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Sunday, June 22, 2014

Not Your Momma's Art Teacher's Units

While everyone is lounging by the pool soaking up the rays, the crack team of educators back at Apex Art headquarters are diligently constructing an amazing program for next fall. Elaborate flow charts are scrawled across the whiteboard as hot topic ideas spur fervent debate. 

Previously, such encounters have produced art-shattering changes such as Student Choice, Theme-Based projects and the Portal. Of course, we will continue to incorporate all of these concepts as we move forward. So what's so amazing that it's the focus for next year's curriculum? Units!

Ok, units might not sound so spine-tingling. However, these aren't your momma's art teacher's units. Each unit we are developing is based, not solely on making art but on being an artist. We took a long look at what artist do, created a list of possible artist behaviors, and scrubbed the list down to our top seven. 

Artists Observe:
This unit will cover observational drawing and possibly painting. It will incorporate still life drawings and nature drawings as well as architectural drawings, urban sketching or even plein air painting. 

Artists Steal:
Discussions will revolve around artists such as Roy Lichtenstein, Shepard Fairey, Damien Hirst. Themes could be based on concepts such as appropriation and Intertextuality. 

Artists Communicate:
This unit will cover the many ways art is used to communicate ideas and thoughts. It could cover a range of art works from contemporary artists to commercial fields such as advertising and illustration to video and animation. This could culminate with a theme based project.

Artists Collaborate:
This unit will introduce the concept of working together to build something bigger than the sum of its parts. Consider discussing and contrasting different ways artists collaborate from Jeff Koons who hires people to create his art to teams like Christo and Jeanne-Claude who worked together. 

Artists Curate:
This unit will cover how museum and gallery exhibits are conceived and put together. It could cover everything from artist styles and collections to how museum curators pick topics for shows. Could look at different artists and explore what about their work gives it a style. Could culminate with each student producing three works with their own unique style.

Artists Solve Problems:
This unit will deal with limitations and constraints artist apply to themselves style wise, material wise and concept wise. It could also speak to limitations artist overcome from Matisse or Close in a wheel chair to Phil Hansen's embrace the shake. Could also discuss overcoming environmental constraints like Michelangelo painting the ceiling. Projects could range from limiting student materials, to working in difficult situations.

Artists are Self Learners:
This unit will encourage students to use tutorials, create tutorials themselves, and explore new materials. Sharing what they learn with students in their class or even other classes could also be incorporated.

So go ahead, relax, enjoy your summer knowing we've got it all under control.


  1. This is so amazing!! I have so many questions and would love to pick your brain! Love the blog, the Portal, and yall's Pinterest! I'm trying to make the switch to choice-based and trying to wrap my head around it all. I've read the books, joined the groups, and wading through ideas on Pinterest...feeling a little overwhelmed

    1. Baby steps... I just started choice-based this school year after trying to wrap my brain around it all last year... I did a few projects last year that were choice-based (with like 3 medium choices to finish a project), but this year I have gone full blown... with the youngers we usually do a theme and maybe even guided drawing then they get to finish the drawing however they want. I have had so many engaged students and less discipline issues... LOVING it!!! take baby steps... DO IT!!!!;)

  2. Start small. Add choice one day a week or month depending on your schedule. Add choice after students finish your project. Or go all in. Just remember to do what's best for you and your students. Choice is a spectrum.

  3. Intriguing! This reminds me a lot of the Studio Habits of Mind:


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