Art for Protest or Persuasion
Students examine Chicana/o and earlier murals made for protest and persuasion. After an introduction to two mural making processes, students consider the responsibilities that different people can take in that process.
FRESCO -- Explain that Diego Rivera painted Revolt and The New Religion in a section of a much larger fresco that he painted in the Hernán Cortés Palace in Cuernavaca, Mexico between 1929 and 1930. The American Ambassador to Mexico commissioned paintings along three walls of a hallway on the second floor of the Cortés Palace. Frescoes can be painted with dry pigments directly in the still wet plaster applied to a wall or can be painted with wet paints onto a dry plaster surface.
Ask students how many different types of people they think might have been involved with the mural-making process from the time the Ambassador got the idea to commission Rivera to do murals, The History of Cuernavaca and Morelos, until the set of murals was complete? (Ambassador, Mexican government officials, local historians, scaffold builders, plasterers, assistant painters, master painter)
Ask students to list as many different jobs as they can think of that had to be done before the mural was complete. (Discussing the subject of the murals with the Ambassador; gaining permission from officials in Cuernavaca to paint the palace walls; building wooden scaffolding on which plasterers and painters could stand to do their work; researching local historical events, planning what events to depict in which sections of the mural -- over archways, on raised sections of the walls, flanking large curved doorways, at the bottom near the floor, and high by the ceiling; plastering the walls; developing detailed plans; transferring plans to the plastered surface; deciding which sections Rivera would paint and which portions his assistants would paint, according to their individual strengths; supervising the overall visual continuity of the murals; making in-process changes in plans as required.)
SURFACE PAINTING -- Explain that Judith Baca planned and directed the painting of The Great Wall of Los Angeles between 1974 and 1983. Olympic Champions, 1948-1964, Breaking Barriers is the last segment of this 2,435 foot mural, which is painted with acrylic paints on the wall of a drainage wash in the San Fernando Valley near Los Angeles. Baca still works to maintain the mural, which flooded five times between 1976 and 1983 and is threatened even more by air pollution than by flood.
Ask students how many different types of people they think might have been involved with the mural making-process from the time the Army Corps of Engineers and Baca first talked in 1974 to this day? (People from many government agencies, including the Flood Control District, the Juvenile Justice Department, and the Summer Youth Employment Program; community organizations; businesses; corporations, foundations, and individuals, including historians, over 200 young mural makers, and a team of 35 artists and restorers.)
Ask students to list as many different jobs as they can think of that had to be done before the mural was complete. (Negotiating with government agencies; fund raising; historical research; building a staircase down into the wash; sandbagging to control any water; arranging for food, water and toilets; selecting subject matter; drawing designs; sandblasting and sealing the wall surface; blue printing designs; supervising young mural makers; making grids on the wall to guide transfer of blue prints to wall surfaces; drawing lines in dark blue; applying a magenta undercoat; transferring designs to the wall; deciding which artist supervises which groups of young people painting which specific section of the mural; mixing and preparing paints and cleaning brushes; painting flat colors; highlighting and shading colored areas; applying a clear acrylic sealer to protect the surface; managing the project and making plans for the following year's section of the project; and continuing to raise funds in order to repair and maintain the mural.)
Conclude the lesson by asking students to review the situations or events
they identified at the end of the preceding
lesson. Ask them to begin to imagine and sketch a mural to comment on
that situation or event. Ask them to list some of the responsibilities that
individuals would have to take on if they worked together to complete a
During discussions of the murals, notice whether students are able to speculate about a wide variety of individual tasks required in a large mural project. Note whether students are able to propose reasons why artists would choose mural making as a medium.
Items for Protest and Persuasion Portfolio might include:
expendable small art reproductions or photographs from magazines or newspapers
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