Into-Action, a large scale pop-up art exhibition addressing the most pressing social issues of the day, opens up in Los Angeles on January 13th.
Visual art is a powerful medium for sparking discussion about social justice, identity, and empathy. We’re happy to see this pop-up art exhibition coming to our city and offer a few strategies to help teachers considering bringing their students:
- See, Think, Wonder - Prompt students to slow down their thinking and observe carefully before drawing conclusions. The process is somewhat simple, but does require some pacing by a facilitator. As students look at an image or piece of art, pose the following questions, making sure to pause after each question to make time to reflect:
- What do you see? What details stand out? (At this stage, elicit observations, not interpretations.)
- What do you think is going on? What makes you say that?
- What does this make you wonder? What broader questions does this image raise for you?
- Analyzing Images - You can also add a few more steps for a more thorough process and investigation that aids students in developing awareness of historical context, observation and interpretive skills and conceptual learning techniques. After students carefully observe the work of art without making any interpretation, ask them: What questions do you have about this picture that you would need to have answered before you can begin to interpret it?
Engaging students in discussion where they can openly share their ideas may require additional effort and strategies. Interpretation will inevitably vary and the themes of the exhibit can lead to controversial opinions, loaded assumptions, sensitive questions, and strong convictions. Disagreement and tension are not only ok, but can be healthy and are even gifts that art provides.
In order to create a safe container for students to engage each other, consider using some of the strategies and activities outlined in our Fostering Civil Discourse guide. Contracting with students is a critical first step. Ask students what they need from each other to feel safe and courageous in sharing their opinions. There are many ways to structure this kind of conversation, but make sure it results in classroom consensus around core agreements.
Given that art is provocative, often intended to interrupt our typical way of thinking or offer discordant and subversive perspectives, consider a few different ways of engaging in dialogue. The Human Barometer, Four Corners, Big Paper, and Save the Last Word are all student-centered activities included in the guide. You might also consider Think, Pair, Share, Found Poems, and Fishbowls.
Want to extend the thematic, conceptual or historical topics on dynamic display at Into-Action? Consider some of the following Facing History resources:
- Choosing to Participate – Perhaps another way of saying “into-action,” this element of Facing History’s approach offers examples, reflections, and descriptions of individuals, groups, and organizations that have stood up against injustice. Try Strategies for Making a Difference, a lesson that includes links to a number of great readings, or Choosing to Participate, a resource book with additional stories of Upstanders in a variety of historical contexts.
- Justice is a Human Right – This Into-Action theme builds on the idea that justice and fair and equal treatment should not be taken away, regardless of race, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status or ability. Explore our 11-lesson unit on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to dig deeper into these ideas.
- This Moment in History – As the exhibit describes this theme, “there are lessons to be learned from history and great power to be obtained from the understanding that all of our pasts and futures are interconnected.” Consider the following resources to explore earlier periods where radical change was pursued, obtained, and resisted: The Reconstruction Era and the Fragility of Democracy; use these lessons on the Civil Rights Movement or our guide for Eyes on the Prize; or analyze the pivotal decisions made by students, community members and electedofficials during the desegregation of Central High in Choices in Little Rock.
Teachers can arrange to bring their students for school tours of Into-Action which include a docent-led tour of the event, a spoken word performance and writing workshop led by the Get Lit Players, and a stop-animation workshop led by YouThink.
Thanks to Into Action for allowing us to feature the artwork of (in order) Claire Salvo, Cristy C. Road, Ernesto Yerena Montejan & Ayse Gurgoz, and Favianna Rodriguez in this blog post.