Curating Student Art Shows

This year, like every other year, the to-do list in the spring seems insurmountable.  I’m sure almost every teacher shares a similar feeling that the weight of end of the year tasks can be quite heavy.  For art teachers working with students in elementary schools, there are 400+ students coming to us every week of all ages with unique needs and talents. Add in the traveling some art teachers do from classroom to classroom and you get the picture. We need to take a minute to reflect and applaud ourselves on how skillful and organized we have to be to keep track of our students’ work and progress.  I appreciate you, because I know first hand how it feels to carry this on year in and year out. Keep on fighting the good fight!

Many schools have taken on initiatives to try to build students’ global perspectives and digital citizenship using technology and art. What better way to learn than to use the technology that connects us all together and start looking at the similarities and differences among the art people create around the world? At our school our art team is working on an initiative to curate and display a whole school student art show with the theme “A World of Art”.

Students began by  asking questions about and creating artwork based on the cultures and artistic styles from India, Australia, Kenya, The United States, Mexico, China and Japan.  That’s it you say?  Only seven different countries?  How does this represent the theme “A World of Art”? I’m actually hoping for this response for this reason: To inspire students to continue searching and learning about cultures different from their own, take charge of their learning, truly develop a global perspective and share their own culture with others. 

Interested in how to plan an initiative like this in your own school? Read on.

I teach around 450 students in grades K-5.  Sometimes I teach all six grade levels in one day. In order to design the display and facilitate the planning I assigned a different country to each grade level as follows:

  1. Kindergarten: India
  2. First Grade: China and Japan
  3. Second Grade: Australia
  4. Third Grade: Kenya
  5. Fourth Grade: The United States
  6. Fifth Grade: Mexico

Each grade level is creating works of art that vary from class to class and are inspired by the culture and artistic styles from the country they are representing.

You can see what students are making and some of the resources used in the lessons by accessing my google doc “A World of Art” Resources.

I created this google doc to share what students are working on and the resources I used to introduce the art styles they are representing.  I’m also a big fan of making lists and keeping track of what needs to be done for planning whole school events like this.

Within this document each class is organized and listed with the artwork they will display at the end of the unit along with the interactive art centers that students and their families can participate in when they come to our “World of Art” interactive learning night.

There will be 500+ works of art created by our students and hopefully just as many questions generated about the countries and cultures the artwork represents.

Remember it’s not always how you start that matters most, but how you finish.



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