What Art Says

Art-Reach Pre-Visit Activity: Art Talk

Please view the two reproductions with your class and lead a discussion using the following questions as guidelines. There are no “right” answers. The questions are meant to guide the group discussion. Students will re-visit and discuss these works as well as others during the ArtReach visit. The vocabulary in this packet will aid discussion.

Research and experience have shown that students feel more comfortable when they can connect with something familiar when the Museum educator conducts the program. The students enjoy sharing their insights from the pre-visit discussion with the educator.

What Art Says

This visit surveys the techniques used and messages communicated in significant works of art in BAM’s Permanent Collection by internationally known artists, as well as artists working in Idaho. Students will create a work of art that visually communicates a message or idea.


Arnoldi, Charles, Boulder HolderArnoldi first gained recognition as an artist for his sculptures and wall constructions made of sticks, bamboo and rope. Over time, his work changed to incorporate intertwined branches and sticks arranged in grid reliefs and complex patterns. Arnoldi eventually developed his favorite (and very dangerous) way of creating paintings without using canvas or traditional techniques. Instead he glues together as many as four sheets of plywood and then uses a chainsaw to gouge and carve the wood before he applies paint.

  • List the colors that you see.
  • What kinds of lines do you see? Are they horizontal, vertical or diagonal?
  • What mood or feeling do the lines of Boulder Holder communicate?
  • What do you think it would feel like if you could touch this painted sculpture?
  • The sculpture is 83” tall and 65” wide. Measure the size on the wall of your classroom.
  • This sculpture was made using a chainsaw. Can you see the marks left by the chainsaw?
  • What parts of the sculpture did the artist paint?
  • This is a purely non-objective sculpture, meaning it is not supposed to represent or “be” anything specific like an object or a person. Does it remind you of anything?

Charles Arnoldi
Boulder Holder , 1985
Wood, plywood, acrylic and paint
83” x 65”


After returning from service in World War II, Roth changed his college major from chemistry to painting and moved from Pennsylvania to San Francisco, California. Although he continued to paint throughout his lifetime, Roth also received his doctoral degree in mathematics and taught math at the college level. Roth studied painting under abstract painters and Abstract Expressionist painters. He creates his large abstract paintings by staining raw, unprimed canvas with thinned paint, allowing the colors to soak directly into the weave of the canvas. Although Roth did not create this painting with an object or subject in mind, its forms and colors suggest varied images to its viewers.

Thesis XXI

  • List the colors you see.
  • Are the lines of this painting similar or different to Boulder Holder ? How? Are there any curved lines?
  • What mood or feeling do the lines of Thesis XXI communicate?
  • How is this work different from Boulder Holder ? How are the two works similar?
  • Boulder Holder is created from organic (or natural) material. Thesis XXI is not made from organic material, but has some very organic shapes. This means the shapes are not geometric and look like things from nature. What shapes do you see that look like something from nature? What shapes do you see that do not look organic or like things from nature?
  • Many artists like to create very large paintings. This painting is almost as tall as Boulder Holder (6 ½ feet tall). Do you think artists might like to make such large paintings because it gives the painting the impression of being important or monumental? What other reasons might artists create such large paintings?

Sometimes artists use color like a language to say things that aren’t easy to say in words.

  • Do these colors have meaning for you?
  • What are these artists saying to you with the colors they use?

Jack Roth
Thesis XXI , 1981
Acrylic on canvas
80” x 38 ¼”

What Art Says

Abstract Art Art that shows the artist’s distortion or change of reality. The depiction of real objects is not as important as expressing the object or idea using line, shape and color.
Communication An exchange of information; a process by which meaning is exchanged between individuals through a common system of symbols.
Contemporary Art Art that is being made now, or recently. It is always changing, and does not follow any set rules of style or medium.
Medium/Media A particular material used to create an artwork. Medium is one; media is two or more.
Modern Art The succession of “avant-garde (ahead of its time, the new leader) styles” in art and architecture that have dominated Western culture throughout the 20th and 21st century.
Non-Objective Art Contains no representation of recognizable figures or objects. Especially refers to modern art. (It’s not supposed to “be” anything.)


