition, the history of Native American groups in the Southwest is deeply tied to place and historical events, which, in turn, influenced and continues to influence their artifacts. This unit of study will review artistic practices and artifacts throughout the Native American cultures of the Southwest making connections between the artifacts and history of the culture. Students will learn that traditions evolve and adapt, while the artifact might appear different, the act of making and continuing a tradition is the important part of the practice and continuation of the culture. Many of my students hold deep cultural roots from places other than the United States. I know from experience living in other countries how challenging it can be to continue my personal cultural traditions exactly as I would practice them in the United States. Students will be asked to identify a personal cultural tradition or ritual and interpret that object, belief or practice in a contemporary way. They will investigate their own cultural heritage through family interaction and research, finding the deeper meaning and purpose behind an artifact or practice. Cultural literacy is integral to the growth of our students in breaking down assumptions and misunderstandings of cultural practices. Each student will share and present their work to the class and school creating an opportunity for others to appreciate the similarities and differences that we all bring to our school community.

School Demographics

Students at my 9-12 academic magnet high school create a diverse cultural and socio-economic school. We are an academic magnet, drawing students from neighborhoods all over our major East Coast metropolitan city. Based on recent data, 91% of students at our school are economically disadvantaged, and 7% are English Language Learners. The languages represented through this data are: Chinese (Mandarin and Minnan Fukiene, Yue/Cantonese), Spanish, Vietnamese, Indonesian, Arabic, Fulah (African diaspora), Bengali, Burmese, Gujarati (India), Nepali, and Swahili. Students identify in the following racial groups: Black/African American: 34%; Hispanic/Latino: 11%; White: 15%; Asian: 36%; Multi Racial/Other: 4%. This data is important because it shows the diversity of our student body and underscores the importance and need for cultural literacy.

Background Knowledge

My first question in this seminar was to clarify the difference between Pueblo and Navajo communities. I realized that I had very little knowledge of these two cultural groups. In reading and learning about these cultures through their artistic practices two themes emerged. One theme was the close tie of the makers to the land on which they live, another is the passing down of an ancestral craft.

In reading Talking with the Clay: The Art of Pueblo Pottery in the 21st Century by Stephen Trimble, we were introduced to potters from many communities, noticing how each group had a different way of making their pots. The differences range from the type of clay body to the decoration or form of the vessel or sculpture. It was noted that the motifs and types of materials used remain constant while changing over time. Ultimately, it is the making of a pot or weaving that carries the tradition forward. This continual practice and adaptation of the craft is what keeps the community alive. In my teaching experience, I stress the importance of embracing change while working. Impermanence is part of the human experience. My hope for my students participating in this unit of study is for them to recognize change in their environment and lives as a normal part of their existence. Change or adaptation is evident in the art of the Pueblo and Navajo craftspeople in ceramics, weaving, and jewelry. The works selected as part of the curriculum underscore the continuing of traditional artistic practices as well as the fact that Native American communities and artistic practices are alive and well today.

In addition, there were two major historical events that shaped the trajectory of the artistic works of the Pueblo and Navajo people. The first was the Pueblo Revolt of 1680 and the Long Walk, or Bosque Redondo which took place in 1863-1868. Both of these events introduced new materials and processes to the various tribal communities. While these were tragic events, they are part of the history of the Pueblo and Navajo people and the effects are seen in the artifacts created. This interpretation and depiction of actual events in works of art are what I want my students to see and understand. I want to offer them the opportunity to process their personal history through a work of art.

Teaching Strategies

Previous Knowledge about Native American Art and Culture.

To begin our study of Native American Art and Culture, I will ask the students what they know about Native Americans of the Southwest, if they have ever studied Native American art, or if they have studied a specific Native American culture. I will also ask if they have Native American heritage. This will help me understand my students better and draw upon their previous knowledge throughout the unit.

