Hugo Gellert's Seward Park Murals
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Lesson Plan for the Seward Park Murals

As teachers, historians and artists, we share a responsibility to educate students and communities in the value of our public art. This short lesson plan is meant as an initial attempt to reintegrate the Gellert murals into the daily life of the Lower East Side. Please contact us if you can suggest any additions or revisions to this first effort.

newdeal@feri.org

Part One: Examining the Individual Panels

Divide your students into four groups, with each group responsible for gathering information on either the Jefferson Panel, the Lincoln Panel, the Roosevelt Panel, or the Einstein Panel. Each group will be responsible for viewing and recording information concerning one of these panels. You may want to download the large images for these panels before class begins, especially if you have limited Internet access. The groups should select one student to scroll through the panel, one to make a rough sketch, and one to record the group's observations.

Have the groups consider the following questions:

  • Who is the central figure in the panel?
  • What is the quotation under the central figure about?
  • How do the pictures on either side of the central figure relate to the quotation?
  • How are the separate images organized into a unified whole? What elements of composition are used to unify these images? What is the connection between the images on the right side of the central figure and the images on the left side?
Part Two: Presenting Findings to the Class

Have each of the Panel Groups present their findings to the entire class. Following these presentations, the class should consider the following questions:

  • What do all of the central panel figures share in common? How do they differ?
  • Do the central quotations in the four panels have share a unifying theme?
  • In their composition, how are the panels similar and different from one another?
Part Three: Making Murals

By now your students should be aware of some of the decisions regarding thematic choices, content and composition that went into the planning and execution of these murals. In this final exercise, have the class suggest men and women whose lives and work embody the themes identified in the Gellert murals. Divide the class into groups, and have each group select an individual to create a mural around. The students should:

  • Select a representative quotation from that individual. The quotation should be selected on its strength as an idea and on its ability to be represented visually.
  • Design a draft of their mural.
  • Present their proposed murals to the entire class for comments and suggestions.
  • Create their murals.

If you have any other curriculum ideas using the Gellert murals or the other materials on this Web site, or if you would like to contribute letters or a finished project to the site, please contact us at thurston@ilt.columbia.edu.

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