Dian Moore and I recently worked with the Second and Third Grade Students at Knight Elementary on a Diego Rivera Art Literacy Project. Our Art Literacy coordinator for the school, Erin Lockwood did a phenomenal job of organizing all the volunteers so that all the grades were doing age appropriate art lessons centering on the study of Diego Rivera’s Murals. Here I will only go into what our group did. With Erin’s permission she is willing to share the power point presentation and if you are interested in the file please contact me through our contact page.
The Art Content Standards we focused on or used for our objectives were:
AR.03.AC.02 : To identify and describe personal preferences while viewing the artwork of Diego Rivera, using terminology that conveys knowledge of the arts. (Vocab to discuss: cubism, Fresco, Mural)
AR.03.HC.03: Describe how art from a student’s community reflects the artist’s environment and culture. (The entire school did murals inspired by Diego Rivera concentrating on people working in and around Canby)
AR.03.CP.01: Students will use experiences, imagination, essential elements, and organizational principles to design and create a book cover given only the title and author.
The supplies you will need for this lesson are:
Large butcher paper and pastels or chalk for portrait of the central figure. We used a photo of Mrs. Kraxberger our Librarian keeping with the theme of people working in our town of Canby, Oregon.
watercolors and brushes
sharpie or permanent markers
containers for water
a list of Book titles with authors printed out and cut into individual pieces. *Some titles in Spanish were helpful and kept with our theme.
Art History Portion (my favorite): We used the powerpoint presentation above to introduce Diego Rivera and his work. Whenever you do an art history lesson is best to do a little homework, and I learned so much from books I checked out from the Library and on the internet about Diego Rivera. Often with the colorful and non-traditional lifestyles great artist have it is necessary to do some condensing of their personal stories. With the age group we were working with I left out information about his many wives and affairs but did mention his marriage to Frida Kahlo. Some of you may not want to pour over books about Diego Rivera, so for you I give a VERY brief outline of his life. Please if my Art History Professor ever reads thisI am figuring a little intro to Diego for 2nd graders is better than nothing and don’t judge me.
Diego Rivera was born on December 8, 1886 in Guanajauto, Mexico. He was always a great storyteller so some of the stories he told about his upbringing seem larger than life. There is great controversy about what is fact and fiction. He and his twin brother were small at birth and his mother had much difficulty with the delivery. His twin died at age 1 1/2 and this was extremely devastating to his mother. He remembers mostly be raised by his Indian nurse Antonia and several Aunts until her depression passed. As a toddler or young child, he started drawing on every surface of the house, so his father created his first “studio” in their home putting black cloth on the walls and floors of a room for Diego to draw in. He loved drawing machinery and trains and mountains the most. He attended the San Carlos School of Fine Arts at age 11. He was trained in European art but was constantly drawn to pre-conquest Mexican art. A subject of art that would remain a constant interest throughout his life.
At age 20, the mexican government gave Diego a grant to study art in Europe. He stayed for many years and became friends with Picasso and was known as the “Mexican Cowboy” He did over 100 cubist paintings but while in Italy he began to study the art of the Italian Masters and the Renaissance. It was in Italy that he learned about the technique of “Fresco” painting.
At age 35, he returned to Mexico and painted his first public mural at Mexico’s National Prepatory School – “Creation” which shows a great deal of Michelangelo’s influence. He continues to paint mostly murals the rest of his life in both the US and in Mexico. Many of the murals were controversal and some even dismantled because of the controversy the ensued. Example – The RCA Building mural for Nelson Rockefeller. Diego refused to paint out Lenin’s face in the mural so Rockefeller had it destroyed. Diego was active in the Mexican Communist Party and thought the working class was the backbone of the country. In many of his murals he depicts the everyday Mexican people doing what they do….selling items at markets, dances at folk festivals, carrying flowers or fruits to market, working in sugar cane fields.
The great love and longest marriage he had was with Frida Kahlo a famous Mexican artist in her own right. Diego Rivera died at age 70 from Cancer at his studio in Mexico.
The Art Lesson:
Influenced from Diego’s depiction of the working people of Mexico we had the students view images we took (in Powerpoint) of people working around Canby. Our grade decided on concentrating on our Librarian Mrs. Kraxberger. Dian and I did a large chalk drawing of her using Diego’s oil paintings of women carrying Calla lilies as our inspiration. Wanting to create a mural that many students could all create together but under the short amount of time that we have with the students (one hour per class), we decided to have our central figure Ms. Kraxberger completely surrounded with book covers that the students design and create.
After discussion of Diego Rivera we gave a quick demonstration of our project. Each student was given a piece of paper and measured 1 1/2″ into the left side, to create the binding of the “book”. Book titles and authors were handed out randomly. Those were written on the binding and then covers were sketched out in pencil, gone over in sharpie and then watercolor painted. We encouraged the students to fill the entire cover with color. We included some book titles in Spanish. It is ok if the student had never read the book, we had them imagine what the book would be about and design a cover from there. When the covers were dry the mural was installed in the school’s hallway for all to enjoy.