Analyzing and interpreting works of art

With each work of art, students will start by taking a close look at the work and write down clear observations of what they see. This can be done by looking at the Elements and Principles of Art and Design as well as creating a list of materials used in the pieces. The Elements of Art and Design are: Color, Line, Value, Shape/Form, Space, and Texture. The Principles are created with the Elements: Repetition (Rhythm/Pattern), Contrast, Emphasis, Balance, Movement, Unity. We will practice together with one work, then have the students work independently or in groups with subsequent works.

When possible, find videos where the artists are speaking about their work directly. Allowing students to hear the voices of Native American people and learn from the words of these artists is invaluable not only to hear from the artist but to underscore that these communities are present in our world and not only existing in the past.

Analyze and Interpret:

Once the students see what is in the work, the next step is to interpret the meaning of the work based on the culture in which it was made. This is done by taking the observations of what is present and connecting it to who made the work, where the work was made, and when the work was made. Together these create the interpretation or meaning of the work. Some artworks have a clear meaning, while some works are ambiguous. It is important to have background knowledge of each work presented to understand it fully, but it is impossible to know everything. Invite questions when they arise and be honest if you don’t know the answer.

Compare and Contrast:

A helpful way to recognize similarities and differences in works of art is by comparing and contrasting them. This is especially helpful in the study of works that may appear to be similar. It allows students to look for small details in works and develop a deeper understanding of the nuances of the works presented.


Reflecting on a work of art is two-fold, both objectively and subjectively. In an objective way, the student can understand and appreciate the role the work plays in the larger art world and culture. They can explain and reflect on the impact the work has on society and decide for themselves the importance the work plays in their understanding of the art world. In addition, this step provides an opportunity for students to make personal connections and judgements about the art they have studied. Do they “like” the work they see? Why or why not? Have the students explain their opinion with a meaningful response, not just “It’s cute.” or “I like the colors.” Remind them that it is possible to appreciate the meaning of a work without enjoying the aesthetic presentation of the work.

Sociological Study

Our school is extremely diverse. This project will require students to create works of art based on their own cultural heritage. They will act as an outsider researching their own culture by talking to their families about their cultural heritage. Ways of documenting these conversations can be visual (photography, drawing, painting), written, or a video/audio recording or a combination of these. The goal is to gather information to interpret into an artistic response that contains a visual element. These findings will be considered “sketches” for their final artifact.

Artifact Creation

            In an art classroom that functions more like an artist’s studio, the goal of each artist is to make a unique artifact that represents their vision and conveys the meaning of their ideas clearly. Providing a choice of media allows for the artist to choose the media that is right for their piece. The role of the art teacher in this phase of the project is to act as a manager of production and materials and less of an expert of technique or guiding students to a common outcome. It is important to expose students to a wide variety of media, both traditional (painting, drawing, photography, sculpture etc.) and non-traditional or contemporary art practices (performance, video, installation, community/participatory art, etc.) so they can make a choice that best suits their ideas. For each work created an artist will complete a Project Proposal and have planning and process meetings with the teacher. The teacher is responsible for helping students gather necessary materials, trouble-shooting or talking through challenges in the production process, finding or creating appropriate space for the students and their work to guide the group to achieve their goals.

Rubric and Reflection

Due to the individual nature of each artifact, an expectation for each medium will be decided upon when students present their proposal. A rubric will be presented and developed at the beginning of the project that clearly states the desired outcomes for the work. In addition, the Project Proposals and Process Updates can serve as ways of assessing the progress and artistic concept and effectiveness of the work.

Classroom Activities

The goal of these teaching strategies are to create a number of ways for students to think about food, meaning and culture. The scope and sequence of activities is designed to flow from group discussion and formal analysis of works of art to art making and reflection. The following themes will be explored throughout the unit: Ritual, Stereotype, Document. We will study works of art that depict food to understand the ways in which artists from various time periods and cultures using different techniques and themes create meaning. The students will demonstrate their findings and understandings through the creation of works of art, both individually and in a group.

