The New Haven public school system is a melting pot of many different cultures. The Fair Haven Middle school where I am one of two art teachers, is culturally very diverse. The student body is 65% Hispanic, 25% African American, and 10% White or other. I have observed that these students have little appreciation for visual arts. By offering lessons that center on various themes that are associated with their cultural heritage, I am able to gain and retain their attention. My lessons are taught in this particular manner in the hope that my students might better understand each others’ cultural heritage through hands-on experience in art.
Despite my efforts to develop and teach art lessons that are not only culturally enriching but offer hands-on experience, I have had a tendency not to include information about the vast number of women artists. I have especially failed to include African American and Hispanic women artists who have contributed to our cultural experience.
Although women artists have made major contributions to the art world, the extent of their accomplishments have been overshadowed by male artists such as Pablo Picasso, Jacob Lawrence, and Henri Matisse. There is little information available concerning women artists of African American and Hispanic descents available in our art curriculum, so they have not been included in the visual art classes that I teach.
This unit is designed to introduce students to women artists of color, from both the past and present. The purpose is to show students the cultural diversity of these women artists and the ways in which their works of art may be about the same message but are realized differently in various media. This unit is aimed primarily at students in grade eight, but it could be easily adapted for grades six and seven.
This unit is divided into two different sections. The first section focuses on various African American women whose works of art mainly demonstrate their everyday struggles in life. I will discuss the art of Elizabeth Catlett who is an outstanding sculptor; Lorna Simpson an artist who was the first African American women artist to exhibit art work at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City; Augusta Savage, a sculptor who worked primarily during the time of the Harlem Renaissance in New York; and Faith Ringgold, an artist, writer, and educator. The second section concerns Latino women artists. The focus begins with the work of Olga Albizu, a abstract painter; Yolanda Lopez, a Hispanic artist that resides in San Francisco; Amalia Mesa-Baines, an artist whose work focuses on statements about Chicano culture; and Judy Baca, one of the pioneers of the muralist movement in Los Angeles.
General Objectives of the Unit:
To teach students about various women artists of color.
To teach students how to analyze and critique various works of art.
To make students aware of and sensitive to the differences among the various art works by these women.