ArtReach Curricular Connections
What Art Says

Teachers can adapt the following curricular connections to meet the needs of any grade level.
Language Arts
  • Have students discuss various forms of communication – television, radio, telephone, posters, newspapers, artwork, poetry, literature, theater, e-mail, etc. Which form is the easiest to “read” and understand? Why? Why do different people prefer different forms?
  • Have students make a new piece of art out of everyday objects. Have them write an essay about what they used and what the new object is.
  • Explore and read different kinds of poetry. Have students write a poem with a message. After reading aloud, discuss whether the message was communicated. Why or why not? Why did some students understand the message when others didn’t?
  • Have students write about something of importance to them. How can they best describe the level of importance in their writing? What writing strategies can they employ to show emotion or emotional investment?
  • Have students bring in or draw an object that represents them. Have them write an essay or do a presentation on what the object is and why they chose it.
  • Talk and write about “What is art?” Should clothing be considered art? Quilts? A mound of
    dirt? Have students go through magazines and find something they do or do not consider
    art. What did they choose, and why?
  • Have students make a collage of scenes that show one day or week in their lives, using photos, magazines, newspapers, etc. Have them write a poem explaining the day/week.
  • Have students create their own written languages with symbol systems using lines and shapes. Have them create a key and write messages to one another and de-code.

Science and Math

  • Have students explore the differences between 2- and 3-dimensional objects. Discuss different dimensions and planes. Make ties to geometry. Hold up an object and have students identify what category it falls into, what shape it is, how many points in space are represented, how many lines are represented, etc.
  • Make handmade paper with your students. One web site that explains the process is www.exploratorium.edu/exploring/paper/handmade.html.
  • Discuss with your students the stereotypes of mathematician vs. artist. Can someone be both? Why or why not? (Use Jack Roth from the ART TALK discussion as an example). Is there a difference between logical and creative thinking? What are some of the differences? What are some of the similarities? Research the differences between the “right brain” and “left brain” – thinking patterns, preferences, activities, etc.
  • Explore the properties of hand-blown glass. How is glass made? What is the heating point to make glass from sand?
  • Have students study an abstract or non-objective painting. What geometric designs can they find? What colors? Are they primary or secondary colors?
  • Have students study the properties of color. How does the eye perceive color? How does the study of light connect with the study of color?

Health and/or Chemistry (for Junior High/High School students)

  • Many artists die of cancers or lung disease caused by their artistic processes. Research the chemicals used in printmaking or the chemical compositions of oil paint. Printmaking processes often use chemicals like hydrocarbon solvents, nitric acid and other caustic acids. Many oil paints traditionally use chemicals that are carcinogenic, including cadmium, lead and zinc and are traditionally cleaned up with solvents like turpentine. What happens when an acid or metallic compound comes in contact with skin or when a solvent is inhaled? What innovations have been created in recent years to help keep artists from becoming ill? (Community tie: Some students may know of George Roberts, a BSU professor who developed cancer after years of working as a printmaker. Roberts spent the last few years
    of his life developing safer processes so that his students would not be at risk and wrote a book entitled Polyester Plate Lithography that outlines the non-toxic process he created
    for lithographers.)

Social Studies and History

  • Research the trend in art away from realistic representation to abstraction and non-objective art. What was happening in society and history that triggered these changes? Some milestones include the invention of the camera, the decline of the patronage system, the WWII-inspired emigration of many European artists to New York and other up-and-coming U.S. art centers, etc.
  • Research the history of glass making. How long has it been around? How has the process changed over time? Visit the Newton’s Apple website: www.eecs.umich.edu/~coalitn/sciedoutreach/funexperiments/agesubject/lessons/newton/glass
  • How and when was printmaking developed? For what purposes has it been used? (The practice of cave painters blowing pigments through a hollow stick to create an impression of their hand on the cave wall could be considered a printing process.) Discuss the differences between intaglio, relief and planographic prints. Discuss the differences between fine art printmaking processes and commercial printmaking processes. Have students research them, and decide which one they feel would be easier. Why? Then, have students create their own prints! Choose from one of the easy lessons for all ages at www.kinderart.com/printmaking .

Post-Visit Activity: MAKE IT!

To extend the ArtReach experience and connect the visit to your curriculum,
please consider using or adapting this suggested lesson.

What Art Says

Many of the materials we are surrounded by everyday and are meant to communicate messages to us were designed or created by artists. Many of these materials are printed using printing processes.