Preparing the class for cultural analysis and creating safe spaces for sharing

Asking students to share about themselves and their experiences and their culture can be stressful. It can create a vulnerable moment for students, they might feel embarrassed or anxious to talk in front of their peers about personal details. It is important to create a learning environment where all students feel comfortable sharing their ideas or questions. The four topics below are suggestions about where to start when creating a safe space in a classroom.

Listen: Be present during the discussion. This means no obvious physical distractions such as a phone or headphones. Focus on the speaker.

Respect: Be mindful of your response to a person or information you are taking in. Body language says a lot about our beliefs and feelings. Phrase a question or response in a non-judgmental manner.

Trust: What do we need to trust each other in this space? In order to trust each other we need to believe that they are acting in the space in a positive manner.

Intention: What is the intention of our remarks or actions? Reflect on what you say and do to find the goal of your action or words. Focusing on kindness and positivity.

Duration and Sequence of Activities:

This series of activities will guide the students through the learning process. At my school, art courses meet every day for the full school year. We have seven 50 minute class periods each day. Students are expected to complete work outside of class, the assignments I created reflect this. With these factors in mind, I envision the duration of this unit being between 6 and 7 weeks (33 – 35 class periods).


Assess the students’ knowledge, understanding and identification surrounding the topic of culture and the relationship between food and culture. Some questions to consider asking are:

  • What is culture?
  • Do you feel closely tied to a culture? Explain.
  • What do you know about cultures different from your own? Give one example.
  • Describe a craft or cultural practice in your personal cultural heritage or another culture.

Use these responses to learn about your students and inform your presentation of works of art and discussion topics throughout this unit.

Activity 1: I am….

Duration: 1 class period

Students will work individually and in groups to complete the “I am…” worksheet. Students will identify many aspects of how they identify themselves. There will be a period of work time and then a period of sharing, focusing on noticing similarities and differences among students. This will also be done by creating a large wall size paper and have students write the parts of their identities they are comfortable sharing on the paper and then students connect and “join” each other in shared identities.

Day 1: Introduction to the Southwest area of the United States, Pueblo Communities

Students will view images of the Southwest area of the United States, specifically areas that the ancient Pueblo people lived – Mesa Verde, Chaco Canyon to contemporary images of pueblo communities now – San Ildefonse, Acoma pueblos. Maps that illustrate migration of the people over time will also be shown to underscore the connection between the land and the artifacts the people have made over time. The connection between the land and materials is integral to understanding the Pueblo people. We will discuss the traditional family structure and how it is tied to the community, how craft practices are taught and shared through a family and carried on as a cultural practice. Each work of art will be understood by it’s connection to the culture in which it was created, history of the people, as well as the formal Elements and Principles of Art and Design. An overview of the artistic practices will be given: Basket Makers, Ceramics, Weaving, Jewelry. It is important to include all four media to show how cultural practices change and evolve over time, due to materials available, migration, and introduction of different cultures – Spanish and European.
Appropriation will be discussed and explained. According to Pete and Ornelas, appropriation is when a work is copied from someone outside the community and then profited from. Learning about a culture through craft creates “allies” of the host culture, promoting understanding, lessening the divide between people.

Day 2-3: Pueblo Pottery

We will begin with the ancient Pueblo communities and the works they made with natural fibers. These people are referred to as the “Basketweavers”. They made baskets, but also clothing and other functional objects with a variety of fibers, including yucca, cotton, and human hair. [3 Images of Baskets from Penn Museum]. The transition to ceramic vessels will be introduced and images of ancient and early ceramic works will be shown. [Images from Penn Museum]. Differences in works from different communities will be discussed and then contemporary and modern works will be shown to underscore the fact that these communities and artistic practices are continuing today. We will analyze the works to notice the ways that the modern pieces are similar to the historical pieces, yet firmly rooted in the modern world.

