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The Private/Public Vessel

Creating, presenting and responding to works of art are explored in The Private/Public Self project. This creative multi-dimensional and multi-media opportunity will develop students’ skills with various materials, methods and approaches to personal expression. Social interactions with friends will frame the student’s personal reflection about who they are privately, and publically.

  • Grade 3
    Grade 4
    Grade 5
    Grade 6
    Grades 7 and 8
    Grades 9-12
  • Multiple Lesson Periods
  • Directions

    1. Begin drawing the layout for a cube. Start by using a ruler and T-square to measure 4 equilateral boxes, 3 inch (76.200mm) x 3 inch (76.200mm), vertically arranged. Add 1, additional 3 inch (76.200mm) x 3 inch (76.200mm) box to the right of the bottom square, and one 3 inch (76.200mm) x 3 inch (76.200mm) square to the left side of the 3rd square from the bottom. Add an additional 1 inch (25.4mm) x 3 inch flap to the far ends of each side square. Cut out the outside contour of this 12 inch (304.8mm) by 8inch (203.3mm) composition. Score the folds with a dull instrument such as a craft stick. Fold on the score lines.
    2. One side of the cube layout will represent a public persona, while the reverse side will represent the private, interior persona. Visually express 2 very different aspects of the same person. In rendering the interior and the exterior of the box, use a multimedia application of layers, using watercolor, water color pencil and marker, to create depth through color values, texture and visual interest. Consider the mood you want to communicate and choose your colors carefully. For example warm colors on the exterior and cool colors on the interior to represent a warm public persona and a cool private persona.
    3. The student will ask one or two classmates to share 4 things they know about you, or who they think you are as a person. On the exterior of the box, express these public characteristics through the application of the elements and principals of art, color, line, shape, pattern, texture. On the interior of the box, create an abstract expression of who you are privately, combining the multi-media treatment of the background and words to express feelings and dreams.
    4. The technique: Begin with a watercolor base. When dry, lightly sketch the more realistic self-portrait on the exterior using your watercolor color pencils. This could be a shoulder head portrait or full body portrait.
    5. Similarly on the interior, begin with a watercolor base, layered with watercolor pencil and marker in a pattern that creates visual unity. Use water to lightly blend the pencil marks with the watercolor. When dry, choose a contrasting color or value to write your personal expression, either as a poem or a “stream of thought” composition. Practice and edit your writing on a separate piece a paper to perfect the grammar and your thoughts, as well as legibility. Keep the interior message simple. Write fewer words and write larger so that the message can be read. Consider simple printing rather than fancy script. Note: do not write on the tabs of the box, but do add watercolor to the tab sections.
    6. Use a glue stick on the tabs to close the box sides, leaving the top open for easy viewing of the interior.
  • Standards

    LA: Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade level topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly.

    LA: Write informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas, concepts, and information through the selection, organization, and analysis of relevant content.

    MATH: Draw, construct and describe geometrical figures and describe the relationships between them.

    MATH: Solve real-life and mathematical problems involving angle measure, area, surface area, and volume.

    SCI: Define a simple design problem reflecting a need or a want that includes specified criteria for success and constraints on materials, time, or cost.

    SS: Students describe ways in which language, stories, folktales, music, and artistic creations serve as expressions of culture and influence behavior of people living in a particular culture.

    SS: Students explore factors that contribute to one’s personal identity such as interests, capabilities, and perceptions.

    VA: Analyze the representation of a subject or a key scene in two different artistic mediums, including what is emphasized or absent in each treatment.

    VA: Integration of knowledge and Ideas. Evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of using different mediums (e.g., print or digital text, video, multimedia) to present a particular topic or idea.

    VA: ways in which art influences perception and understanding of human experiences.

  • Adaptations

    Sankofa or Rites of Passage: The Sandofa Myth is an ancient African story about a bird that looks to the past and history for answers to the future. This concept of using personal history to guide the future will inpire the art-making. As we grow there are times of great change that signal a new life chapter. This can be symbolized by creating a box, whose inside illustrates personal elements of the past and the outside of the box is created with symbols of the new/current life chapter - for example graduating middle school and transitioning to High school. Reflecting on the middle school experiences can inform the best of the new high school experience.

    For children that experience frustration drawing, consider using copies of personal photographs. Hand color these using colored pencil and possibly marker. Magazines can also be a visual imagery resource for collage and/or tracing images. Combining black and white with color images could make a nice contrast between interior and exterior box expressions.

    Consider adding small personal 3-D artifacts inside the box that enrich the creative expression of the artistic message. These might include flower petals, rings, marbles, sea shells that are light enough not to compromise the structure of the box and also that the student can explain as contributing to the artistic message they intended.


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  • Creativity.
  • Capacity.
  • Collaboration.
  • Change.
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