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How does Art Reflect Changing Times and Traditions?

March 2, 2022 | Clara Buckley

In the past few years, there has been a move to reconsider public memorials and statues. Movements like She Built NYC are advocating for wider representation in public memorials. Memorials have been relocated or removed, sometimes controversially, by governments, organizations, or groups of individuals.

A personal memorial to Hamilton Dimaya

This term students researched memorials in Washington D.C. before designing and sculpting a clay memorial for their choice of subject. To deepen their understanding of the societal, historical, and cultural context of memorials in Washington D.C., students considered key questions drawn from the Visual Arts Standards.

A landing craft for the D-Day Landings

How do memorials reflect the history and values of America? 

How do memorials reflect changing times and traditions in America?

How, and why, could memorials influence the ideas, beliefs, and experiences of Americans?

How are memorials used to represent, establish, reinforce, and reflect group identity in America?

Flowers to symbolize George Washington’s perseverance and thoughtfulness

Students incorporated symbolism often seen in paintings and sculptures in their memorial designs. Did you know bamboo symbolizes longevity whereas laurel symbolizes victory? Both a dog and bear are symbols of friendship.

A Grammy award for Selena Quintanilla

When working with clay it is important to persist in developing skills, even when the clay does not do what you want it to do! (Visual Arts Standard Cr2.1.7a) Students were introduced to the technique of relief sculpture, where the sculpture seems to grow out of the wall. Because a relief is attached to its background surface, problems of weight and physical balance are more easily resolved than in a free-standing sculpture. 

An oak tree to symbolize the bravery of Naya Rivera

An MVP award for Jackie Robinson

Older students were challenged to demonstrate a willingness to experiment, innovate, and take risks in the process of art-making or designing. (Visual Arts Standard Cr2.1.8a) 

A memorial for comedian Roberto Gomez Bolańos

As we near the end of the project, students will paint their sculpture and write a plaque with identifying information of their subject.

A gavel and lace collar for Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Looking at memorials in this way helps students build empathy across social and cultural boundaries. Connecting with other cultures and new ideas through art invites our students to step out of their comfort zone and into the world. This process can help them learn to respect people and events that are different from them and their experiences.

Clara Buckley

Preschool Art Specialist; Middle School Art

Clara Buckley’s teaching spans the ages of Mustard Seed School, from the youngest students in the preschool to students in the graduating class. She’s found many similarities between teaching three-year-olds and thirteen-year-olds!

As an art teacher who never enjoyed drawing, Ms Buckley’s hope is that each child she teaches discovers a way to create art that they enjoy, whether it be sculpture, printing, textiles, architectural drawing, or collage.

Ms. Buckley loves living in Jersey City, a place whose diversity and welcome for immigrants reflects her own family experience. When planning future travel destinations, art, food, and time with family are featured items on her list.

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