Activity 2: Then and Now

Think about a tradition in your family. How has that tradition changed or been done differently over the years? Why did it change? What influenced the change?

If you can, ask someone older than you to describe how this tradition was practiced through previous generations.

Write these findings down or make an audio recording of the discussion.

Gather visual information that illustrates this tradition. This could be photographs, videos, or drawings. These could be personal photos or videos, but they could also be from public sources.

Create 2-3 drawings of key elements of this tradition.

Day 4: Outside Influences

During this study it is important to impart the connection between the clay and the community. The making of pots is to tell a story of the people, which is tied to the place where the people live. If commercial clay is used, it doesn’t tell the story of the people because the clay doesn’t come from the land where they live. The materials used in the creation of artifacts tells the history of the people and their community. Interaction with people of European heritage changed the way crafts were made in the Native American communities. Two major historical events that affect the outcome of the artifacts made are the Pueblo Revolt of 1680 and the Long Walk or Bosque Redondo, 1863 – 1868. These two historical events shaped the artifacts the people created greatly. The revolt connected the communities which previously were fairly isolated and independent. This allowed for sharing of cultural and artistic practices between Native communities and between Europeans and Native communities.

Activity 3: Life Journey

Share an event or milestone that changed your life or your family’s life. This could be a small event or moment or a very large and dramatic event. Was this change chosen by you or your family or were there outside influences?

Draw some images that represent this event. Envision the story in three parts; before, during, after. What images could represent each phase?

Day 5-6: Textiles

Textiles are an important part of the story and history of Navajo or Diné people. The ancestral Spider Woman gave the gift of weaving to the Diné people. The Four Mountains provide layered meanings for weavings. [Show graphic]. Early Navajo textiles will be studied, recognizing the qualities of early work – natural colors, simple patterns and designs. Weaving and embroidery will be studied. The Long Walk will be reviewed and then we will compare and contrast textiles that were created before and after the event. The introduction of commercially produced and dyed yarn changed the weavings as well as the introduction of trading posts. The main source of imported yarn was from Germantown – now part of Philadelphia. The contemporary weaver Melissa Cody is known for her Germantown Revival weavings. Embracing the style that was imposed on the Navajo gives the artist ownership and agency over a once oppressive practice.

Barbara Teller Ornelas uses traditionally produced and dyed wool in her works. She creates work in the style of “Two Grey Hills” which was passed down to her from the matrilineal line of her family. A suggested video to watch is from the Craft in America series, “Barbara Teller Ornelas on weaving”.

Some groups today eschew the use of commercially produced materials, others embrace them as part of the evolution of the craft. This is the choice of the artist. Neither approach is right or wrong. Weavings tell a story of the artist and the community in which they are made.

Activity 4: Generational Traditions

Have you learned a skill, craft, or artistic practice from your parents, grandparents or an older person in your community? What skill, craft, or artistic practice would you like to learn? What skill, craft, or artistic practice would you like to pass on to the next generation of your family? Why?

Day 7: Jewelry

Examples of jewelry will be shown to underscore how imagery and artistic practices are translated from one medium to another and influenced by interaction with outside communities. This adoption of silver shows how native peoples adapted their artistic practices with a new material. Early work using shell beads will be shown in contrast to the later works made from silver.

Activity 5: Same/Different

What is something whose purpose has stayed the same, but evolved overtime?

Think about larger technological advances as well as how this is related to your life and your family. Think about why things have changed, were there outside influences (technological advances, moving, changing schools, etc.) or personal choices and decisions?

Students will discuss in groups and make lists to share with the class.


World Technologies: telephone, cars/personal transportation, bicycles

Personal: Personal appearance, hobbies, family, friends

Students will choose one and make a drawing that represents this change or shift.

Activity 5: Culminating Artifact – Honoring Ancestral Traditions

Duration: 2 – 3 weeks, 2 class periods of intro/planning; 8-10 class periods of work time; 1-2 class periods for critique.