Opening Discussion

  • What would your school be like if all the blackboards or whiteboards disappeared?
  • What if the bulletin boards, slide projectors, pictures, maps and other visual aids were taken away, too? (Teachers would still be able to tell you things, but if you couldn’t see the things they were talking about, the classes might be confusing or boring. Visual aids help us connect the words we hear to the pictures we see. They communicate in a visual way to help get an idea across.)
  • What other ways do we communicate that would be difficult or impossible without visual elements? (Written words and numbers are visual symbols made up of lines and shapes. You’ve learned to read and understand them, and you use them to express your ideas and communicate messages much like an artist uses color, lines and shapes to communicate.) Communicating a message requires a sender and a receiver. You are going to create your own visual message and let the receiver see if they can “read” it.


  • Printed materials Markers Scissors Glue sticks Craft glue
  • Per student -1 piece of cardboard or other firm support (approximately 9” x 12”)


  • Have students bring to class printed materials from magazines, fliers, cereal boxes, packaging, etc. The material may be paper, bags, boxes, plastic bottles, etc. that contain images plus words or just images. Observe: Do any of the printed materials have visible Ben-day dots like the Lichtenstein prints of the living room or sleeping woman?
  • Have a brief show-and-tell in which students explain a few of the materials they brought and explain what messages they think are being communicated.
  • Students will then create their own messages with the printed materials by cutting, arranging
    and gluing their pieces to the firm support to create their own printed collage. Students can
    rely entirely on the images they brought or they can add words or numbers with the markers. Remind students they are not going to write out their message, they want to communicate visually. Written words should just be part of the communication. (Younger students may use images without words.)


  • Remind students of the Robert Rauschenberg piece that was made up of three different images combined to create one message (bulls, flag, stars, and glasses etc.).
  • How are their pieces like Rauschenberg’s? How are they different?
  • Have students guess what the messages might be that the student artists are communicating and then allow student artists to share the message they were trying to communicate.
  • Did the students receive the message the student artist was trying to communicate? Why/not?


What Art Says

All Levels

Complete Guide to Easy Papermaking, Arnold Grummer, Krause Publications, 1999.
Sculpture as Experience, Judith Peck, Chilton/Haynes, 1989.


Art for Writing: Creative Ideas to Stimulate Written Activities, Joan Chambers and Molly Hood, Belair Publications, 1999.
No One Saw . . . Ordinary Things, Bob Raczka, Millbrook Press, 2002.
Tell Me About Your Picture: Art Activities to Help Children Communicate, Janet Carson, Prentice Hall Trade, 1984.
The Many Faces of the Face (Art for Children Series), Brigette Baumbusch, Stewart, Tabori, and Chang; Art For Children Series edition, 1999.
The Museum of Modern Art New York (ABC Series), Florence Cassen Mayers, Abrams Books for Young Readers, 1986.

Grades 4-8

Making Connections: Interdisciplinary Art Activities for Middle School, Barbara Mickelsen Ervin, J. Weston Walch, 1998.
Smart Art: Learning to Classify & Critique Art, Patricia Hollingsworth and Stephen F. Hollingsworth, Zephyr Press, 1989.

Grades 9-12

Bridging the Curriculum Through Art: Interdisciplinary Connections, Pamela Stephens and Nancy Walkup, Crystal Productions, 2001.
The Sculptor’s Eye: Looking at Contemporary American Art, Jan Greenberg, Jordan Sandra, Sandra Jane Jordan, Delacorte Press, 1993.
The Painter’s Eye: Learning to Look at Contemporary Art, Jan Greenberg, Jordan Sandra, Sandra Jane Jordan, Delacorte Press, 1991.
Understanding Modern Art: An Usborne Introduction, Janet Cook and Monica Bohm-Duchen, EDC Publications, 1992.


Related Resources

Search artists by name or title of work. Gives information and other links.

Features teacher’s guides to the series being run on PBS about contemporary art, forums for teachers and students and much more.

A comprehensive list of web sites covering contemporary art, compiled and maintained by Chris Witcombe, Professor of Art History at Sweet Briar College in Virginia.

An email discussion list for teachers sponsored by the Smithsonian American Art Museum.


Other Selected Resources

20 th Century Art: 1950s-1990s Prints – Set of 12, 16” x 12” (eNASCO.com)

Abstract Expressionism, Pop Art, Op Art, Color-Field, and Photorealism

Art Made Easy Video Series. VHS – Grades K-6 (eNASCO.com)

Is It Art? Video. VHS – Grades 7-12 (eNASCO.com)

The Museum of Modern Art’s Art Safari Collage Activity Kit. Joyce Raimondo. Ages 4-8 (amazon.com)

What Is Art? Video. VHS – Grades K-6 (eNASCO.com)