Guest author: The Familiar Tale of Race, Power, Privilege and black life in America

IMG_8122Author Tiffany Jones reflects on the recent Teaching Art Today: #BlackLivesMatter Teach in held at the New Museum on March 19, 2015.

Teaching art today is an opportunity to discuss life and all its complexities, while providing an outlet and the skills for students to communicate a message. Art provides students with a pathway to healing, empowerment and advocacy. Art makes their thoughts visual thereby making the artist visible, hard to ignore. Therefore as art educators I invite us to be agents of change, who explore hard issues like race in our space of learning.

So where to start?
Breathe! Self-care is imperative. Be mindful of yourself and your limits. Acknowledge
that race is a social construct that produces, informs and sustains a long list of social
injustices like police brutality. Race is a Goliath and it’s not only your task to address it.

It’s a social issue. So breathe and take one step at a time. It is imperative for you to
take the journey in addressing your relationship with race. What are your biases? What
are your experiences? Who are your learning partners and allies? We’ve been discussing these issues in our Teach In series.

Also challenge your meaning of safe space. This reading has deeply impacted my understanding and implication of safe space. I have learned that my classroom must be a space of risk-taking, rigor, and growth.

To provide more support in your planning, below are lesson plan and project examples of how I have addressed ideas of race in my teacher journey using the resource I provided in during the Teach In. I highly recommended watching the Jean Michel Basquiat (The Radiant Child) and Keith Haring (The Universe of Keith Haring) Documentary. Both documentaries address the artist’s relationship with Michel Stewart’s death. 

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List of Additional Lesson Ideas

1)NYC80’s: Introduction to NYC 1980’s Research Project
Students will participate in a gallery walk of images of NYC during the 1980’s.
In groups they will discuss and research New York City during the 1980’s. This lesson will focus on three major events in the 1980’s: AID/HIV, Hip Hop and The Crack epidemic.
2) Writing on the Wall: Intro to Keith Haring
Students will apply their learning on NYC during the 1980’s to understand the work of Keith Haring. They will be introduced to the steps used to understand and talk about art. They will practice these steps by viewing the artwork of Keith Haring. In groups students will use the steps to understand and Keith Haring artwork and reenact it by making props & etc.
3) Who SAMO?: Intro to Basquiat
Students will be introduced to the artist Jean Michel Basquiat. They will begin by viewing a video clip about his life and artwork. Students will work in groups to research his life. Students will participate in a peer exchange, in which they teach each other about the important events in his life. Together the class will view and discuss the work and motivations of Jean Michel Basquiat.
4) I HONOR YOU!: Intro and Art Making of Art Project
Students will be introduced to the Basquiat inspired project. They must give honor someone important to them. The project will conclude in a project presentation and gallery walk. Students will be assessed on their artistic process, final artwork, artist statements and rubrics.

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