Through the course of studying the art of Pueblo and Navajo communities we reflected and searched for parallels between their experiences and our lived experience. We will review each of these reflections to determine how each student can create a unique work of art that honors an ancestor, ancestral tradition, or family history. Students will have a choice of medium, ceramics will be encouraged, but they will have the option of creating a mixed media or performance piece that includes ceramic works.

We will review contemporary Native American artists to deepen our understanding of contemporary art practices. Students will be encouraged to find artists and craftspeople from their own culture as well as connect with family members about their work and ideas.

Student proposal and timeline for final culminating project:

Each student will submit a project proposal along with a timeline and work plan. (Figure 1) The role of the teacher is one of a studio manager and production assistant, setting the time frame for completion and upholding the expectations for the artifact. Students are responsible for creating and monitoring the progress of their work as well as communicating with the teacher about any problems, questions, or needs.

Individual planning meetings:

While students are creating their proposals, the teacher will meet with the student artists and discuss their works, providing guidance and expertise where necessary, regarding materials and art techniques or content. The timeline, work plan and tasks will be reviewed to ensure that all students are engaged in the art making process and the project has a manageable scope. It is important to be flexible and accommodating in order to meet with all artists. These meetings are integral in facilitating independent student work, turning responsibility over to the students for their ideas and production of the work.

Artifact Production:

Process meetings will happen throughout the production of the works. The artists will be expected to keep a Production Log (Figure 2) documenting what they accomplish each day as well as setting new goals for the next work session. This process helps keep the work on track to meet deadlines or stretch and explore through an idea to deepen the meaning of the work. Students are encouraged to take a break from their work to observe other artists, allowing for new ideas and collaboration. While feedback can happen at any time, a formal mid-point class critique is encouraged to address any changes in ideas or roadblocks the artists have come up against.

Presentation, Critique, and Reflection:

Students will present their final works along with an artist statement describing the meaning of the work to the class during an in-class critique. The students will evaluate and reflect on the works their classmates have created through meaning/concept and technical use of the Elements and Principles. Remind students that feedback should be constructive and relate clearly to the work created. Topics that should be included for the final critique are based on both content and meaning, as well as analyzing how the artists used the Elements and Principles of Art and Design to create effective communication of a concept or meaning. A handout (Figure 4) for notetaking is helpful to guide their thoughts during the looking phase and start discussion about a work.

Rubric and Reflection:

Each student completes a rubric and reflection for their final artifact which helps them look objectively at the art making process through categories and the reflection is a way for them to elaborate and qualify their reasoning. True growth emerges from facing reality and being able to look at the work you created in an honest and objective manner. I have provided an example of a rubric and reflection (Figure 3) for this activity

Expected Outcomes:

The expected outcomes of this unit of study are that students will deepen their understanding of their own culture and broaden their knowledge of other cultures and learn to approach differences with curiosity, find vocabulary to ask questions to learn about their culture, their family history in a non-judgmental way. Students will gain independence creating in the art classroom, stretching and exploring through various mediums. Students will learn how to analyze and interpret works of art and cultural artifacts for content and meaning, using this type of formal study to deepen their understanding of culture and identity. In addition, they will use these methods to inform their art making practice, and continue to employ these skills and methods for future art investigations.

Evaluative Tools:

The students will be assessed throughout the project through written assignments, class discussion, small group discussion, individual discussions, rubrics, reflections, and artifacts. All of these serve as ways to evaluate student learning. The two purposes to assess student learning, the most important should be authentic student reflection and evaluation. The second is for the teacher to assign a grade to the project and work. Focusing on authentic student reflection is what should be honored in the process of evaluating the work.

Formative Assessments: Pre-Test, Class Discussions, Discussion Questions, Process Critiques

A Pre-Test gauges understanding and familiarity with a topic, especially one with potentially sensitive content, before embarking on the unit. Take into account the student responses and adjust the lessons accordingly. Throughout the unit facilitate short checks for understanding or responses. In addition to class discussion, I also use an online platform, posting 2-3 questions regarding the in-class discussions or content. Process critiques (individual or group) are helpful during the production of an artifact to evaluate process and progress.

Summative Assessments: Rubric, Reflection, Artifact, Critique:

Upon completion, the students will evaluate themselves using a rubric and reflection about their engagement as well as their artifact. The teacher uses this same rubric and reflection to evaluate the student based on their engagement, growth as an artist, and artifact(s) that were created. The artifact along with the rubric and reflection will serve as a thorough assessment of student learning.

The final artifact will be presented to the class through a gallery walk. The artists will present an artist statement to qualify the work. During the class critique, the students will participate in a discussion reflecting on the strengths and weaknesses of the artifacts in an objective and constructive manner. The teacher ultimately gives the student a grade based on the student’s objective evaluation of their artifact through the rubric, reflection on their process and product, their overall effort and engagement in the project, as well as the overall presentation of the piece.


Fowler Williams, L. “The Here and Now of Pueblo Pottery” Expedition Magazine 41.3 (1999): n. pag. Expedition Magazine. Penn Museum, 1999 Web. 21 Dec 2021 <>

Fowler Williams, L. “WaHa-belash adi Kwan tsáawä / Butterflies and Blue Rain” Expedition Magazine 49.3 (2007): pgs. 20-29. Expedition Magazine. Penn Museum, 2007 Web. 21 Dec 2021 <>

Hucko, Bruce.   Where There is No Name for Art: The Art of Tewa Pueblo Children.  School of American Research Press, 1996

Pete, Linda Teller and Barbara Ornelas. How to Weave a Navajo Rug and Other Lessons from Spider Woman, 2020

  1. Aguilar, J. “Researching the Pueblo Revolt of 1680” Expedition Magazine 55.3 (2013): 34-35 pag. Expedition Magazine. Penn Museum, 2013 Web. 21 Dec 2021 <>

Susan, B. M. (2001). Indian basketry artists of the southwest: A new book documents traditions and innovations in basket making. Southwest Art (Archive : 1973-2005), 31(3), 226-231. Retrieved from

Trimble, Stephen. Talking with the Clay: The Art of Pueblo Pottery in the 21st Century,  2007

Works of Art and Videos:

These resources are for both student and teacher. Included is a suggested list of artworks for the activities/lessons along with links to where you can find the content and images.

Ceramics and Baskets:

Basket. Cliff Dweller. Southeastern Utah. Yucca.

Basket. Cliff Dweller. Southwest Colorado, Navajo Canyon. Yucca.

Water Jar. Pueblo, Acoma. New Mexico. Clay.

Bowl. Pueblo, Acoma. New Mexico. Polychrome Clay

Garcia Lewis, Mary. Jar. Acoma. New Mexico. Polychrome ceramic. 1991.

Frederica, Antonio. Five Color Jar with Mico Squar Stars and Sunset Mesa. Acoma.

Nampeyo. Jar. Hopi, Hano Pueblo, Arizona. Polychrome ceramic. Pre- 1913.


Manta Robe. Pueblo, Zuni. New Mexico. Native handspun wool, cochineal dye.

Serape. Navajo. Arizona, New Mexico. Homespun Wool, Natural Dyes. c. 1860-1870

Blanket. Navajo. Arizona, Navajo Reservation. Homespun wool, synthetic dyes. c. 1890-1900.

Teller Ornelas, Barbara. Craft in America, Teachers series.

Cody, Melissa.

Cody, Melissa. 2017. Future Tradition. Houston Center for Contemporary Craft. Houston, Texas.


Necklace. Navajo. Shell, Stone.

Necklace. Navajo. Silver

Yazzie, Raymond C., 2012. Navajo. Ring. Coral, Lone Mountain and Orvil Jack turquoise, opal, sugilite, 14-karat gold.

Materials: Art materials provided for student use are at the discretion of the teacher implementing the unit.


Visual Arts Standards:

The arts standards addressed in this unit are based on the National Art Education Association’s Visual Art Standards as well as the Pennsylvania Standards for Arts and Humanities.

National Core Arts Standards:


This standard is about the artistic process and how students go about conceiving and developing new artistic ideas.

Anchor Standard 1: Organize and develop artistic ideas and work.

  • VA:Cr1.1.IIIa: Visualize and hypothesize to generate plans for ideas and directions for creating art and design that can affect social change.
  • VA:Cr1.2.IIa: Choose from a range of materials and methods of traditional and contemporary artistic practices to plan works of art and design.

Anchor Standard 2:  Artists and designers balance experimentation and safety, freedom and responsibility while developing and creating artworks.

  • VA:Cr2.1.IIIa: Experiment, plan, and make multiple works of art and design that explore a personally meaningful theme, idea, or concept.
  • VA:Cr2.3.IIIa : Demonstrate in works of art or design how visual and material culture defines, shapes, enhances, inhibits, and/or empowers people’s lives.

Anchor Standard 3: Refine and complete artistic work.

  • VA:Cr3.1.IIIa: Reflect on, re-engage, revise, and refine works of art or design considering relevant traditional and contemporary criteria as well as personal artistic Vision.

Presenting: The standard is concerned with how students interpret and share artistic work as well as convey meaning through the presentation of artistic work

Anchor Standard 4: Select, analyze, and interpret artistic work for presentation.

  • VA:Pr4.1.IIIa: Critique, justify, and present choices in the process of analyzing, selecting, curating, and presenting artwork for a specific exhibit or event.

Anchor Standard 5: Develop and refine artistic techniques and work for presentation.

  • VA:Pr5.1.IIa: Evaluate, select, and apply methods or processes appropriate to display artwork in a specific place.

Anchor Standard 6: Convey meaning through the presentation of artistic work.

  • VA:Pr6.1.IIa: Make, explain, and justify connections between artists or artwork and social, cultural, and political history.


This standard focuses on how students perceive and analyze artistic works, and interpret intent and meaning in artistic work.

Anchor Standard 7: Perceive and analyze artistic work

  • VA:Re7.1.IIIa: Analyze how responses to art develop over time based on knowledge of and experience with art and life.
  • VA:Re7.2.IIIa: Determine the commonalities within a group of artists or visual images attributed to a particular type of art, timeframe, or culture.

Anchor Standard 8: Interpret intent and meaning in artistic work.

  • VA:Re8.1.IIa: Identify types of contextual information useful in the process of constructing interpretations of an artwork or collection of works.

Anchor Standard 9: Apply criteria to evaluate artistic work.

  • VA:Re9.1.IIIa: Construct evaluations of a work of art or collection of works based on differing sets of criteria.


This standard deals with how students synthesize and relate knowledge and personal experiences to make art; how they relate artistic ideas and works with societal, cultural and historical context to create a deeper understanding of the art world.

Anchor Standard 10: Synthesize and relate knowledge and personal experiences to make art.

  • VA:Cn10.1.IIIa: Synthesize knowledge of social, cultural, historical, and personal life with art-making approaches to create meaningful works of art or design.

Anchor Standard 11: Relate artistic ideas and works with societal, cultural, and historical context to deepen understanding

  • VA:Cn11.1.IIa: Compare uses of art in a variety of societal, cultural, and historical contexts and make connections to uses of art in contemporary and local contexts.
  • VA:Cn11.1.IIIa: Appraise the impact of an artist or a group of artists on the beliefs, values, and behaviors of a society.
Pennsylvania Standards for Arts and Humanities

Production and Exhibition: 9.1

  1. Elements and Principles in each Art Form; B. Demonstration of Dance, Music, Theatre and Visual Art; D. Styles in Production, Performance and Exhibition E. Themes in Art Forms; F. Historical and Cultural Production, Performance and Exhibition; I. Community Performances and Exhibitions; J. Technologies in the Arts

Historical and Cultural Context: 9.2

  1. Context of Works in the Arts; B. Chronology of Works in the Arts; C. Styles and Genre in the Arts; D. Historical and Cultural Perspectives; E. Historical and Cultural Impact on Works in the Arts; F. Vocabulary for Historical and Cultural Context; G. Geographic regions in the arts; I. Philosophical context of works in the arts; J. Historical differences of works in the arts; K. Traditions within works in the arts; L. Common themes in works in the Arts

Critical Response: 9.3

  1. Critical Processes; B. Criteria; C. Classification; D. Culturally Appropriate Vocabulary; E. Evaluate; F. Comparisons

Aesthetic Response: 9.4

  1. Philosophical Studies; B. Aesthetic Interpretation; C. Environmental Influences; D.  Artistic Choices



Figure 1: Individual Project Proposal and Timeline

Project Proposal: Individual Work

Working title: ________________________________________________________

Meaning/Enduring Understanding:

Type of work:                 2-D             3-D            Installation                Performance

Medium: List what materials you will use to create this work.


Describe the work you envision:

Sketch: Create a sketch of your finished work. Make notes to clarify understanding.

Timeline Plan: write what you think you will accomplish each day. Be as detailed as possible.


Day 1:
Day 2:
Day 3:
Day 4:
Day 5:
Etc. *Add as many spaces as is needed for the duration of your project




Figure 2: Production Log

Note: For the group Productivity Log, make sure it is noted which students accomplished which tasks or sections.

Plan Actual
Day 1
Day 2:
Day 3:
Day 4:
Etc. *Add as many spaces as needed




Figure 3: Rubric and Reflection

I generally keep the categories in “Objectives” and “Qualities of an Artist” the same, but change the definitions to suit each project. This can be used for the Personal Artifact also.

Rubric and Reflection: You give yourself a grade in each category, then the teacher assess your work.

[Score scale: 15= 100; 14= 93; 13= 87; 12=80; 11= 73; 10= 67; 9= 60; 8= 53 etc ….]


Content/Meaning: meaning conveyed clearly, …………..……………………………………  ____/15

Originality/Creativity: fulfilled requirements with unique ideas, explored different ideas  …   ____/15

Craft/Skill/Techniques: well crafted, intentional choices, appropriate techniques for piece …. ____/15

Group Dynamics: respected group ideas, equitable work habits, flexibility, on task/on time… ____/15

_____/60 Qualities of an Artist:

Planning/Preparation: evidence of planning, insight and knowledge, shows growth and progression……………………………………….…………………………………………____/10

Design/Craft: technical skills and craft, organization, intentional choices …………….…____/10

Creativity: Growth, exploration, problem solving ……………………………………..…____/10

Qualities of an Artist: Perseverance, intrinsically motivated, collaboration ……..………____/10                                                                                                                                                      ____/40

Artifact: ______/100

Example Reflection questions:

1. Describe one challenge you had while creating this project, how you overcame that challenge and persevered to be successful.

2. Look at your original sketch and compare it to your finished piece. Describe one aspect (or more!) of your piece that changed, how it changed, and why.

3. Describe your favorite part of the finished piece or process of making the work and why (more than just “I like it”).

4. Describe one thing you would change or do differently if you were to make this again.




Figure: 4: Final In-Class Critique 

Create a section for the appropriate number of works presented.

Final In-Class Critique:

Work 1: Title: ________________________________________

What are your first impressions based on the visual representation?

What are your first impressions of the meaning of this work?

What Elements and Principles are present, where are they being used?

Describe (at least) one thing this work does well. It could be based in technique, content, or a different area:

Describe (at least) one area for improvement. It could be based in technique, content, or a different area: